Shipwrecks of the American Dream

The grief still remains in the families of those who committed crimes or died when leaving the country illegally motivated by the defunct wet foot/dry foot policy

By: Various authors


2017-01-20 | 17:14:19 EST
El naufragio de los sueñosEl naufragio de los sueños Photo: Juventud RebeldeZoom

Juana González Torres lives in Isla de la Juventud and is still being consumed by grief: she hasn’t enjoyed the presence of her nephew for over 20 years.

Her nephew perpetrated two cases of aircraft hijacking which took place in the Special Municipality in early 1990s.

He’s been in jail since then, lured by the siren calls he turned his life and his whole family’s into a nightmare.

The incitement from the United States to leave Cuba illegally has caused the grief of many families with cases of imprisonment, decease and disappearance of some of their members.

Many people might think that the families of those who illegally set sail knew about their plans. Maybe it was known in some of the cases. But I can’t imagine a mother accepting that her son would get on board of a raft with all the dangers it implies. The majority does not tell anyone but their friends and we all suffer the consequences.

The agreement signed a few days ago is long overdue. Many young lives would have been saved.


Isabel as we call her, since she asked for anonymity, tells the story of her brother. She has relatives in Miami. Her parents were distraught over the tragedy.

Her brother arrived home sweating. After washing his face and his chest with water, he took his mother to one side and broke the news to her: he was going to leave the country for the United States illegally with his wife.

Without details he told his mother how he would do that, and at the end he insisted: “Whatever happens don’t tell anyone, not even at home. Wait for my call”. He kissed her and soothed her: “Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine.”

Days passed by and his mother could not keep her cool. She stopped eating, she grew anxious and was constantly running her hands over her head. She caved in to Isabel’s insistence. Three days had passed and she didn’t know anything of her son. Isabel began to call around the embassies and the family in the United States. They pleaded ignorance of the whole affair.  One afternoon 15 days later the news came over the phone.

Details of the event were known months later. The survivors revealed that all was a swindle. It was a group made up by 14 people, which included two girls of 14 and 17 years of age; the group had bought a boat for 150,000 pesos with a propeller and a spare engine, the owner said that it was in perfect state.

They set sail in the evening from the northern coast of Artemisa. After some 20 miles, the engine went dead and the spare engine did not work either. It was then that a one-night trip became an odyssey.

They had around 10 bottles of water, which were gone in the first few days. Then they started to drink urine or seawater. Vomiting came after and to make matters worse, the one called the captain, a fisherman from the Jucaro harbor, was the second to die. When they dropped the corpse into the sea and saw it sink, they felt that the last hopes for a happy trip were gone.

They tried to keep the course during the day; at night the guided by the stars, and discovered at dawn that they did not know their location.

During those days in which they did not see any ship, they threw six corpse to the sea; unknowingly they had strayed into an area scarcely navigated, due to reefs and sandbanks.

On the final days they ran aground in the middle of the ocean, whipped by the sun. When nobody expected to survive they spotted a ship. In despair, two young men plunged into the water amid the voices of the rest. They surfaced and could barely swim to the ship. They sank in the sea.

The ship sent the warning, and a helicopter evacuated the most seriously injured. Isabel’s brother died of a heart attack during the flight. When the remains were presented to the relatives, he was in such a poor state that they denied identification, despite the survivors assurance that it was him. The final evidence came through a dental examination.

“I still don’t understand why he decided to leave, Isabel said. He never said he wanted to do so. He had good living conditions here, he had money. We think that his new acquaintances talked him into it, we don’t know well. What I do know is that the trip was a nightmare.”                  

Life is a Very Precious Gift

Following the announcement, on January 12, of the immigration agreement between Cuba and the United States, which removes the «dry feet-wet feet» policy and the Provisional Admission Program (Parole) for Cuban health professionals, Juventud Rebelde has published several works in this regard.

Thus, many readers have been sharing criteria through the Juventud Rebelde website, and several of them have agreed that in this way human life is defended against the dangers of illegal immigration, which had been openly incited for many years from the United States.

The reader who identifies himself as Rigoberto qualifies this measure as a very good step by the United States Government, which is in accordance with the humanist character of the Cuban Socialist Revolution and avoids unnecessary deaths at sea or the dangerous crossing through Central America.

Regla Teresa says that she sees very well the abrogation of this policy, because «the lives of human beings are worth much more. » And the user, who identifies himself as Hola, agrees and says that «... in that way, there will be fewer people dying in that immense sea, » who according to him «think more about other things than in their own lives and they often do not respect even the life of their children, and believing that they will do them good, they do them an evil action. »

In addition, Tania Mtaz also became sensitive to the small children's situation regarding illegal departures: «I am happy to know that three of my relatives, including a child who has been carried away on such a journey, will not lose their lives in that horrible attempt. His parents, despite they had been returned back, swore to try the travel again and again.

«I remember with pain the TV interview of a mother who tried to leave Cuba from an area in Villa Clara,  and when she was shipwrecked, she told her daughter to hold on to her neck. She began to swim and when she stopped she realized that her daughter was not with her ... This is just one of the many examples of those who have been left in the middle of the two shores, in that fatal attempt to reach what they the call American Dream. »

Translated by ESTI

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