They planned their escape from Cuba for seven days prior to their departure. They packed a few rations to eat on a small boat for the journey: water bottles, crackers, sugar, condensed milk (that they could dilute in water), and bread. Enough food, they thought, to sustain them for six to eight days. They also packed wire, a compass and a few other supplies. They said goodbye to family and friends on the dawn of Wednesday, Aug. 13.
This past week, after being rescued from South Padre Island – and briefly detained for processing – the six Cuban immigrants arrived at La Posada Providencia.
Their original destination was Cancún, Mexico, but after running out of gas on the second day, they decided to dump the motor to alleviate weight from the boat and then used a shower curtain to create a sail. They maneuvered the sail with wire and continued on their journey, day and night.
On the night of their 20th day at sea, without water or food left, the men remained hopeful that they would reach land. Suddenly, in the far distance, they saw what appeared to be small lights or fireworks.
A merchant ship passed by and they were told they were about 30 miles off the coast of Texas, so they continued in the direction of the lights. They managed to create two paddles by pulling apart wood from the boat and using water bottles, which they attached with wire.
They continued to paddle for a few hours until they eventually saw South Padre Island on day 21 of their journey, at approximately 3 a.m., Monday, Sept. 1.
A Good Samaritan, who saw them and their boat ashore, came to their aid and contacted the authorities.
After spending two days in detention, they were released to La Posada Providencia on Wednesday, Sept. 3, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. One survivor was transferred to a local hospital for medical attention.
According to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, amended in 1995, Cubans who reach U.S. soil fleeing persecution in their home country are allowed to remain in the U.S. and, after one year, are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, permanent residence, and eventually, U.S. citizenship.
“We’ll wait as long as we need too,” said one of the men, when asked how they felt about having to wait during the long process of obtaining their legal status. “I waited 47 years to escape from Cuba, what’s one more year?”
All of the survivors expressed their gratitude for La Posada Providencia – for the hospitality and warmth.
“We prayed every evening on the boat,” said one client. He claims he was not religious in Cuba, but now attributes to God his chance at a “real life.”
Click here to read and watch KRGV 5 News’ story about the Cuban immigrants’ journey.