US-based Cubans take rare treats to family back home
SEASONS GREETINGS: Relaxed rules in the US have meant that up to 10
flights a day flew to Cuba this Christmas, packed with Cuban-Americans
AFP , HAVANA
Saturday, Dec 26, 2009, Page 7
Christmas in Cuba was awash with hard-to-get presents like flat-screen
TVs and expensive candies as a wave of US-based Cubans visited for
family reunions only made possible by a recent scrapping of US travel
Adrian, one 17-year-old who flew in from the US state of Florida, where
he was born to Cuban immigrants, was overjoyed as he threw his bags into
a relative's classic orange 1956 Chevrolet at Havana's airport. He was
seeing his grandfather for the first time.
"My parents emigrated 20 years ago and I'm so happy to be able to come
and get to know my relatives," he said, grinning.
Next to him, the grandfather, a 60-year-old truck driver named Evaristo
Delgado, was likewise exuberant, though he slammed "the politics that
separate the Cubans here from those over there."
"Over there" mostly means Florida, the closest point in the US to the
island nation that Washington has targeted with an economic embargo
dating back five decades in reaction to the revolution led by former
president Fidel Castro.
Former US president George W. Bush toughened the embargo by allowing
Cuban-Americans to make only one trip every three years. In April of
this year, though, US President Barack Obama relaxed the restrictions
slightly, giving Cuban-Americans the right to freely travel to Cuba.
Non-Cuban-Americans, however, remain barred from doing so.
The change has meant that this Christmas season, up to 10 flights a day
were arriving from Miami in Havana, each of them filled with
Cuban-Americans weighed down with gifts.
Jose Rodriguez, a 50-year-old mechanic standing at the airport with a
bouquet of flowers in his hand, was waiting for one of those flights,
carrying his 28-year-old niece. The last time he saw her was three years
"Cuban families have to be able to come together. The restrictions don't
make any sense, nor does the embargo," he said. "The people shouldn't
carry the blame of their governments."
His niece, Nora Rodriguez, arrived and greeted her relatives with a
flurry of hugs and kisses and happy tears. She moved to Miami 17 years ago.
Another US-based Cuban, Yaimelis, 37, said she arrived with her husband
and their two children from North Carolina to share a typical Cuban
Christmas with her family in Havana. For them, that means roast pork,
rice and beans, and generous doses of Cuba's famous rum.
"I came two months ago and now I'm back. Now we can travel when we want
and we save up for it. It's ridiculous to be split up because of
politics. So many people drown at sea trying to join family members who
have left," she said.
Yaimelis left Cuba with her parents in 1980, when 125,000 departed for
the US during a brief permission given by Castro's government.
Taipei Times – archives (25 December 2009)