Five countries and more than 7,000 miles: the odyssey of a Cuban family

cuban-migration-4-monito

David Adams (Univision News) reports that Cubans—fearing changes in U.S. immigration laws, especially after Trump takes office—are leaving the island in record numbers. He takes the example of the adventures lived by one Cuban family who traveled through Guyana; Brazil; Haiti; the Dominican Republic; and Mona Island, Puerto Rico, to get to the United States. [The title should read “six countries,” if you count the U.S. Thanks to Peter Polack for this post.]

Sitting on a bed in an Extended Stay hotel in Miami, a Cuban couple describe their 10-month, four country odyssey to reach a new life in the United States. [. . .] Univision met Monte Rey, her husband German Correoso, 59, and their sons Kevin, 15, and Kendry, 14, soon after they arrived in Miami in late July, and followed their progress and eventual resettlement in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Their story is typical of tens of thousands of Cuban families who abandon the communist-run island every year to take advantage of a uniquely generous immigration status afforded to them in the United States under a 1966 law known as the Cuban Adjustment Act.  The law has come under mounting criticism from longtime Cuban exiles in Miami who say it is being exploited by economic migrants from the island. Fears that it might one day be repealed – especially by a Donald Trump administration – have caused a massive spike in Cubans arriving in the United States in recent months to seek U.S. residency under the law. During the last fiscal year (Oct 1, 2015 – Sept 30, 2016) about 54,000 Cubans showed up at U.S. ports of entry seeking to migrate, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. That’s double the number in 2014. [. . .]  Meanwhile, in Cuba the law leaves behind torn families as well as a brain drain of Cuban talent, from doctors to baseball players.

The journey: four countries in 10 months: Correoso, Monte Rey and their two boys left Cuba in September last year bound for the United States, but with no clear idea how they would get here. To finance the journey the two former teachers sold all their belongings, including their house and car. Armed only with passports, a bit of cash and gritty determination, the first leg involved a flight across the Caribbean – but in the direction opposite to their final destination. Instead of flying north to Miami – barely 200 miles off the coast of Havana – they headed 2,000 miles south to Guyana, a small, tropical nation on the coast of South America, one of only three countries that do not require visas for Cubans (the other two are Trinidad and Russia).

Upon landing in the capital, Georgetown, they wasted no time finding a bus to drive 14 hours through the jungle 250 miles further south to the border with Brazil. Once across the border they took a taxi to the city of Boa Vista, and then another plane to the capital Brasilia. Unlike other Cubans who this year have made the hazardous journey up the Amazon to Colombia and then across the impenetrable Darien jungle to Panama, the couple looked for other options. “The entire region of Central America was boiling over with the enormous number of Cubans who had the same intentions as ours,” said Correoso. “That possibility began to close as first Nicaragua, then Costa Rica and Panama began to close their borders to Cubans.”

The family was able to obtain temporary work permits in Brazil. The couple took jobs washing dishes in restaurants, while the boys were in school. Staying in Brazil was not an option for them. “We worried a lot about the security there. It is very different from what we are used to in Cuba,” said Monte Rey. [. . .]

Back in Havana, Monte Rey’s mother, Caridad Guerrero, says her life is empty now that they are gone. Her daughter kept her plans secret from her and only confided by telephone after she was already in Brazil. Guerrero could barely speak to her daughter on the phone when she finally called. “I had a big knot in my throat and I hung up,” she said, sitting in a rocking chair on her front porch. [. . .]

For full article on their passage through Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, see http://www.univision.com/univision-news/latin-america/five-countries-and-more-than-7-000-miles-the-odyssey-of-a-cuban-family

Photo of Monito Island from Frank Graziano’s “Cuban Migration to Mona and Monito Islands” from his site Undocumented Dominican Migration http://undocumented-dominican-migration.com/text/cuban-migration-to-mona-and-monito-islands/ (see more at http://undocumented-dominican-migration.com/)

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