Letter From a Cuban Rafter

Monday, August 15, 2011
A must-read from El Nuevo Herald:

Trips to Cuba and Shame

The subject of trips to Cuba has once again entered the arena, along with the debate between those who support them and those who don't. And all because Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart presented an amendment that would revert the travel regulations to what they were under the administration of President Bush.

Before continuing, I should say that I am a rafter. I arrived in Key West on a boat with 20 other people on August 18, 1994. I was 20-years old. We set foot on land 24 hours before Clinton changed the law and began sending rafters to the U.S. base in Guantanamo. Those who first came to Miami, when this exile community was established, managed to have Clinton allow their entry into a free land. Additionally, I have all of my family in Cuba with the exception of one brother who also came on a raft three years after I did. In 17 years, I have not returned to Cuba and neither has my brother. The reason is simple: the system that provoked us to throw ourselves into the sea at the risk of being eaten by sharks or to perish drowning has not changed. That system remains there; the same or worse than before. Besides, I said when I arrived that I wanted political asylum because it was impossible to live under that dictatorship. In other words, I am a political exile. With that cleared up, I will continue.

I'd like to strike a chord regarding trips to Cuba because so many that come and go are using the fable of the family. They are the ones that are actually fueling the defense of my position, so that once and for all of the trips here and back will end. They are the escape valve the dictatorship uses when it is under pressure and in danger of exploding, and the ones it utilizes to pressure democratic administrations. Obama's is about to arrive very soon.

Among those who travel you have a little bit of everything. There are real family members that every 4 or 5 years go see their families to help them and reunite, and as a parting gift they come back depressed over the situation in which they leave behind their loved ones. Then there are those who go and see their families for only a few minutes, because the rest of the trip is spent on the beaches, hotels, and with under-aged girls. They return broke and asking for government assistance without ever providing the most minimal help to their families. Those are the majority, and why not say it: they are the ones who provide the wrong image of the true Cuban reality to the world. One thing is clear; what has separated the Cuban family is the criminal dictatorship, not the United States. It is up to Cuba to open its doors completely to all Cubans inside and outside, without conditions or visas.

Enrique Padrón
Miami

Translation by Alberto de la Cruz