Ana Olema: The Cuban who journeyed 8 countries for freedom

Belen Marty interviews Cuban American artist and activist Ana Olema in PanAm Post:

Ana Olema: The Cuban Who Journeyed 8 Countries for Freedom

An Artist-Turned-Activist’s Odyssey to Escape the Castro Regime
During the five months of her journey, Olema faced arbitrary and corrupt Latin-American security forces.

Ana Olema is a visual artist, an activist for human rights, and a migrant. She’s the product of diverse experiences, and undoubtedly a survivor. Her gestures, clothing, hairstyle, and accent, are a unique mix of the Caribbean and Latin America.However, she defines herself first and foremost as “a global citizen and a Cuban.” She explains this duality in a very simple way: “Cubans cling to our citizenship for resistance.” Olema recalls that “whoever left the country was considered a traitor for long time, and that psychological projection continues to this day.”

The PanAm Post spoke with the multifaceted Olema about her work and her epic journey from Quito, Ecuador, to the border that separates Matamoros (Mexico) from Brownsville (United States). It was an odyssey made without any documents: as a Cuban, she failed to meet visa requirements for each country she passed through, so she had to smuggle herself across borders.

She spoke of coyotes — people-smugglers plying the US-Mexico border — guerrilla, the army, theft, abuse, and even sleeping with a gun in her hand.

Like her, 53,423 Cubans crossed the southern US border between 2010 and 2014, to take up residence in the North American country. And that number appears to be on the rise: 37 percent of the Cubans who entered the United States in 2014 used this route.

Beginning an Endless Journey

“I’d gone in and out of Cuba a little because of my art. I had experienced leaving Cuba, but less and less, as my activism increased,” says Olema, emphasizing that she traveled by her own means, “not because I received anything from the regime.”

Her boyfriend at the time tried to escape Cuba on a raft for the fifth time, but he was caught and fined: “In addition, he was wrongly accused of a crime, because we all know that Cuba’s legal system doesn’t work.”

Then, her partner’s situation became more complicated, and when he faced the strong possibility of ending up in prison, they seized the sudden opportunity of flying to Ecuador to record a rap album.

In April 2012, after several months in Ecuador, Ana and her boyfriend decided to undertake the long journey to the United States. “It’s an experience that changed my life, and it connected me with Latin America,” she says.

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