A Cuban migrant’s journey from Central America to the USA

Ramón Iván got tired of waiting. He is 21, and was one of the thousands of Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica.

Not anymore. He didn’t want to wait for an understanding between diplomats and migration officials. He found a way to continue his journey to the United States, crossing Central America and crossing the Rio Grande via a bridge in Texas.

“All kinds of things happened there,” he told OnCuba in reference to the hostel in Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica, where he lived for a month with 500 other people.

“There were serious fights. They stopped delivering food, and consequently many times we were not given any. It happened more than once. Even information, which in the beginning used to come first-hand from deputy ministers and all types of government officials, became nothing more than flyers on a wall.

Desperation was a key factor in his decision and even more so when by mid-December he realised that Costa Rica had not found a single workable solution.

Ramón Iván met a Mexican man who presented him with the opportunity to cross the border. He got the offer and didn’t think twice.

He says he doesn’t trust governments nor politics, because it is always going to be uncertain. He didn’t want his future to depend on a promise.

He left Costa Rica on foot, walking 5 miles (he calculated) through a forest in the company of a coyote and another Cuban, his travel companion since Ecuador, crossing rivers until they reached Nicaragua.

Then the complicated bit began: a second coyote took them to a lorry. The locked them inside, without any ventilation and sharing oxygen with thirty other individuals. They began their six hour journey on the highway to Managua.

On the highway, they only stopped the vehicle once, for an hour. He doesn’t know what the driver said to the policemen.

In Managua, under the guidance of a third coyote, some minibuses drove him and four other Cubans to the border with Honduras, there they handed them over to the country’s police.

The most difficult part finished when Nicaragua did. They took 30 hours to get to Mexico, with the help of a fourth and then fifth coyote.

“I crossed Guatemala without any problems because I paid. Everything was well organised to a level that none of us had any idea of,” says Ramón Iván, surprised by the precision with which the process moved.

He knows of other people who followed his route and had less luck. He knows many were scammed and trawled around for days, lost in the Costa Rican jungle without finding the San Juan River, which marks the border with Nicaragua.

He says that he isn’t the bravest, but perhaps the most cowardly. He calculated the risks. He asked for guarantees. He crossed Central America and arrived at Chiapas, Mexico.

Reaching this country was the dilemma behind the situation of the Cubans waiting in Costa Rica, although their final objective was the United States of America.

The diplomats of Enrique Peña Nieto’s government were asking that Cuban migrants enter Mexico via a third country, which would be Guatemala or Belize.

Before starting his Central American odyssey, Ramón Iván lived and worked in Ecuador for a month, with the idea of making some money before beginning his trip. He followed the path of so many other Cubans, until they cut it off, and he began to live through the migratory crisis that has been news for weeks and that involves thousands other Cubans.

“I got tear gassed, bro,” he tells me over chat about the violent incident with the Nicaraguan army when he and 800 other Cubans tried to make it to the country last November 15th.

“I arrived when they were opening a portion of the border. They let us pass and then did what they did. At the first shot I froze.”

In Mexico he found out about the political agreement that allows for the transfer of the 8,000 Cubans in Costa Rica.

But on that very day Ramón Iván made his own areal crossing: a flight took him from Chiapas to an area on the border with Texas.

Cuban passport in his hand, he “handed himself in” to the migration authorities at one of the crossings

The visa-less migrants, born in Cuba, heard the migration officials form the United States receive them with a “Welcome to the United States of America.”



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