I don’t know about the world, but here in Cuba the people aren’t talking about anything else. Cubans again need visa to Ecuador from the 1st of December. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for the Cubans it is.
Since 2012 (almost) everybody in Cuba was allowed to own a passport and travel. Of course, the fact, that the Cuban government allowed their people to have passports doesn’t mean that they started to travel a lot. The problem still was, that it was almost impossible (and still is) for Cubans to get visa almost anywhere in the World. Ecuador was one of the few countries that allowed them to get in without having to ask for visa. And yes, many Cubans were leaving to this South American country.
There are people in Cuba that will tell you, that they would love to travel, get to know new places and after that go back home, to Cuba. But we can’t call Cuba anything else but “a third world country” or “underdeveloped country” and these circumstances lead many people to leave and search for a better life somewhere else.
Right now there are over two millions Cubans living in the United States. Compared to other Latin Americans, Cubans have it very easy because of the Cuban Adjustment Act, where it is stated, that every Cuban that spends one year in the USA becomes a permanent resident (USA adopted this law because somehow they just wanted to fight cuban communism…) You don’t need to speak english to do fine in Miami, everybody knows spanish =) Thousands of Cubans left in 60s after Fidel Castro became president, but thousands were still leaving yearly on small boats trying to reach liberty. Leaving, sinking and dying…
Flying to Ecuador and traveling through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and crossing a desert then finally arriving to the USA became the safest way. Even if it is still very dangerous because of the mafia. Believe me, you wouldn’t like to meet the mexican mafia. If we want to compare, from Ecuador to Miami is double the distance like from Damascus to Berlin!
My friends were one of the thousands that left towards Ecuador. I didn’t really want to talk about it, but as it became a very hot topic in the last few days, I decided to do so.
Since I knew them (few years), they always talked about how they want to go to the USA, they have family there, they want to work and they don’t want to fight for every cent to survive like they do in Cuba. They had their jobs, boys working for state, earning 14€ per month, girl painting nails on her own, she was getting maybe 100€ per month. You need to know, that even if the salaries are low, almost everything you want to buy is more expensive in Cuba than in Europe. They tried to get visa to the USA, they tried to get to Mexico, but all of their attempts failed. Of course, they have been too afraid to get on the small and dangerous boat.
After months I wasn’t in Cuba, I saw them again and they told me the big news: We are traveling to Ecuador. Everybody knows that traveling to Ecuador means traveling there and crossing the dangerous borders towards the north. Mothers and grandmothers were crying and at first I couldn’t believe that it was true.
Flight to Ecuador was early in the morning, but when we came the departure hall was fuller like when there are big boeings flying to Europe. Many family members, friends and neighbors were coming to the airport as well. But you can easily see who is traveling – the people with the nervous look on their faces. Most of them didn’t fly before, don’t know what to do, what to expect, they don’t know how things are going in different countries and most of all, they don’t know when they are going to see their families again. If ever…
They left. It was strange to stand on the other side and telling goodbye, not to being told goodbye on the Havana airport. Next days families are gathering in parks, trying to connect to internet and get some news (click here to read about the internet in Cuba). It makes me smile how they are amazed with (for us) simple things like that there is free wifi in different countries.
My friends after arriving to Ecuador took bus to Colombia without any problems. From Colombia they took a boat to Panama as there is only jungle between these two countries and no road. They crossed Panama, crossed Costa Rica and got stuck on the border with Nicaragua. Maybe you even heard something about it in news, I don’t know. There are 3000 people at the moment. The president of Nicaragua is a big fan of Fidel Castro and he decided to play an ugly game with the hope of all of them and not to let the Cubans to go though his country. That’s why Ecuador decided to require visa from Cubans again, so not that many of them will come and get stuck on the borders. Big protests have been going on in the front of the ecuadorian embassy in Havana.
It’s been few days now. They are camping on the Costa Rica – Nicaragua border and they are even doing small jobs – ironing clothes, agriculture. Earning in two days what they would earn in the entire month in Cuba. Just yesterday they uploaded a photo saying “we finally tried the food in McDonalds”.
To be honest, nobody knows what will happen to them, whether USA will send a boat for them, whether they will stay in Central America or if they will be deported back to Cuba. That would be the worst, most of them sold everything to get money for the flight tickets and if they went back to Cuba they wouldn’t even have a place to stay. Of course, in this case Cuban state probably won’t be helping them…
What else I can say now but wish them luck? They went through a lot of struggle and a lot of struggle is still to come. But I know that they will succeed, because Cubans never give up and even if many don’t believe it, Cubans always work so hard to achieve what they want. Good luck to all the Cubans with their dreams!