For many Cubans the best business is to emigrate

HAVANA CUBA. – Gerandy, 24 years old, an Art History graduate, says that even on summer nights, when the mosquitoes overwhelm you in the middle of the blackout in the town of Bainoa, municipality of Jaruco, Mayabeque province, about 30 kilometers southeast of Havana, people take shelter.

“When in Cuba the thermometers read 34 degrees, in Bainoa the temperature is pleasant and at night the thermometer drops to 14 or 15 degrees. In winter I won't even tell you: it is the coldest region of the country. We have the records for the lowest temperatures on the Island. According to a legend, snow once fell. But no one has been able to verify it,” says Gerandy.

The Bainoa Valley is located on a plain that was once intensely cultivated with sugar cane and other agricultural plantations. Twenty years ago, robust cows grazed freely. The fertile land and moderate climate allowed strawberries and apples to be planted. That has remained in the past. Now large areas of land are covered with marabou and farmers must take care of their rickety cattle with old hunting rifles so that they do not get stolen.

cows in the house

“Some of the old dairy farms have become illegal animal slaughterhouses. Many of the young people of Jaruco make a living by stealing cattle and selling them on the Havana black market, where beef, if purchased wholesale, is paid for at $2.50 per pound. It is a lucrative business. There are peasants who sleep with the cows inside their house,†Gerandy points out.

Of the nearly 26,000 inhabitants of the Jaruco municipality, “more than ten thousand have left for Havana or have emigrated, the majority to the United States. The exodus does not stop. You find farms, with several hectares of land for sale for 12,000 or 15,000 dollars including a comfortable house. Every day you hear about someone who got on the plane. The town is becoming empty,†explains Norbis, a resident of the town of San Antonio de RÃo Blanco.

Gerandy agrees that emigrating is also a priority in Bainoa. “Those who have family in the United States or are of Spanish descent, leave for family reunification or put a parole. The rest are looking for a way to get rid of this calamity in various ways. The first thing, if you don't have anyone to finance your trip, is to look for a business that will provide you with money. For example, I sell strings of garlic and onions in Havana. A relative leaves them to me for 600 pesos and then I resell them for more than double that. I save part of that money to buy dollars and be able to leave the country.

One foot out

Gerandy works in an office in the capital. When she finishes, she walks several kilometers selling garlic and onion in the streets. He sometimes also sells white cheese and beef. Always on order. From Monday to Friday she wakes up at five in the morning. She “I spend a thousand pesos a day, round trip, in a van that makes daily trips to Havana. When she was studying at university I spent three years in a stinking hostel near the boardwalk, the closest thing to a juvenile prison. The food was disgusting. And she had to walk almost three kilometers to school every day. My goal is to emigrate this year. The United States is my first option. But I don't rule out Spain, Uruguay or Brazil,†she confesses.

Plans to emigrate are multiplying throughout the Island. Daniel, a Florida resident, considers that “the best business a Cuban emigrant can do is to pay for the trip for his relatives. It will be cheaper than sending him money and food monthly. I already took my sister out and I'm planning my nephew's trip. I only have my mother left, she is very old and she wants to die there. Investing in a business in Cuba is crazy. At any moment the government mounts an operation on you, they confiscate everything and you go to prison. My worst nightmare is waking up in a horrible Cuban prison starving. I have been in the United States for thirty years, I became a professional and I have a family. Cuba is just a distant childhood memory. I haven't lost anything there.

The urgency to emigrate causes many to choose wrong destinations and even put their lives at risk. Raisa, an agricultural worker in the El Cristo hamlet, Quivicán municipality, south of Havana, says that in September 2023 her eldest son traveled to Russia and for two months she has not heard from him.

Everyone leaves

“I am a mother of three children, two boys and one girl. One of the men is in Mexico, trying to cross into the United States. The female is the best. She lives in Chile, she has a job and sends me money and food. The oldest, not having patience, went to Russia. He called me three or four times at first and he told me that he signed up to work. But the Russians put a military uniform on him and sent him to the war front. He prayed that nothing happened to him and he is alive.â€

The history of emigration in Cuba is long and painful. Before Fidel Castro came to power, Cubans emigrated to the United States or other destinations legally. The Castro revolution marked a before and after. With the radicalization of communism, the political and economic control of the regime and the poverty in which the majority of the population lives has generated a real stampede.

Athletes, professionals and anyone who wants a life project far from the absurd slogan of Homeland or Death and the obstacle of residing in a nation where aberrant Marxist socialism, by law, is a system that aspires to remain, jump over the fence. indefinitely.

Since the 1960s, people have been taking off on rustic rafts, abandoning government missions abroad, or fleeing a sporting competition, a musical group, or an international event. Some Cubans have arrived in the United States as stowaways on merchant ships or crouching in the landing gear of a commercial airplane.

Others have not arrived. The Florida Strait has become one of the largest marine cemeteries in the world.

Not even the adversity of crossing stretches as dangerous as the Darien Gap in Panama, being kidnapped in Mexico by cartel hitmen who earn millions of dollars from human trafficking or dying in Ukraine in a war, stops Cubans in their plans to emigrate.