Cuban prayer on the border

None of the almost 150 Cubans stranded today, Friday January 20, in Nuevo Laredo, a Mexican city bordering with the United States, saw Donald Trump’s inauguration speech.

Most of the migrants crowded – as they aim to do the entire day every day until something changes – in the last corner of the city in front of Bridge 1 over the Rio Grande, through which pedestrians cross to the United States.

Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.
Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.

They were all waiting for novelties from Trump on their cell phones:

– My wife tells me that Trump said nothing about the Cubans, bro – César, a 45-year-old Havanan who sold his home and his motorcycle to buy a plane ticket to Ecuador, where his journey started, commented to someone.

– We risked our lives in order to be free, Donald Trump will surely reflect – Carlos Ariel, from Sancti Spíritus, answered with the intention of cheering him up.

Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.
Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.

They all lived with disappointment the news arriving from Washington: they amazingly expected that in his inauguration the new U.S. president would have a hidden message for those who arrived late to the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. Most of them are betting on an exception:

– Let’s hope that they at least let in the Cubans who left Cuba before the regulation was repealed – says Marwin, a carpenter from Viñales.

On the first morning flight from Mexico City six Cubans arrived in Nuevo Laredo. They say that when they were boarding in the Federal District the police asked each one of them for “100 dollars” to let them pass but they were able to arrange it with 1,000 Mexican pesos, approximately 50 dollars.

Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.
Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.

What’s paradoxical is that they are all legally in Mexico thanks to a “safe-conduct” – a temporary visa – they were given when they passed through Tapachula, a border city between Mexico and Guatemala. When they arrived at the Nuevo Laredo Airport they were again questioned by the local police and one of the Cubans was asked for a 20-dollar bribe.

In mid-morning 28 more Cubans arrived. They had taken a flight to Matamoros and from there they boarded a bus to Nuevo Laredo.

Eighty of the ones who arrived are sleeping in the “AMAR, Casa del Migrante” shelter of local Pastor Aaron Méndez or the Catholic Church’s Casa del Migrate Nazareth. Another two sites supplied by the Nuevo Laredo Municipality have been fitted out, but the capacity is less.

– I was not prepared for this but thanks to the aid that is getting here we are resolving. The stress is already affecting several of them. Every day it is increasingly difficult because to top it off there are increasingly more – says Aaron, who every day before putting out the lights to sleep proposes to the inhabitants of his shelter to “pray for salvation.”

Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.
Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.

It isn’t the only time they pray. In front of Bridge 1, Yamila González, a 45-year-old Havanan, periodically proposes saying a prayer. They are having a hard time but they are OK, thanks to God, she says.

– We are sad but we have hope, in God and in President Donald Trump and his wife – says Yamila, who is pointed out by many as the “leader” of the Cubans of Nuevo Laredo. She denies it, “I’m only a spokesperson of God.”

Yamila coordinates the actions with Pastor Aaron, who is managing the distribution of the aid they get and who, when many Cubans crowd in the street, shouts: “Return to the path, they might start treating us badly here because we’re acting foolishly.”

Yamila also sums up the reason why these hundreds of Cubans – a minimal amount compared to the thousands dispersed throughout Latin America – left Cuba: “We want to be free; we want to enter to be free.”

Someone in the back desperately shouts “We want humanity! That they let us enter for humanitarian reasons!”

With the end of the wet foot, dry foot policy, the only possibility of remaining in the United States for the Cubans who entered illegally is to demonstrate before a judge that they have real reasons to be given political asylum in that country.

By 5:00 p.m. Pastor Aaron goes by Gate 1 and recommends to the Cubans to go rest. Tomorrow will be another day, in which in their desperateness they hope that Trump opens the gate for them.

– Here no one has a Plan B – says Yamila González and many applaud her.

Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.
Photo: Irina Dambrauskas.

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