When we talk about Cuba we are more frequently then not swept up in the intrigue of nostalgia that exists in an island that has been untouched for over 50 years. Cars dating back to the 1960s allow one to drive down the streets of Havana where traces of the modern world are virtually unseen, and while the world is blown away by a city frozen in time, the Cuban people often find themselves trapped by the confines of the island’s borders. Mario Torres immigrated to the United States from Cuba on a small boat in May of 2016 to Miami, Florida- not long before the termination of the controversial ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy, permitting Cubans to obtain legal status instantly upon touching US soil. He expressed his relief at arriving safely to Miami, where much of his family had already previously migrated to, but remnants of sorrow for the loss of a homeland are nonetheless evident in his voice when speaking of Cuba. Torres had prepared to leave the island years prior to his departure, but arrangements were difficult to make and fleeing is no easy task.
Q: Cuba has received a wide range of positive feedback ranging from politicians to celebrities that advocate in favor of the revolutionary government, would you agree with this often widely popular perception of the island?
A: To any one that says Cuba is a great place to live, I say to them, live in Cuba for one month but not as a tourist and in a beautiful hotel and with a driver and eating in beautiful restaurants, but as a real Cuban. I tell them to live like we have to, in old buildings where the roof falls and waiting in lines for food all day. There is a reason people would rather die trying to get out of the country then to stay in it alive. No one would live in Cuba and say the revolution had success after.
Q: Many are under the impression that health care and education were vastly improved, along with developments in equal rights for the Afro-Cuban community and women, why would these perceptions emerge on a global scale if Cuba is in distress?
A: I come from poor roots. I was born after the revolution but I know we were never rich people, and all I can say is, and I know this, nothing improved. Things worsened. People believe what they want and something like the idea of a revolution is something people want to believe in and believe it is beautiful so they ignore the reality. What people don’t know is that when you see photos, old or new, of Fidel or Raul giving their speeches in front of huge cheering crowds, these people were forced to go. The authorities empty out neighborhoods and you can pick between standing in the crowd or prison. You can imagine what most people pick.
Q: Do you think restricting the flow of Cuban immigrants into the US by abolishing the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy could potentially work in favor of restoring the region and improve relations between Cuba and the United States?
A: I’m sure it is unfair that the policy only helped Cubans and many people suffer in a lot of countries but it won’t stop people from trying to come. Until conditions improve people will still try to come, so I don’t know about relations between the two countries and I don’t think they will get better with Trump.
Q: President Trump verbally attacked the Latin community during his campaign and continues to do so throughout his presidency with the threat of a wall dividing the region. Having recently immigrated, have you felt that such rhetoric has formed tension towards the Latin community?
A: In Miami no because of the Cuban community but when I watch the news it can be scary; sometimes I think they are just going to throw us all out [laughs subtly]. I would probably never want to leave Miami. I think the rest of America has a problem with immigrants, not everyone obviously. It’s scary! I see the protests in the news so I know there are good people fighting for us and in America the people have so much power because in Cuba you can’t protest like that. But I haven’t felt unwanted or uncomfortable here, and I have a lot of family here so I feel at home.