The Cuban Exodus
Edited by Carolyn Leaman
A number of years ago, there was a mass evacuation of Cuban Refugees to Florida. Several hundred Cubans left the country in every type of raft imaginable. There were people of all ages trying to escape the tyranny of the Cuban government and hoping to find a home in Florida where many of them had relatives.
The Coast Guard intercepted many of the makeshift rafts in the passage from that Country and a good number of Cubans never lived to reach the state of Florida. Many of the rafts contained children, some of them infants. When the Coast Guard rescued them, they left the rafts afloat. The Gulf Stream, which runs south to north along the state, carried many of the rafts great distances.
One day, walking the beach, we found our shore littered with makeshift rafts. Along with the rafts came numerous items of clothing, toys, baby bottles, water jugs, all types of personal items and sea weed. When you walked along and saw the debris, you could not help but wonder, if the families that occupied the rafts were still living. Had they been rescued, did they drown, were there innocent little children out there. There were men's pants, children's shoes, women's clothing, baby bottles, toys, water jugs, tires, vinyl tarpaulins, lumber and metal pipes.
The pictures here show some of the rafts found. The rafts were made of galvanized water pipes with truck tires tied in the middle of the frame. The hole in the middle of the tires was where the occupants put their legs. The whole frame was covered with a tarp and tied by ropes over the frame. There were wrenches and water jugs still there with water still in the jugs. It was not a pleasant sight and only God knows how the raft survived the trip from Cuba to North Hutchinson Island.
Some of the rafts were taken to the UDT Museum for display. Others were taken and displayed at the Historical Museum on South Beach.