Getting out of Cuba | Marriage instead of a raft?
Perversely, as Cuba´s tourism numbers increase, so do the opportunities for Cubans to exit the island. You see, while tourists wander around Old Havana snapping shots of decaying buildings, the Cubans sat in them are scheming about how to get out of the country. Some are courageous enough take to rafts to cross the intrepid Florida Straits, others slip into the wheel wells of jets hoping the altitude won´t kill them while, one woman actually shipped herself out of Cuba in a Crate. Yes, if you were in any doubt, Cubans DESPERATELY want to leave Cuba, while visitors blissfully roam around either unaware or ignorant of this fact.
I remember once reading a letter which had been posted on the notice board at the Canadian consulate in Havana. It was in 2002 and, I happened on reading it as I had lost my passport. It had been photocopied at about 5 times its size, covering almost the whole cork board, possibly as a deterrent to the droves of Canadians who queue there each year to declare their undying love for a Cuban they met while on vacation, there begging officials to allow their true love to return to Canada to live happily ever after. The letter was written to a consulate worker who had assisted a lady in her 40´s to take her new Cuban husband back to Canada. From the tone of the letter, it was clear that she was kind of apologizing for not taking the evident “advice” the Canadian consulate worker had been garnering. The tale seemed almost surreal, as the lady explained in great detail all the work she had gone through to get her new husband a spousal visa. With much fanfare, he arrives at Toronto Pearson airport, kisses and hugs her then declares his need to go for a pee. She directs him to the gents while she returns to talk with her daughters, mother and friends who´d come along with her to meet her new husband. After waiting for several hours and later asking the police for help, it finally became clear that her “husband” had vanished. In fact, in her writings, she reveals that 3 months after the ordeal she learnt that he´d walked across the Canadian-US border, declared asylum in the US and was living with his Cuban girlfriend in Miami… Say It Ain’t So…
Just this week, yet another case of an almost carbon copy sham marriage has been revealed in Canada. But how many of these cases exist? What are the statistics? Can westerners end up happily married with a Cuban when 90% of their desire to leave the island is not for love? More than a few of you will say yes, while those who are experienced (like the aforementioned Canadian Consulate worker) will say, no.
The bottom line is that visitors to Cuba are, in fact, targeted by Cubans wishing to leave the island. The torrent of apparent undivided attention can catch many westerners unawares, their Cuban partner pouring on the compliments, sex, gifts and companionship can appear like a true fairytale for the western victim. You see the Cubans play good victims themselves sometimes, portraying their lives of toil and shortages as a kind of torture that only their new (western) lover can solve. Who doesn´t want to be a humanitarian? You see, being fooled into making you feel that you´re serving a greater good can actually feel pleasant until you learn it was all a fake.
As Cuba has recently lifted almost all restrictions for their citizens to leave the island, the pent-up desire to leave is at fever pitch. Finding a tourist is still - easily - the preferred route to leave though. I mean it can´t get much better nor easier than having someone wrestle with all the paperwork, arrange the meetings, finance all the bureaucratic costs and then, once the all important visa is obtained, pay the flight, accommodate, feed and acclimatize the immigrant until…he or she walks out to get on with the life they longed for which, unbeknownst to you, was actually not with you. Cruel world?
Possibly the biggest financial windfall from this is obtained by the Cuban government. Why? because, while in the process of exporting their fiancées, westerners are spending fortunes on equipping their homes, paying for (apparently) ill relatives, topping up their mobile phones and a myriad of other “needs” their lover MUST fulfill if they love them, right? Yes, remittances to the island from foreign nationals with no apparent family relations in Cuba are at an all time high. Who are these people living abroad, with no direct family or descendants in Cuba, sending money to the island? The answer is written here, they are the love torn tourists who, for one reason or another, are at varying stages of the above theatrics.
No, this article is not written to deter; we know that this is not possible. Neither is it as a gruesome reminder to those who have fallen prey. Our hearts go out to you BTW. It’s simply another futile attempt to expose reality…