Cuba: I Sold My Little Polish Car to Go to the USA

By Eileen Sosin Martinez  (Progreso Semanal)

They sold their little Polish car to be able to travel.  Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — A few minutes after finding out herself, Andrea broke the news to her husband. “They changed the law, baby, there’s a new agreement,” and now… they can’t leave anymore. “We had decided to go just recently,” she said.

He immediately felt sick, he thinks his blood pressure went up, and he didn’t stop repeating the same phrase:

“And I sold my little old Polish car!… I sold my little old Polish car!…”

Lucia couldn’t find the words. She called her brother Julian and just said: “turn on the TV.” Some relatives from Cienfuegos, who had sold everything, were staying at Julian’s house and only had a few days left until their departure.

“I’d been waiting for some months now,” Julio tells me. All the time and arrangements made were in vain, I was really disappointed. But hey, we have to keep on looking for solutions.”

On January 12, Cuba and the United States issued a Joint Statement whereby the “wet foot/dry foot” policy was revoked. Therefore, a Cuban on the US border is just like any other Guatemalan or a Mexican; the letter of safe-passage, our carte blanche which made us “special”, simply expired.

Clearly, this measure will have positive results. In the government’s words, it’s a great achievement. However, in the immediacy of people’s daily life, it has also meant that many have had to reconfigure their plans. Those who had sold their belongings, those who had managed to get a visa to travel to a third country, those who even already had their plane ticket. Those who didn’t stay with their partners, those who put creating a new family on standby…

The same thing happens with some vaccinations: they’re going to protect you from an illness; they’re going to save your life. But when you’re injected, you get a fever that night.

At Pilar’s work, her colleagues were saying: “They should have given some time, a chance for those who were already in the process of leaving.” Another chimed in: “It couldn’t have been done differently. Can you imagine the rush, the bottleneck situation that would have been created?”

Even though everybody knew that it had to happen at some point, the majority of the Cuban people were surprised when they heard the news. Cuban TV interrupted its daily programming. Jessica heard the advertisement that indicates that several channels will make a joint broadcast and said to herself: “Oh, God, what could have happened? Who has died now?”

She thought about all those people who are now stuck in the middle. Uff. “I focused on asking my friends, on reading the news the day after so I could explain the consequences of this change to my mother and father.”

She always knew that she wanted to make what she called the “Cuban dream” come true.

She always knew that she wanted to make what she called the “Cuban dream” come true: reach the US taking whatever route she could, benefiting from any law that would help her in her situation, so that she could finally apply to well-paid jobs where she would be paid for her expertise, and build a better life. Of course, because Jessica is an IT engineer.

But as she’s only 27 years old, she doesn’t have time for drama. “Now, my idea is to apply for study grants that will let me to grow professionally, spruce up my CV, and therefore broaden my work opportunities across the world.”

She has also thought about staying: traveling and coming back; earning money and coming back… “Yes, I’ve also thought about that, and I like the idea. Considering my entire family is here, and that the process to take them all with me would be very tedious… The other option would be to pray that foreign companies begin to flourish in Cuba and then work for them; that is a privilege here right now.”

Next month, Mara and Rene have an interview at the Spanish and Portuguese embassies. They were told that with Schengen visas for Europe they were allowed to enter Mexico. “If not, we’ll sort something out with my brother-in-law who lives in Spain. In the absence of an interview with Panama, because there’s no getting a date…” she adds.

They came up with a plan B and C, and so on, in alphabetic order, immediately. “At the end of the day, it’s all the same: bringing things [back to Cuba] to sell etc. The country changes but everything else is the same,” he says.

A week later, Rodrigo is already feeling better, and he consoles himself with the thought that at least he was still here when the agreement was made public. “There are people who have lost a lot more than me,” he adds. Now he waits, calmly, for his family in the United States to file the paperwork to claim him.

The macabre rules of a lethal game have changed. “Thank God,” a grandmother sighs, “and the government.” Sorting out this migration situation was necessary, fair and the human thing to do. Nevertheless, the causes of this phenomenon remain in place – unmoved.

Finding a new perspective, an opportunity to make Cuba a more bearable place to live, where it’s not enough just to exist and everyone, or the large majority, can really live, remains.

10 thoughts on “Cuba: I Sold My Little Polish Car to Go to the USA

  • Read Moses’ post again. He is writing with tongue in cheek. Shades of Jonathan Swift. Good for you Moses. I enjoy your well-thought-out shoot from the hip posts.

  • False comparisons. Likewise, there a plenty of Cubans who DON’T own cars who live well. Equally, Castro government propagandists, the counterparts to a paid dissident also live a little better. The owner of my favorite casa particular does not own a car and she lives a lot better than most Cubans with or without cars. Likewise, the chismoso CDR neighbor who lives down the street whose 25 year-old son works for the Propaganda Ministry also lives a lot better than most Cubans and most dissidents especially.

  • Well, this is certainly not the last chapter of the U.S./Cuba saga. Hopefully positive events will come our way in both countries. Keep your chin up and hope for the best.

  • Those who own cars live better than the average Cuban. So do most of the well known so-called dissidents, some who receive money from exile organizations in Miami per Helms-Burton which authorizes giving money to “civil groups” or NGO’s in Cuba.

  • Not so. Not all Cubans who own cars are well-off. Many Cubans were given cars for extraordinary foreign service or given the right to purchase a car at a subsidized price. Others simply inherited cars from family members who died or moved out of the country. Owning a car in Cuba says very little about the economic well-being of the car owner.

  • I certainly feel for the people caught in the middle. It’s a crap situation, no doubt.

    That said, everyone knew it was going to change and sometimes you react too slowly and lose the bet…

    Life goes on.

  • Pobrecita. If Andrea could afford a little Polish car , then she is not suffering the extreme poverty that all Cuban refugees claim as the reason for their departure from Cuba.

  • My parents and I had nothing when we left Cuba in 1960. No bank account, no credit, no jobs, no university education. My Dad found work in Miami, then my mother, and I went to high school and was the first generation college educated in Miami and Tampa. Now I’m 70 and live in a 1.5 million Dollar home with my wife and daughter. It’s all about choices and opportunity. I agree. It’s not just about existing which is all that Cuba is offering for most of its population.

  • Moses Patterson i totally agree with you! Cuba is the best land in every sense..

  • But why leave Cuba? With all that “free” education and health care? Surely, the Castro revolution has more lasting value. Besides, for all those people who sold cars and houses and personal belongings just to pay for the chance to start all over in the north, now is the perfect opportunity to test the social safety net that socialism allegedly provides. What’s the worry? There are no homeless people in Cuba. There are no children going hungry. Time to step up Raul Castro.

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