This year marks the 30th anniversary of what has come to be known as “The Mariel Boatlift.” Starting in late April, 1980, hundreds of boats piloted mostly by Cuban exiles sailed south to Cuba’s Mariel harbor to rescue relatives from the island prison. By the time the exodus came to an end a few months later, approximately 125,000 Cubans had managed to make it to the United States.
The atmosphere during and after the exodus was at the same time exhilarating and tumultuous, as this news report from 1980 clearly illustrates.
Each one of those 125,000 Mariel refugees and the relatives any of them may have had here have their own individual stories to tell. There is no monolithic tale of the experience endured by all of these Cubans and their families except to say that 30 years later, the same thing would happen again if the slave masters in Havana allowed it.