On Your Marks, Get Set…Trump / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 21 December 2016 – Walking around
the block with a suitcase in hand has been added to the rituals to mark
the end of the year, as a plea to be able to travel outside the country.
Many Cubans fear, however, that the situation is becoming complicated
with the pending arrival of Donald Trump to the White House.
The president-elect of the United States has been so contradictory in
his declarations about Cuba that no one knows what will happen between
the two countries when he is installed in the Oval Office. Cubans on the
island seem less concerned about a possible setback in the diplomatic
thaw, than about the loss of their immigration privileges.
The debate over the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which awards
benefits to migrant Cubans arriving in the United States, could put an
end to the dreams of many in the new year. Foreign consulates in Havana,
especially those of Latin American and European countries, have seen a
surge in visa applications.
“We are overworked,” the custodian of the Mexican consulate site in the
Miramar neighborhood told 14ymedio. Outside the building, Roberto, who
prefers not to give his last name, managed to get a temporary visa to
travel to the land of the Aztecs. This Thursday he will fly to Cancun,
the cheapest flight between the two countries. “I’m working against the
clock,” he says, while finishing the bureaucratic paperwork before the
Roberto has a long journey ahead of him, plagued with obstacles and
dangers to reach the US border, but he feels confident. “My brother who
lives in Miami is going to help me and pay for the whole trip,” he
explains. “It will be much more expensive, but I have to get there
before January 20th,” he says.
Trump’s inauguration date has become the goal in a marathon race for
thousands of Cubans. People who in recent months have liquidated their
possessions, managed to get a visa and are preparing to leave.
Most consulates close their doors at the end of December for the
Christmas holidays, an element that contributes to the desperation.
Departures by raft have also increased. The US Coast Guard recently
reported that since last October 1st, the beginning of the fiscal year,
around 1,000 Cubans have tried to enter the US illegally by sea. For
fiscal year 2016, which ended on 30 September, the figure reached 7,411,
compared to 4,473 for the same period in 2015.
With this exceptional winter, without cold and with an ocean free of
hurricanes, many Cubans embark on the route to Florida in makeshift
crafts. Raul Castro’s government has redoubled its vigilance along the
coast lately, but the rafters choose to leave from remote places, among
the mangroves or the rocks.
“I don’t know if Trump will be good for us or not, but I’m not going to
stay here to find out,” says Yusmila Arcina, who worked as an accountant
for a state company until she decided to “make the leap.” The young
woman considers herself fortunate, in part, for having obtained a work
visa for the Schengen Area (a free movement zone made up of most of the
EU countries and others in the area). From Europe, where she expects it
will be easier, she hopes to get a tourist visa to travel to the US,
using the old continent as a springboard to realize her “American Dream.”
“Yes or no, we have to take advantage now,” suggests the young women,
who has no family in the United States. Arcina has paid for the
paperwork and a plane ticket in the high season, which cost her around
2,000 Convertible Cuban pesos (roughly the same in dollars), with the
sale of a mid 20th century Cadillac that belonged to her father. “That
car has been my ticket to freedom,” she jokes.
Arcina’s boyfriend is stranded in Colombia waiting to take the route
through the Darien Gap. The challenge for both of them is to reach US
territory “before that millionaire gets into office.” Both hope “to
watch the inauguration ceremony on local TV in Miami,” says Arcina.
Trump has fired the starting gun, and each one, on their own side, has
embarked on their migration journey.
Source: On Your Marks, Get Set…Trump / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez –
Translating Cuba –