Photo by Jessica Sheffield
Photo by Jessica Sheffield

Q24N by Jessica Sheffield Zamora, Vozdeguanacaste.com – “This island is an open prison. Ninety percent of Cubans, like me, want to leave here, but we can’t” Luis told me as he drove us around Cuba in his classic ’50s Dodge.

Many of the people I met on my trip to Cuba in March of 2014 had the same feeling. Everyone wanted to leave the largest of the Greater Antilles islands. But why? Despite its beauty, which seems to fall apart in places, the magical and joyful sound of music heard in every corner of the island and the warmth of its people, the Cubans struggle every day to obtain the most essential items to survive.

A professional, whether a pilot or a doctor, earns a mere 1200 Cuban pesos a month, which is equivalent to $50 U.S.,  not enough to live a decent life. This is why they take risks to collect more money while they simply cope each and every day.

Tyrants! Fidel, Raul and his upper echelons are responsible for clipping the wings of not only Luis, but hundreds of thousands of Cubans who today can only dream of a past, the present and a future that is different from whatever this “elite” class feels like dictating— the same “elite” who hypocritically live their personal lives like the bourgeoisie that their mentors, Marx and Engels so desired to uproot.

Today, Costa Rica’s warm and friendly people have welcomed and embraced more than 8,000 Cubans who decided to open their wings and escape from the island that crushes their dreams. Risking their lives to cross borders, rivers and mountains from Ecuador, a country that doesn’t require visas, was just one stop in their journey to get to the destination they long for, the United States, the land of the opportunities that Cuba denies them.

These Cubans, who are determined to take flight with the hope of changing their futures for the better, have left their families behind or brought them along piggyback, carrying their only possessions with them. Many had been and continue to be taken advantage of during this rocky journey.

Sadly, some obstacles continue while hundreds of these souls, crying out for a better life, find themselves stranded in our country in the 37 shelters opened by our government.  Due to the inflexibility of neighboring countries, they have not been allowed to continue on their course.

However, thanks to the tireless work of our authorities, it appears that there is now a multinational agreement that will allow them to continue their journeys in the near future.

Mr. Julio Maria Sanguinetti, former president of Uruguay, once said, “Where there is a Costa Rican, wherever he is, there is liberty.” As a Costa Rican and a world citizen, I ask Raul and Fidel to stop clipping the wings of the Cuban people and to remove the padlock from this cage that they have created,  so that they may take flight and forge their destinies with effort and creativity in their home country, Cuba.

God bless Cuba and its inhabitants, and may a new dawn radiate justice, equality and freedom for our Latin American brothers!