[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Cuba's Greatest Export

Monday, June 04, 2007

Cuba's Greatest Export

As viewers all over America get ready to watch Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show broadcast from Havana tomorrow, most of us in the Cuban-American blogosphere are dreading the typical MSM treatment of Cuba using the all-too-familiar themes:

Throwback to another time, old cars, cigars, free healthcare, free education, simple lives of Cubans, the venerable old dictator, victims of the U.S. embargo....

Time will tell. Is this a case of us knee-jerking at the MSM's mere mention of Cuba? Again, we'll let time be the judge. However, based on NBC's track record of this issue, it's hard for us to be optimistic.

Anyway, the purpose of the Today Show Blogburst is to reveal truths about Cuba, post-castro. This post will focus on, well, the reason I'm here right now...Cuban Emigration.

Before we discuss Cuban emigration, it's both interesting and ironic to look back at Cuba's history and the make-up of its people. Cuba, very much like the United States, was a land of immigrants. Starting with the Spaniards, of course, who then brought black slaves. While the indigenous Tainos and Ciboneys were wiped out, white Spaniards and black African slaves, and the mixed mulatos resulting from intermarriage, made up the vast majority of the population.

One thing that set Cuba apart from most Latin American countries was the sustained Spanish emigration to the island even well into the 20th century. From 1901-1930, almost 750,000 Spaniards emigrated to Cuba, mainly from the northern Spanish regions. Many of these came from Galicia, hence the term gallego as a reference to any Spaniard in Cuba (never mind the many Spanish immigrants from Asturias, Catalonia and the Canary Islands who likely bristled at being called a Galician).

As this site points out, it wasn't just the gallegos who formed part of the Cuban immigrant community. Chinese (chinos), Middle Eastern Arabs (referred to as Lebanese - libaneses - or Turks - turcos - regardless of their actual origin), Americans (over 30,000 between 1901 and 1930), and Jews (Ashkenazi and Sephardic), which Cubans often referred to as polacos.

In turn, very few Cubans left their country for good before 1959. Sure, there were some who emigrated to the United States, but compared to the masses from Europe it was a very small group per capita.

If you've stuck with me thus far, what comes next should be obvious. Simply put, after castro and his bandits took over in 1959, the boats and airplanes changed directions. They began leaving instead of arriving in Cuba. Estimates place the Cuban-American emigration to the United States at over a million. From a population of 6 million in 1959, that's staggering. This doesn't count the many Cubans who emigrated elsewhere in Latin America, as well as to Europe and even Australia. A country of immigrants became a country better known for its human export. A country which boasted sugar among its exports now spits out its own flesh and blood.

Waves of Cubans leaving; the early emigrants of the late 50s and early 60s, the Freedom Flights from the mid 60s through the mid 70s, the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and the Balseros of the 90s through the present day. Sustained, and both heartlifting and tragic at the same time.

Probably the most telling stat I'll throw out, over 14,000 sets of parents thought that Cuba was so bad that they decided to send their children to the U.S. unaccompanied. These are the Pedro Pan children. Ever heard of Senator Mel Martinez? Willy Chirino? They were Pedro Pans. You parents out there, let those numbers soak in. Convinced?

If the Cuban Revolution is indeed a righteous success for the poor, then why is human traffic a one-way street in Cuba? We can argue about foreign policy all we want, but the bottom line is that Cubans have voted with their feet. A little island that absorbed so many people from so many different places has lost so many in return.

Lost them to exile, as well as to heaven.



Blogger Jonathan said...

Good points. I quoted this post on chicagoboyz. One of my co-bloggers there studied in Russia and points out that there was also undocumented emigration of Cuban students to the USSR.

4:33 PM, June 04, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Thanks for the link Jonathan. I had forgotten about the emigrants to the USSR, a byproduct of the once-close relations between the 2 communist nations.

Heck, one Cuban Babalu reader lives (lived?) in Iceland!

6:24 PM, June 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Robert, I already knew these basic facts, but seeing the numbers in black and white, made me tear up, very emotional, and your closing sentence; I couldn't stop the sob. That monster should be strung up like Mussolini as far as I'm concerned. Let the vultures have him.

10:29 PM, June 04, 2007  
Blogger Magda said...


You also forgot to mention the thousands of Cubans who left via Spain.
Our family waited for two years before we were able to leave Cuba via Spain (1966-1968).
That is not counting the time it took my parents to be able to get the funds, through friends and changing money illegally, needed for the trip Havana to Madrid & three months stay in Spain. The four airfares for the Madrid to New York Flights were possible thanks to a US Catholic Charities loan.

If we would have elected to come to the US directly through the "Puente Aereo", our family nucleus number for the Havana-Miami flights was 10,000 and who knows how much longer, we (my parents, sister and I), would had had to wait before we were able to leave.

I am glad we are here. Additionally, we all became US citizens as soon as it was possible and have contributed to this great country.

2:39 PM, June 09, 2008  

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