Cuba: The Great Exodus

On the road, Cubans leave the phrase that gives them hope, “Patria y Vida” [Homeland and Life]. (14ymedio)

By Yoani Sanchez (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – One eats more roast pork and black beans in Miami than in Havana, the mojito has become a drink selling better in Berlin bars than in Varadero taverns, and the founding anniversary of the Republic is a date that is celebrated more in exile than within the Island’s borders. Cuba has become a country on the run and the current migratory exodus continues to atomize the nation, spreading its human capital and its traditions throughout the planet.

This 8-part special series, under the title of Cuba, The Island in Flight, is the story of a rafter-on-foot who made the route from the Cuban capital to Florida, crossing a good part of Central America and Mexico. His journey was full of very tense moments, through border crossings, bribes to police and military to turn a blind eye, intimidating coyotes and frugal meals. But above all, it was a journey marked by the dreams of reaching the United States.

The country where Alejandro Mena has his roots is not the place to harvest personal or professional fruits, much less civic ones. He had sensed that for years, but it was after the popular protests on July 11 that he confirmed what he feared. That Sunday, the 34-year-old young man joined a river of people who cried out for freedom through the streets of Havana. It was one of the happiest days of his life, as he later told his friends and family. But the joy of seeing people react and call for democratic change in the country was short-lived.

Mena saw how a friend who was at his side was violently arrested shouting ‘Patria y Vida’ [Homeland and Life]. Although he managed to evade police operations and return to his house, his young friend did not suffer the same fate. He was beaten, his whereabouts were unknown for several days and, finally, when he was released, the police pressure and threats had been so great that he decided to emigrate as soon as possible. That young man, enterprising and patriotic, was one of the most loving people of history and national identity that Mena had ever known. Seeing him leave was very painful to process and convinced Mena that there was no future on the Island for people like his friend and neither for him.

Then came the goodbyes. Saying goodbye to his family, his neighborhood, his dog Kathy and getting on a flight to Managua. The rest of the route is told in detail in these articles. Despite his light baggage, Alejandro Mena took with him a part of the country that he now tries to rebuild from exile. Recipes, music, memories and dreams make up part of those suitcases that every migrant carries on his shoulders. He took the Island with him to ensure that it could be freer and here he tells us about the enormous weight of carrying a country for thousands of kilometers.


Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

2 thoughts on “Cuba: The Great Exodus

  • Only a few months ago, we had a distraught father sitting in our home in Cuba, relating how his son, whom we know well, had along with his wife and two small children, very recently flown to Nicaragua hoping to continue on through Mexico by uncertain means, to the US.

    The son who we have known long prior to his marriage and becoming a father, is very well qualified academically, being a graduate of the University of Havana, and that significantly, at the time when the cell phones were introduced in Cuba. He then applied his talents working at Santa Cruz del Norte for a well known Canadian company. Both he and his wife are black.

    Months later, I can report with great relief, that all four have successfully crossed the Mexico/US border and are safe in the US. For both the father described and his wife, there is a combination of relief and a sense of loss. Relief not because of the success of entering the US, but of the four all being alive and well. Loss, because they no longer have a complete “familia” for the son and his family lived with them, being unable like most young Cubans, to have a home of their own.

    But what does that capable young man’s move to the US along this year, with tens of thousands of young Cubans, imply for Cuba as a country?

    It is the very life blood and future of a nation that is departing, those with education, energy, determination and courage. How can Diaz-Canel and his cabal respond? For it is a consequence of their policies, their repression and their total intolerance for anything and anybody that expresses alternate views to their own, that leads to such drastic actions. It is not a consequence of those young people being social misfits, or adventurous spirits, but one of necessity and need. The need to be able to achieve a free future for themselves and their children.

    Cry for Cuba as a country and a people, for nothing is changing.

  • Cubans are under a horrendous dictatorship and they risk their lives to get into freedom and this horrible dictatorship exists to keep the dated leftists dreams alive.

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