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The Memory of the Exodus



The exodus of the Mariel continues to be one taboo topic for the Cuban government. Those scenes from more recent history seem more distant than something that happened in the nineteenth century and do not enjoy revisitation on the state's memory. The best evidence of this is the recent censorship of the documentary Dreams to the hove[1] (2020), which came in a way simultaneous with the writing of these pages. The short movie was banned by the inclusion of archives associated with the Mariel Boatlift and thematization of the harassment suffered by an artist who tried to leave the island in 1980, but not for homosexuality.


On April 1, 1980, a bus taken by six Cubans crashed into the gate of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana. Later classified by the Cuban government as antisocial, these people did this desperate act to ask for political asylum. In the incident, dies the custodian of the mission in a shootout in May, but the diplomats Peruvians[3] opposed the country's desire to grant asylum to this Cubans group. This situation unleashes the revolutionary government's fury, which decides to withdraw custody of the Peruvian embassy in Havana, as announced in an editorial in the Granma newspaper, published three days later. In the same letter, the newspaper says that these events coincide "suspiciously with the intensification of l to hostility and threats of aggression by the United States against our country" (Revolutionary Government of Cuba). To be made public, this statement happens the unexpected: in less than 48 hours, more than 10 800 Cubans penetrate the enclosure diplomat with the illusion of obtaining asylum. These circumstances created a crisis without precedent for the government and immediately had one broad impact on media.

Nelson D'Alerta remembers having been one of the first to get into the embassy, then to that his lover at that time you told what was happening. In his memory, that was like one carnival, which was turned weeks later in one hell, when had nothing to eat and neither could get out of the diplomatic perimeter. He thought the government would kill them all because the time passed, and no one wanted to receive them.

Two weeks later, Fidel Castro declared Mariel's port was open to any citizen who wants from, provided that someone came to pick them up. Many Cuban exiles in the United States then rushed to charter boats in South Florida to sail to Cuba in search of their loved ones. When the Cuban-Americans arrived at Mariel's port to pick up their relatives, they were forced by Cuban authorities to take with them other people that the government had approved. This Machiavellian move was one of the main reasons for the Marielitos' stigma because it transpired in the popular imagination that the boats were full of undesirable subjects: homosexuals, criminals, and the mentally ill. Furthermore, this opening was for the world one fact unusual because, at that time, people were trying to leave the island could be imprisoned. In this way, the government eased the tensions that had been generated in the past weeks.



In the discourse pronounced by Fidel Castro on May 1, 1980, the leader mocks the conflict generated for the US government the opening of the maritime bridge and continues the campaign of stigmatization towards those who are going. In the same speech, he had already made clear some of the most cited phrases of this moment such as: "who does not have revolutionary genes, who does not have revolutionary blood, who does not have a mind that adapts to the idea of ​​a revolution, who does not have a heart that adapts to the effort and heroism of a revolution, we do not need it in our country …" (Castro). These words strengthened even more the desire to expel all the subjects to be considered aliens to the process revolutionary. Although the departure already had started on April 21 with the first boat's departure, It will not stop until the same leader gave the order in September 1980.

At the same time, that decision created not few tensions to the other side of the Straits of Florida in July, mainly with refugees' resettlement and their subsequent social inclusion, as I will refer to more later. Following the investigation of Mercedes Cros Sandoval:

the United States government was taken by surprise and reacted in a hesitant and confused manner. Cuban Americans hurried to seek their relatives…In the end, the United States Federal Government accepted the "de facto" dictation of immigration policy when President Jimmy Carter stated on May 5, 1980: "We'll continue to provide an open heart and open arms to refugees seeking freedom from the Communist domination." (10)

The warm welcome from the administration of Carter was part of a political game to demonstrate the failure of the model social Cuban, but more beyond the intentions policies so undeniable is that it became in time record for the biggest event of migration in the history of both countries.

[1] This film, directed by young filmmakers José Luis Aparicio and Fernando Fraguela, is an approach biography of the singer Mike Porcel, one of the figures critical of the New Trova Cuban who tried to go for the country during the departure of the Mariel, and for that reason was repudiated and condemned to the ostracism, until he managed to emigrate years later to Florida. The documentary will be presented at one of the film festivals in the country, which ended suspended before the reaction of protest large part of the filmmakers Cubans.

[2] In this regard, some recent publications can be consulted, such as The Mariel Boatlift: a Cuban-American Journey (2019), by historian Víctor Triay.

[3] The Peruvian ambassador in Havana, Ernesto Pinto Bazurco, published his memoirs of that event in the book Diplomacia por la Libertad (2017). In one interview for the newspaper El Comercio, the diplomat said that one of the circumstances most difficult was when Castro, then to ask him the question from the standpoint of the law, I said, "Well, but there is a difference rather large, I know how to kill, you don't. ( Zuzunaga Ruiz)

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