An open letter to students planning studying abroad in Cuba

Justin Marcano, Views Editor

To whom it may concern:

Your deadline is approaching. As you finalize your applications and send them in hopes of being accepted into the four-week long trip to the tropical island, I hope you are able to fully understand the gravity of the situation you are presented with. To you, this may well just be a decision made on a whim — just another trip. The furthest thought you may give to the situation may be what you should pack. To others like myself, however, this trip carries with it much more than any luggage ever could bear.

Yacob Arroyo | Staff Artist

Cuba, to me, has always been a mirage in the distance. From the southernmost tip of Florida, Cuba is in truth only a 90 mile stretch of water away, but it seems like the great watery expanse could drift on into oblivion. The story of Cuban exile was passed down to me — like all other Cuban expatriates in South Florida — through the words of my grandparents. A Homeric poem of the modern day: an odyssey of people lost to the wars and waves only to find refuge on friendlier shore. All that I have come to know of my family’s history, I have learned in Miami.

Over the years, the majority of my mother’s family has been lucky enough to move to the United States. Unfortunately, however, my grandmother still sends care packages to her brother who was not as lucky. This is the reality for most Cuban expats — of expats everywhere — we leave everything behind and, sometimes, everything includes family.

With time, however, tensions have subsided. With the historic visit by President Barack Obama in 2016, U.S. tourism to the Cuba on the rise and a regime going into its sixth decade in power, it seems as though the lives lost in attempt to escape across the 90 miles will not only receive no burial — they will receive no justice. As time has passed them by, expatriates, have been so isolated from the notion that they will receive tribunal.

The closest we have come was on a crisp November Miami night in 2016, when the news broke out of Fidel Castro’s passing. What he did was done. What was to follow was unknowable, but for those out on the street or at home, he could no longer hurt us. With his passing, the unquantifiable total of the dead may have finally received confirmation that there was still good. The banging of pots and pans rang loud enough to be heard all the way in Santiago, Cuba.

Many never got to see or feel the pain be replaced, for a moment, with a smile. I do not believe this pain will die with those we have lost. As the residue of a draconian and brutal rule still linger, I may bear it as long as it takes. My great-grandparents could not, my grandfather could not and I hope my grandmother and mother can, but I know I will see the end of this regime. If what follows now raises the Cuban people, I may find peace. If the dark aspects of this regime are ever truly recognized, the isolation which keeps me hesitant will come to fade away.

Your deadline is approaching. If you are chosen to go and you fly over the Florida Straits, know that thousands upon thousands of Cubans left with nothing to leave the nation you plan to go for the following months. As you walk along El Malecón looking towards Florida 90 miles away, remember that you get to leave with everything and come back to everyone you know.


Justin Marcano

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