48 Days: Photographer captures 8,000-mile journey from Cuba to the US
By ALEX SCOTT
Apr 27, 2017, 10:14 AM ET
There are currently more than 20 daily flights from the United States to
Cuba. The 330-mile trip from Miami takes a little over an hour and
helped fill the streets of Cuba with a record number of tourists in 2016.
Although the island nation is evolving to accommodate the growing
tourism, the sense of hope is offset by an increasing economic divide.
For two Havana women, Marta and Liset, their lives did not improve as
they hoped, so they decided to leave.
Photographer Lisette Poole departed with them, documenting the entire
8,000 mile journey as they illegally crossed borders, joined other
groups of migrants and navigated the sometimes treacherous world of
smugglers, border control and jungle paths used by narco-traffickers.
Departing from Havana in May 2016, Liset and Marta were among the last
Cuban immigrants to make it across the U.S. border before the end of the
“Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy that granted automatic asylum to Cuban
immigrants. In the slideshow below, Poole documented intimate moments of
the arduous journey, while experiencing it first-hand.
Poole has a personal interest in the women’s journey as a Cuban-American
herself. Her mother left for the United States in 1969, and Poole grew
up in the U.S. with a constant awareness of the immigration issues that
affected her family.
“Living and working in Cuba, I always imagine what kind of life I would
have had if I’d been born here,” Poole said. “I imagine what kind of
person I would be, what my goals would be, and I question whether I’d
have the courage to do what Liset and Marta did.”
Marta and Liset’s journey began in Havana with a plane ticket and the
name of a human smuggler, known as a coyote, scribbled on a piece of
paper. After flying to Guyana, the two navigated through South and
Central America following routes that many immigrants traveled before
them. Poole departed with them, documenting the complete experience as
Marta and Liset joined groups of other immigrants, illegally crossed
borders and were detained by law enforcement.
The women journeyed on planes and buses, but also traveled many miles by
foot. Their route crossed through Brazil and Peru before heading north
through Colombia. The ever-changing immigrant group then traversed
through the Darien Gap, a roadless jungle swamp on the Panama-Colombia
border, and into Central America.
For Poole, the journey was not without incident. In Costa Rica, Marta
and Liset had a falling out over money. Liset had been funding their
trip and was unable to continue paying for herself as well as Marta.
Liset planned to move ahead and send back money for Marta once she could
gather more funds.
“At the prospect of being left behind Marta was enraged. (She) fought
with Liset and told the men running the stash house that I was a
journalist. I’d been keeping quiet there, it was one of the places I
didn’t feel safe having the coyotes know who I was,” Poole said.
The stash house was a remote shelter where immigrants were housed along
the migration routes. Poole was able to talk her way out of the
situation and continue on with Liset and other migrants. The two parted
ways with Marta, who would end up joining the next group.
Here she walks for several days without food or water. more +
Poole continued on, photographing the resolve and resourcefulness of
migrants attempting the journey. Her reportage gracefully blurs the line
between straight documentation and personal insight through her experience.
“There was one moment in Nicaragua (after the Costa Rica incident) where
we were without food or water or even sleep for a few days,” Poole said.
“I was getting delirious and so was Liset. We helped each other during
that time, and we got through it together.”
Poole and Liset crossed the U.S. border into Texas, followed by Marta 12
days later. The two women rekindled their friendship and lived near each
other in Miami before moving around to other places in the U.S. Poole
has since returned to Cuba, but is continuing her work with Liset and
Marta and documenting their new lives.
Poole is currently fundraising on Kickstarter to turn the project into a
photo book styled as a classic travel guide. More information can be
“I hope that by looking at my work and experiencing the journey of Liset
and Marta, readers would relate to them and be able to put themselves in
their shoes as two people who wanted a better life,” Poole said. “There
are significant global issues causing migration and it isn’t a matter of
personal choice so much as a consequence of greater forces at play.”
Source: 48 Days: Photographer captures 8,000-mile journey from Cuba to
the US – ABC News –