Mariel Boat Landing Revisited

  • Post category:Opinion

The Escape from Communism

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I recently heard more than a third of the Cubans who tried to come to our shores in South Florida drowned during the Mariel Boat Landing that began April 25, 1980. These treacherous voyages ended in October of 1980 after a mutual agreement between US President Jimmy Carter and Cuban President Fidel Castro.

A Community’s Widespread Impact

I worked at Mt. Sinai Health Center on South Miami Beach during that time. Every day as I passed over the highway to Miami Beach I could see the tent city sprawled below the bridges. Fenced in by chain link, thousands of people lived there until they were allowed to assimilate into our communities. The estimated number of Cuban refugees who made it to our shores is 125,000, which is probably low by at least 100,000. Not all of them were lucky enough to make a life in the US. Some would die in our emergency room. Others would wash to shore drowned. Some have never been found.

From One Government’s Failures to Another

As a student doing clinicals at Mt. Sinai, I stood back out of the way during a Code Blue – crash carts suddenly appeared just like on TV. People were shouting and all I could do was take the hand of the Jane Doe patient who was dying on the gurney. I remember the first such case I witnessed. I thought she was going to break all the bones in my hand. She held it so tightly. She died trying to tell us something in Spanish.

All the patients who could talk were speaking in Spanish. We did not understand. Back then there was no staff who spoke Spanish so we saw people dying as we helplessly stood by because we couldn’t even comfort them in their language.

We kept pleading with President Carter to help us with the huge numbers pouring in — chancing their and their families lives to flee from Castro and his brand of Communism. Carter’s response was that it was a Dade County problem. With that 125,000 people flooded our health care and educational system and the federal government gave no help.

Americans and Cubans Working Hand in Hand

Soon, we had Cuban students working with us to become healthcare workers too. We worked together at Mt. Sinai treating all patients, but now we were able to communicate with our Spanish speaking patients. They were the hardest workers. Their moral compass is beautiful and strong and their family ties are admirable.

They didn’t mind starting over in America because of the terrible conditions in Cuba. They worked hard and assimilated to our ways and did so with powerful gratitude. The Cubans are wonderful people. We had middle aged and older Cuban physicians take jobs as painters. They would paint our hospital for years until they could pass Florida’s Medical Boards and repeat their residencies. Other Cubans cooked and cleaning our homes until they could prove their education. They then transitioned into their professions helping improve where they worked and their communities.

They were so willing to assimilate and take jobs fare below their experience and education because Communism destroyed the way of life for the vast majority of Cubans. It was my experience that we accepted Cubans into our hearts and country was:
1) Cubans were and still are starving under Communism
2) Lives don’t matter in Cuba
3) Cubans assimilated because they recognized the horrors of Communism
4) Communism doesn’t work; it didn’t in Cuba and it doesn’t anywhere.
5) Refugees can assimilate and the Cubans proved that.

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The Difference with Immigration Today

There is little comparison between the people coming to the US now to the Cuban-Americans who have immigrated here. The manner in which Cubans became Cuban-Americans resulted in both cultures embracing what each other had to offer. In recent history, too many immigrants refuse to assimilate. They go to “Sanctuary Cities” and insist on Americans bending to the way they want things to be, similar to how many escapees from California do to their new neighbors. In both cases, “their ways” are mostly why they escaped the places that are run like or are Socialist, Communist, and/or impoverished.

Language is part of this struggle. US Congress has never made English the official national language of the United States. Other countries have made English their national language in spite of the fact that they are in Africa and elsewhere. A prime example is Nigeria, which has three different languages. Yet the Nigerians use English to facilitate communication among its people. Instead, the US Government, states, schools, and businesses must work to communicate in every possible language with those who cross our borders speak.

For all those young Americans who were born after the Mariel Boat Landing, what you have been told about Socialism and Communism is an outright lie. There is no way to pay for all that you are being promised. If we ever accept Socialism, the government will slide into Communism. In either case, the only way out is through revolution and in most of those cases, one dictator is exchanged for another.

A Conversation

I exchanged these messages with an editor while discussing this piece and we both wanted to include it.

Barbara: Meanwhile, I’ve always accepted the truth of that story because it was an experience I kept having with the Cubans for well over two years or more. I tested this article on a few of my relatives and got a huge yuk reaction from my grandkids in college. They can’t understand that they are using others opinions to form theirs. I am giving a direct experience and know this to be true about Communism and Cuba. I have watched people die because they were trying to escape from it. Or I’ve watched people live but grieve because they know their relatives died  when they escaped. Castro’s own daughter escaped from her father’s regime. God help the youth of today. They are brainwashed!

Dave: The blinders covering so many eyes, and not just our youth, is devastating and shameful. I look at Castro, but even more so at the legacy of evil and death left by both Mao Zedong and Che Guevara left. It is a constant question in my mind where society went wrong in viewing these monsters as heroes. The truth simply needs to be spoken in a non threatening or demeaning manner as you did here. This is the only way to educate some to what is really the truth.

Barbara Harris Whitfield
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