author photo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

Cuba Immigration Reform and Faith Traps

January 30, 2013 | Print Print |

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Entrance/exit to Havana’s Jose Marti Airport. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Whoever invented the law definitely knew the trap. Yes, we can now travel as tourists; but to leave, almost any country on the globe requires — in addition to applying for a visa — money in a bank account (in euros or US dollars) that back up one’s trip.

What cynicism! An ordinary Cuban with an account in euros or in US dollars! By God!

This is a “mouse trap”! This is the best definition I’ve heard on the street concerning the new situation. It’s not enough to pay for everything, you have to have more.

We’re paid in regular pesos, but we have to exchange our money for Convertible Pesos (CUCs), and to receive American dollars we’re charged a “dignity fee” (the surcharge demanded at money exchange centers here). What’s more, those countries require us to have $2,000 or $3,000 in a bank, though most of us don’t have a dime by the end of the month.

Reality is proving right those analysts and skeptics who complained from the beginning that this was a farce, theater. It’s another game of juggling with the faith of Cubans.

This new joke only fools two huge groups.

Firstly, those who are pathological optimists who believe “now things are beginning to change”; and secondly, those who are unaware of the actual conditions of the island or who have permanently lost contact with Cuban life.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    The truth is these reforms have made it easier and less expensive for those Cubans with access to money through family abroad or non-state businesses to travel. These Cubans were able to travel ALREADY before these reforms were implemented! It also makes possible for those Cubans who do travel outside of the country, to stay and work abroad for a longer period of time. Therefore, those who choose to return to Cuba may do so with a greater quantity of money and gifts to bring with them. It also allows those Cubans who, heretofore, were barred from visiting to return to the island as tourists, again bearing money and gifts. Finally, and as yet this remains to be seen in practice, these reforms promise to make those Cubans who choose to return to Cuba permanently to be able to do so. And yep, with lots of money to buy houses and cars and stuff sold on the island to make their new Cuban home more comfortable. See the recurrent theme in these changes?

  • Griffin

    “What’s more, those countries require us to have $2,000 or $3,000 in a bank,..”

    Welcome to the real world, Maria. Any traveller who shows up at a border entry with no money in his pocket and no credit cards is looked upon suspiciously. What are you coming here for? What are you going to live on while you’re here? Will you leave when you say, or will you stay on as an illegal immigrant? Any Canadian trying to enter the US would face the same questions.

  • Andrea Tompos

    Do not be so pessimistic!!! There are people, not the ordinary ones, of course, who possess enough dollars and euros.
    Just remember this line: “”All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. (George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1945.

    Some things never change.

    • Moses Patterson

      Andrea, here is one big difference: If you are a neurosurgeon, anywhere else on the planet, you will most likely have the financial means from your own salary to meet the visa criteria to travel abroad. Not so for Cuban surgeons. If you are one of the most recognizable faces on national TV in your country, you probably earn enough money just because of your celebrity alone to pay for your passport, your visa fees, medical exams, home inspections, etc. unless that country is Cuba.

  • northern reflections

    I travel to all kinds of places, and never have more than $20 in the bank (if that). No one has ever asked me how much money I have. My Cuban friends came to Canada from Cuba for a visit, and they don’t have money in the bank, either. I sent them their airline ticket, and that was enough, as long as they had a return ticket.

    I too need a return ticket if I travel to the U.S., but that’s all (along with my passport of course).

    Is there something I don’t know? I’d like to understand.

    • Moses Patterson

      I assume you are Canadian. When my wife, who is Cuban, and I have travelled to Europe last year we learned that if she had travelled alone, many EU countries would have required that she have a substantial bank deposits, return tickets and local references inorder to obtain an entry visa. Because she was with me, a US citizen, she did not need any of these items. However, we had to prove she was my wife by showing a legalized marriage certificate. It appears that most poor third world countries, not just Cuba, have similar visa hurdles to overcome.

  • Chuck1938

    A basic ignorance of international travel by millions in Cuba, which was compounded by a misguided Cuban law restricting travel abroad, helped construct today’s surreal scenario.

    Since 1948, I saw my mother’s tribulation, spending $5.00 a month in legal services out of her meager $35.00 monthly maid wages for 24 days, 12 hours a day cleaning, cooking and laundry services. Her legal services fee plus a $500.00 bank account equivalent in today’s money to $10,000, should produce the magical visa, that would quadruple her income for doing similar job in the US in lieu of Cuba.

    It was not until 1959, when “all” Cubans entering the United by air, sea, crossing the Mexican border or jumping the chain fence surrounding Gitmo without any legal documents,were immediately provided with lodging, food, US legal papers and a free flight back to the United States, fostered this “make believe” travel regulations a reality in the minds of most Cubans.

    If this were not the case, can the United States, Canada or Europe open their borders for One Week Only, to all Latin American and Caribbean citizens willing to migrate to any of these countries?

    This fallacy, promoted massively by the US government and the media, encouraged hundreds of thousands of Cubans to “flee”, cannot deny their moral responsibility in at least 50% of the injuries, incarceration and deaths of those biting the bait.

    May those combating human trafficking in all of its forms, add this cruel, political, bloody weapon as another tool in the US arsenal against those labelled as enemy.

  • Friend

    With the new Immigration Law comming here in the US you will have to get a visa, the preffered treatment you had in the past is passe!! No Money no Honey, nothing is for free even here in the US, somebody has to garanty your living expenses and Stay and if you hide this person will be liable, and if you can work with a visa you have to speak english!! Wake up!!

    • Moses Patterson

      Hello Friend, I am glad that you commented. First, I wish to write that I do not agree with you nor with the tone you choose to use to express your opinion. However, I completely understand what I believe you are feeling and I want to let HT’s readers know that I believe a majority of Americans feel the same way you do. I am a frequent commenter to this blog and I am often accused of being extreme. No offense intended, but YOU are extreme! (I hope ‘Luis’ and ‘Grady’ read this)