cuban mile

The Special Period in Cuba can best be described as a time
of struggle. The dissatisfaction of many Cubans has led to
their emigration to the United States by traveling in rafts
to the coast of Florida. The Cuban people have different
views regarding the trip to exile as well as the motivations
to stay or leave Cuba. In Alejandro Hernandez Diazs book,
The Cuba Mile, and in the movie Guantanamera, we see some
of the different ways in which Cuban Culture views the
Special Period, the trip to exile, and the motivations
behind staying or leaving Cuba.

The year 1991 marked the beginning of the Special
Period and hard times have existed in Cuba ever since. Many
Cubans are tired of the hardships and shortages of the
Special Period. To try and make ends meet many Cubans have
adapted to the tough times by making money in the Black
Market. In Guantanamera, both the cabdriver and Mariano
use the Black Market to make extra money. As they travel
across the island, they buy food to be resold at a higher
price when they arrive in Havana. Many Cubans feel that the
Revolution is no longer working and that it is time for a
change. In Guantanamera, symbolism of this idea is
clearly demonstrated. In the movie, a story from the
Santeria religion is told. The god of Olofin is represented
in the movie, Olofin created life but not death. Therefore,
everyone lived forever and the elderly people held control
and influenced many aspects of society. Nothing ever
changed much like the Cuban government which is old and
unchanging. Then, one day Olofin made it rain for thirty
days and thirty nights. The flood killed the old and only
the young survived. The current revolution is old, and is
not working as well as it did in the 1970s. The movie is
calling for the need of a natural process, like the rain to
come and wash away the old revolutions ideas so new and
young ideas can survive in Cuba. However, many Cubans feel
that the situation is not going to change and their desire
to leave Cuba is so strong that they risk their lives by
rafting across the Straits of Florida in order to gain
freedom and opportunities in the United States.
The hardships of the Special Period became so
considerable many Cubans chose to take their chances with
the ocean. Large quantities of Cubans began to construct
rafts in order to escape to the United States. They hoped
to either survive the 90 mile trip or be discovered by the
U.S. coastguard and brought to the United States.
According to studies done at the University of Florida, the
chances of rescue during the first six days are fifty
percent. After that they drop five percent per day(Diaz).
Life in Cuba is so hard that they feel it can only get
better. This is demonstrated in the very beginning of The
Cuban Mile, When I think of my future, my stomach fails me
and I get this goddamn diarrhea that wipes out any desire to
build castles in the air(Diaz). America is viewed by
Cubans as a chance for a new beginning and an opportunity to
make something out of themselves. As Roso states in the
beginning of their journey, Its like being born again! An
excellent way to relieve us of any past guilt and reassure
us that everything will better from here(Diaz). Many
Cubans have exaggerated ideas about how life actually is in
the United States. The North became entwined with my
fantasies of the Magi, the Three Kings who would bestow on
me the wonders of that country(Diaz). The fleeing Cubans
feel that the United States was the chaos of YES-YOU-CAN,
while Cuba was personified by his opposite character,
NO-YOU-CANT(Diaz). Even though to live in the United
States seems so promising, there are those who choose to
remain in Cuba.
The Cubans who decide to stay in Cuba do so for a
variety of reasons. Many Cubans who stay are patriotic
revolutionaries, and do not feel any need to leave. Others
do not have the courage to take on the risk of survival
against the unpredictable and shark-infested ocean. Also,
Cubans who leave face being persecuted by those loyal to the
country. A comparison of this is made in The Cuban Mile
while the men are eating fruit and Roso thinks to
himself,as if our domestic fruits were accomplices in
Marxism and would poison those who had abandoned their
fields(Diaz). Not only can the Cubans who flee be
persecuted, but their family members can be as well. In
Guantanamera, Adolfo has been moved from his job with the
government to an undertaker position because his daughter
associated with people who opposed the government and fled
to the United States.
In conclusion, the risk of leaving Cuba for a better
life in the United States is a very difficult decision with
many intricacies. The Cuban government remains stagnant as
well as the economic state of the country. The harsh times
make life in the United States seem like paradise to the
Cuban people, and those who leave, realize how they can
benefit from living in the United States. However, they
risk their lives in trying to make it across the ocean in a
small raft. They also leave behind family and friends to
start a new life, sometimes, with nothing. The balseros
risk their lives in hopes for a better life in America. The
desire to live an enjoyable life and have freedom is too
great.

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