Trends of Cubans Migrating to the US and Why

We did not see many Cubans come over the fence to escape to the Naval Base known as GITMO. It was just not possible as the fence surrounding GITMO was watched closely by the Cuban military. The history behind the designation of GITMO is derived from a bit of history – 1917.

In 1917, sugar plantation owners who feared a military insurgency asked the U.S. to station Marines at the base. From then on, Guantanamo Bay became a crucial hub of operations, and with telegraphy used for essential communications, an abbreviated form of the name was pressed into service: “Gtmo.” That abbreviation can be found in a Spanish-language bulletin from Cuba’s Department of Health, reproducing a telegram from October 1917 about efforts to combat malaria. A year and a half later, a Health Department bulletin abbreviated the Guantanamo Bay Sugar Company as “Gtmo. Sugar Co.”

How it got to GITMO as opposed to GTMO can be discovered here; “‘Gitmo’: A Playful Nickname With a Serious History,” WSJ, Ben Zimmer. Let me know if you do not have access, I can put the information in the comments section.

I had the fortune to be based at GITMO as a part of reinforced 2nd Bn, 8th Marines in1970. Looking at the pictures of GITMO today, things have changed a bit with fast food restaurants and other luxuries which did not exist there in 1970. Ours were 20 cent Buds or 25 cent Heinekens. CC could be obtained with water for 25 cents. Water could be measured carefully by the Jamaican bar tenders. A drop of water was all that was necessary. They also made out fried Polish sausage with cheese sandwiches. All the luxuries needed while based there on the Leeward side. Windward you could get a Porterhouse (2#) for $3. But this biographical is not why I am writing about Cuba.

The comment (at AB) was made that not many are leaving Cuba for other countries. Not true. Annually, thousands are leaving Cuba and arriving in the US, Mexico, and other countries. People do not appear to be justifying their comments before making them. What is going on? Pictorially depicted this:

After an increase throughout 2022, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encounters with Cuban migrants peaked in December at 44,079. Historic levels of migration from the island then were greater than the 1980 Mariel boatlift and 1994 rafter crisis combined. The numbers prompted the Biden administration to include Cubans in a new humanitarian parole program beginning in January 2023. The action was to “incentivize migrants to use a safe, orderly, and lawful means to access the United States.”

The policy change and a more rigorous Title 42 expulsions slowed Cuban arrivals at the U.S. southern border to a trickle. By late 2023, Cuban migration was again on the upswing. Such an increase can be attributed to several factors such as long processing times for the parole programs, increasing direct charter flights to Nicaragua, ongoing hardships on the island, and the end of Title 42.

Unlike the waves of mass departures, today’s migrants are fleeing grinding crisises with no end in sight.

Today’s crisis in Cuba can be traced to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed many of the island nation’s past and persistent issues. Cuba’s tourism economy collapsed as tourism dollars dried up. Continuous U.S. embargo restrictions prevents Cuba from purchasing goods on credit. In turn, the impact was the Cuban government being unable to weather the economic downturn due to the pandemic. Economic complications compounded by a U.S. policy reconfiguration under President Trump. Cuba returning to the list of state sponsors of terrorism in January 2021 by trump only because Obama being a Black President.

Energy blackouts and shortages of food, fuel, and medicine have wreaked havoc on public services. These issues, alongside rising inequality and mounting frustrations with Cuba’s rigid political system, boiled over onto the streets in the spontaneous protests of July 11, 2021. Hundreds of people were detained and imprisoned in the wave of repression that followed. Much like the Mariel boatlift and the Cuban rafter crisis, the opening of new migratory routes served as an “escape valve” to allow disillusioned Cubans to leave—and leave they have. Government figures indicate the country hemorrhaged nine percent of its medical professionals between 2021 and 2022, while schools nationwide grapple with teacher shortages

As MarkG commented in AB’s comment section,

“I think we need to rethink our policies towards many countries. The government of these countries don’t care and the people end up suffering. Then they show up at our border and create a whole new crisis.”

And the author from whom I pulled much of this dialogue from,

Stark forecasts of food insecurity and continued shortages underline the urgency of developing domestic policies and enacting changes to U.S. policy that address the abject suffering of the island’s (Cuba) residents.

The war with Cuba ended well before my being based at GITMO. There will be no uprising in Cuba today as all the old sugar plantation owners left when Fidel took power. It is just a people trying to exist under harsh conditions.

Some of the owners were on base with us. I met them as introduced by my Master Sergeant at the time. Our policy towards Cuba is not working and we do need a nearby thriving economic island country offshore.

Parts taken from, “Five Key Trends in Cuban Migration in 2023,” WOLA, Mariakarla Nodarse Venancio and Alex Bare.