From Worms to Repatriates: Cuba’s Exile Community

Lynn Cruz

The Camarioca exodus of 1964.

HAVANA TIMES – Ever since I began making Political Theater, one thing hasn’t stopped tormenting me, it’s almost psychological torture. It has something to do with the fact that you end up living in a constant state of paranoia.

A prisoner of labels in a world that doesn’t have time to see the nuances of something, where everything is black or white, especially in an authoritarian system which hides behind the guise of a Leftist government which defends social justice, theoretically-speaking. 

In his book Sabbat Gigante, Nestor Diaz de Villegas, the writer who stirs things up among the Cuban exile community, says that the “worm” has been Castrismo’s greatest creation. He was a political prisoner when he was just 18 years old because of a poem he wrote to Carlos III Street, which later became Salvador Allende Avenue after the Revolution triumphed. A teenage prisoner of conscience.

Drawing conclusions from his analysis, you could deduce that Miami became the city of worms. Something that Fidel Castro created together with the US government. This is how Castro purged the island to prevent any kind of political competition. The first “worms” to leave would be the middle class, small business owners, professionals and intellectuals.

An organized repudiation of those leaving the country at Mariel in 1980.

However, 54 years after the first mass exodus in 1964, Cuba is a doomed land today. Opposition on the island is also slandered off as “mercenary” for receiving funds that come from these same Cuban-American “worms” that probably left during the Camarioca boatlift.

A new kind of “worm” left during the following exoduses, the working class who don’t live off of funds from the White House once they are there, nor are they Cubans with renowned surnames. When the time came, they were also labeled “traitors”.

However, in his Sabatt Gigante, Diaz de Villegas says: “There is a kind of late vindication in the fact that the monstrous worm returns to Cuba, transformed into a butterfly.”

Rafters in 1994.

They sustain the country with their remittances. However, the Cuban government made sure of adding a 10% tax to the dollar with regard to the Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC). I’m using its English abbreviation so as to not confuse it with the other PCC (Cuban Communist Party), one of destiny’s ironies.

Thus, every time a Cuban begins criticizing the government in a direct way, and shows them that they aren’t afraid, they run the risk of being converted into a “worm”. You have no other choice but ostracism or exile.

Meanwhile, a new kind of industry created by Castrismo has also been extended to the so-called “missions” that doctors, athletes, artists and teachers go on. They are the ones who really pay for the so-called “achievements of the Revolution” which are of course riddled with corruption.  

Cubans rest at the immigration office in Penas Blancas, Costa Rica, on the border with Nicaragua on November 16, 2015.  Photo:  Ezequiel Becera /AFP

You can’t deny Fidel Castro’s intelligence; he collected all the glory for himself, at the expense of dividing, oppressing and crushing the Cuban people.

On the other hand, Donald Trump, the current president of the United States, who represents the ugly American, has stood out for his hostility towards immigrants from “shithole” countries. He has reinforced tensions with the Cuban government, condemning both nations to live in uncertainty and fear. However, it led to the Cuban government establishing the new category of “repatriate worm” after it was supposedly going to “reconcile with its exile community”.

Even though Cubans have a US passport, they still need a Cuban passport to travel to Cuba. Could Cuban and US immigration services please explain, what the status of a repatriate is?

Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.

One thought on “From Worms to Repatriates: Cuba’s Exile Community

  • February 27, 2018 at 8:44 am
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    Because I look Cuban, whenever I visit Cuba, the officials in the immigration booth ALWAYS ask me if I am Cuban. Of course, when I speak Spanish, even though I am nearly fluent, the yuma accent is there. At that point, the interrogation ends for most immigration officials but a few continue to ask me questions just to find out if I am pretending to be a foreigner. Believe it or not, I am told some Cubans do that just to be able to visit using their US/Foreign passport. Weird huh?

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