Fernando Ravsberg

Some Cubans have set up new private businesses with money from family abroad. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, August 11 — In my previous post, the issue of Cuban emigrants in the United States came up again.  One devoted Cuban follower of this blog situated the figure for this group at around 2 million people.  Another of our readers informed me that “officially” there are 1.8 million.

I don’t question their honesty, but when I asked to find out these individuals’ sources, I learned their data came from anti-Castro blogs and Miami newspapers, all with very clear political interests.

Migration is used as evidence of the failure of the revolution, but for that propaganda to be effective it’s necessary to manipulate the figures in such a way that the percentage of people having emigrated from Cuba is greater than for any other Latin America country.

This explains why many people don’t consult the US Census Bureau, which manages the official data publicly.  A colleague from Miami did this and they sent him the figure for Cuban immigrants, meaning people born in Cuba but who are residents in the United States.

In 2009, according to this source, the number of Cuban immigrants in the US was of 991,385 people, which represents less than 8 percent of the population of the island and no less than half the figure cited by our reader.

Not even adding the children and grandchildren born on American soil can you reach the 2 million people, because the census reports that the total number of people of “Cuban origin” who resided there a couple of years ago to be 1,589,757.

It’s true that emigrants have also settled in other countries, but their number is tiny compared to those who opted for the USA, the only developed country whose laws treat them as political refugees.

This treatment is provided despite the fact that a third of Cuban-Americans went on vacation to the island in 2010, making one question the idea that they’re a community of persecuted political exiles of communism.

Migration ping pong

But the falsehoods around those who emigrate don’t come from a single side.  For decades they were called “worms” or “scum” and — even if this involved the most decent person in the world — the desire to leave Cuba was enough to see them subjected to the most extreme denigration.

One of the most questionable immigration episodes occurred in 1980, during the massive exodus of Cubans from the Mariel port.  Thousands of individuals were harassed, insulted and had eggs thrown at them by other Cubans for wanting to leave the country, despite them having been authorized by the government to do so.

Nonetheless, I have the impression that today no one is proud of having participated in those “meetings of repudiation.”  In all the years that I’ve lived in Cuba, I’ve never found a single person who admitted to having thrown eggs at those who left.

Now the truth is beginning to open the way.  President Raul Castro has just recognized something momentous: “Almost all (emigrants) preserve their love for the family and for the homeland that saw them born, and they manifest different forms of solidarity toward their compatriots.”

Days later a provincial newspaper published the article “We Are All Cuba.” It affirmed that “for the youth, as the current builders of the revolution, this is the opportunity to begin the process of the normalization of relations between the Cuban people, those within and outside of Cuba.”

The first concrete step is greater flexibility in travel by Cubans from the island and also for those who emigrated.  This would be “a contribution to strengthening the ties of the nation with the community of emigrants,” as Raul Castro explained.

Meanwhile, a part of the Cuban community abroad continues refusing to accept the existence of changes in Cuba and remains committed to trying to overthrow the revolution, as they’ve done for half a century.

Notwithstanding, many emigrants have begun sending money to their relatives to buy houses, automobiles and create businesses.  Important Cuban-American businesspeople are even waiting to be able to invest on the island.

The distrust is mutual and massive.  The road will be long and complex, but if everyone decides to pave it with truth, this could lead them to Marti’s ideal of building a nation “with all and for the well-being of all.”

An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.

8 thoughts on “A Fresh Look at Cuba’s Emigrants

  • Most countries have honor guards at embassies and key government offices (some not just honorary). Have you ever seen the British changing of the guard at Windsor Palace? You must not have been i Cuba for a long time if you think the honor guards at embassies still carry AK47s. Do you know of even one incident when someone was shot and killed by one of these honor guards? No, the only ones killed were the ones who got in the way of those who planned to get to the Land of Milk and Honey where [they thought] the streets were paved with gold.

  • Kareb

    I have some questions for you.

    Why do you think the cuban regime places “honor guards” around embassies in cuba?
    Armed with AK 47 and with orders to shoot anyone?
    Why? Have you asked yourself such questions or are you trying to pass it under the rug?

    Why do people need a permit to enter of leave their own homeland?

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