At least 1,275 Cubans were stopped at sea between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012. From Oct. 1, 2011 to Aug. 31, 2012, at least 354 arrived in South Florida by boat and 11,398 arrived through various ports of entry, including the Mexican border. The majority, 10,315, came in via the Mexican border.
The next one to arrive was Alfonso, who showed up at a U.S. border crossing point near Blaine, Wash., two weeks ago. Alfonso described himself as a member of the Cuban government elite whose parents were prominent members of the Cuban regime. He declined to provide details, but said he was the only one in his family to be opposed to the Cuban regime.
Alfonso said he left Cuba for Europe 15 years ago, but finally made his way to Canada and then the United States over the last two weeks. He left Cuba because he broke with his pro-Castro family.
“My family was integrated into the regime and I was the only one who thought differently," he said. “My parents had their life there and I did not fit into it. My father was an official in a hospital and my mother was a secretary in the Communist Party."
Fifteen years ago, Alfonso finally managed to leave Cuba and went to study in Europe. He first went to Italy and then resettled in Spain where he became a citizen last year.
Alfonso flew from Madrid to Canada two weeks ago, then walked from Vancouver to Blaine, Wash. Last week, he arrived in Miami.
The last to arrive was Rosales, who turned up before sunrise Saturday at Marquesas Keys. He was fed up with an economy that never improves.
“I left Cuba because the problem is that every day the situation there becomes more and more difficult for Cubans,” said Rosales. “There, even if you work very hard, the money you make is never enough for basic necessities. I mean, if you buy food to eat, you cannot buy clothes to wear. And if you buy clothes to wear, you cannot buy food to eat.”
Rosales was self-employed, fixing flat tires and old cars.
A few weeks ago, he and several friends built a makeshift boat, then disassembled it, carried it in pieces in a car to a remote beach near Havana, reassembled it and launched it into the ocean east of Havana.