Concerning the migration talks between Cuba and the United States which are taking place today in Havana.
Carlitos finally made it to Atlanta, after trying five times to cross the Straits of Florida. On two occasions he was intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and returned to the Island. For months he saved the yellow form they gave him to request – legally – a visa from the United States Interest Section. However, he preferred a faster way to leave behind the room he shared with his grandmother and the police harassment in his neighborhood. He was also captured by the Cubans, on August 13 three years ago, when the boat’s propeller broke and his trip ended in a jail in the village of Cojimar. There he was fined and a plainclothes office began visiting him to demand he find a job.
After demonstrating his few talents as a sailor, this young man of 32 managed to go to Ecuador, one of the few countries that still does not require a visa from Cubans. The South American nation was the trampoline to enter the United States, where he is now trying to start a new life. He left his GPS in the hands of some of his friends who had helped him in his journeys, along with that form he had never filled out to ask for a humanitarian visa. He did not leave for a pre-determined destiny, rather he feared turning into a frustrated forty-year-old. Not even in his most optimistic days could he foresee he would come to have his own roof, or a salary that would save him from having to divert State resources to survive.
Like so many other Cubans, Carlitos had no hope that the promises made to him when he was a child would materialize. He did not want to grow old sitting on the sidewalk in front of his house, taking the edge off his failure with alcohol and some other pill. He planned every kind of escape, but finally his uncle paid for the ticket to Quito with the illusion that he would be able to get the rest of the family out. He still dreams of boats that draw near in the middle of the night and take him back to Cuba in handcuffs, smelling of salt and oil. He wakes up and looks around to confirm that he is still in the little apartment he has rented with a girlfriend. “Once a rafter, always a rafter,” he muses, while turning over his pillow and trying to dream on solid ground.