19 Cuban rafters arrive in US

Just received the following from a reliable source about 19 Cubans rafters that arrived in Key West this morning:

My morning report is late because this morning at 5:30 AM the base commander knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted to help with the 19 Cuban rafters that had just landed on our front yard.

What an experience! What beautiful people! There were two small boys, four women and 13 men. We provided them with soap, towels, chairs, and washed their clothes. The local police showed up with Cuban bread and coffee, and toys for the children.

The rafters were overjoyed! They wanted to know how long before they could get a job and were jittery with excitement at the world opened before them. Some of them reported that living under a system where you fear the police and the state 24 hours a day is not living, and to not be able to enjoy the fruit of your own labor is the worst form of slavery.

They were on the water only 25 hours. They gathered their money and resources and built an incredibly well-crafted boat out of flattened irrigation aluminum pipes, Fiberglas and a four-cylinder Peugeot motor. They had tried to depart twice before but experienced mechanical problems. On this occasion the motor worked like a charm.

One of the ladies in the group reported that she had been arrested by the police several days prior under suspicion of participating in the organization of an illegal departure from the country. She kept her composure and denied everything. Since they could not find any evidence, they released her. That night, all 19 of them got back on the boat again and left.

They stated that they are now and forever a single family of 19. They enjoyed taking pictures with the boat and the various officers that were in the area.

I made a pact with them. We are going to meet back here a year from now to celebrate the first anniversary of their arrival with a pig roast, yucca, black beans and white rice.

In the midst of all the commotion we managed to hold a “barrio-debate,” or a “matutino,” or an “asamblea popular,” call it what you may, and they proved to be very aware of the opportunity and dangers of the freedoms afforded to them in this country. They seemed to understand that their main limitation is their own drive and commitment to work hard and make a good, even if humble, living. They were very keen on the peace of mind of knowing themselves free.

In short, it was a typically Cuban “happening.” They were all over the place, talking at a hundred words per minute, including me.

To one side, sat one of the family groups, a man, his wife and their little boy. I saw the wife put her hand on the man’s back and ask: “Papo, are you crying?” And indeed he was. The other guys started to make fun of him and that was the end of that!

It is truly not possible to see a man crying out of happiness and to not share his tears.

God bless and guide them all!

Update: here’s a picture of their “boat”:


We’ll try to have some pictures of the families as soon as possible.

19 thoughts on “19 Cuban rafters arrive in US”

  1. Val, what a wonderful experience! Thank you for sharing, and congratulations and best of luck to your new friends.

  2. This is why I am so optimistic about the future of Cuba once it is free. I don’t buy the arguments that castro has destroyed the spirit, the work ethic and the drive of most Cubans. Look what this group accomplished to get here–built a great looking boat out of scraps. The first thing they wanted to know was “when can we start working.”


  3. Overjoyed that they arrived safely, but that empty boat makes me think of the hundreds like it that have washed up on these shores whose occupants found freedom and eternal peace in another mooring.

  4. This is an extremely interesting item and I am curious about connecting with the person who wrote the article and the photographer.

    I run a large “crowd-sourced’ news organization called NowPublic.com and would like to learn more about this story.

    Mark Schneider
    Actual News Guy

  5. A beautiful story borne of tragedy. What an experience that must have been! Tellechea: you expressed my feelings perfectly.

  6. Wow, totally awesome! Once, while on a cruise ship, we passed the whole length of Northern Cuba. I stayed on deck all day just watching and praying that those on the island would one day see freedom. I love these sucess stories. Today nineteen, tomorrow the nation.

  7. Every one of you had expressed all my feelings in previous poster. The only thing left to say is WELCOME TO YOUR NEW HOME. And let the all mighty guide them in their quest for a new and brilliant future in this our adoptive country.

    When I read one of those histories it bring me back to the day in 1980 when I saw the shore line of Key West for the first time in a very quite morning of May coming in one of the boats from Mariel. With noting more that my dreams of freedom. And a firm determination to work hard every day for a prosperous future her.

  8. God bless the balseros! Caridad del Cobre/Tin Hau protect those on the high seas.

    Three tastes we remember, landing in Florida decades ago: freedom; fresh, cold milk; Cheetos!

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