“It’s going to cost $950 to simply put down my baggage and say, ‘I arrived in Cuba,’ ” said the former doctor who asked me not to reveal his name for fear that he may be charged more in customs or be subjected to any kind form of retaliation.
Additionally, he spent about $1,000 shopping for the small appliances, food, clothes and medicine he will bring to the island.
And that’s not the end. Then comes treating his family to meals and fun activities with the money earned with his sacrifice. On this trip, he estimates that his contribution to the Cuban economy will be $1,200.
For starters, to exchange dollars for CUC, a dollar-like convertible currency unit (about 25 Cuban pesos,) he will pay a commission of 12 cents per U.S. dollar. Then he will give $100 in CUC to each of his parents, $50 to each of his siblings and so on. He will also be expected to fill the family refrigerator, as it has become a tradition among South Florida visitors.
Many Cuban exiles rent a car booked by Miami travel agencies or even at Cuban airports. In the high summer season, daily prices for car rentals range from $80 to $100, depending on the model. Though some prefer to stay with their families, others opt to stay in a hotel. The price for a basic room is never less than $50 per day. Some visitors also spend quite a bit of money partying and drinking, as well as on sexual tourism.
Exiles like him arrive in Cuba euphoric, boisterous and hopeful for stepping again on the land of their roots, reuniting with family and friends and rekindling memories. A few days later, they return to Miami taciturn, disappointed and depressed for having seen the Cuban reality and acquiring the perception that it has no solution.
Their pockets hurt. To top it all, they feel spiritually bankrupt. Its time to start saving once again from scratch to plan the next trip back to Cuba.