Front Door to Cuba Front Door to Cuban History

Los Marielitos

by Jerry A. Sierra


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Cuban refugee in Tent City, FLA

They crossed the ocean on a prayer. On crowded, unsafe fishing boats. On rafts held together by tires. In search of a myth. Carrying only the clothes on their backs, a passport, and a crumbled piece of paper with a relative's phone umber in the US.

They came to Key West, the southernmost part of the Unites States, and the last of a string of tiny islands that extends South from Miami. The most direct route from Cuba is about 90 miles long, but currents and winds can make the trip as long as 125 miles.

One look at the new refugees told me their departure had not been as civil as my family's. I'd never seen or heard so many horror stories before. Many of them looked physically ill, and some were bleeding, or wearing dirty, improvised bandages.