A group of exile organizations and volunteers are trying to help hundreds of Cubans who are stranded in Mexico following the end of the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy on Jan. 12.
Vigilia Mambisa, Democracy Movement, WWFE La Poderosa radio station and other organizations and volunteers have set up a tent on Miami’s Calle Ocho at Southwest 13th Avenue, next to a monument dedicated to the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
More than 4,000 pounds of food, personal hygiene products and other donations have been collected so far. But much more is needed to fill a tractor trailer headed to Mexico on Sunday.
“It’s the people of the community who are mainly helping,” said Ramón Saúl Sánchez of the Democracy Movement. “They are arriving with clothes, food, bedspreads, toiletries.”
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Miguel Saavedra, of the Vigilia Mambisa, said that “people from different nationalities have come to make donations in solidarity with the Cubans.”
The donations will be transported in a 53-foot truck traveling by road to a church in the border city of Laredo, Texas. The cargo will be received by Sergio Pérez, a Cuban-American businessman who lives in Las Vegas and who has organized similar operations elsewhere in the U.S. Last month, Pérez temporarily closed his restaurant in Las Vegas, the Florida Café, to gather donations for the stranded Cubans. Some 22 tons of food and other basic necessities have been collected so far.
The supplies are transported from Laredo, Texas to several churches that are assisting some 800 Cubans stranded in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Pérez explained.
In late January, Cubans who were stranded in Mexico complained about the “indifference of Cubans in Miami.”
Pérez, who is flying to Miami on Saturday to finish the preparations for the trip to Mexico, said the Cuban Club in California is also collecting supplies for stranded Cubans.
The businessman said that he has noticed some “disunity” within the Cuban community in exile and urged everyone to help the stranded Cubans.
“We need unity in the Cuban-American community,” he said.
I am doing this to help these Cubans because that’s what my heart dictates, because I went through the same thing.
Juan Cabrera, volunteer
Juan Cabrera, the owner and driver of the truck carrying the supplies, said they need to collect about 40,000 pounds to fill the vehicle.
“I am doing this to help these Cubans because that’s what my heart dictates, because I went through the same thing,” said Cabrera, who himself was temporarily stranded in the Bahamas in the 1990s.
“We need the support of the community,” Cabrera said, adding that donations also are being collected in Tampa and Orlando.
If organizers do not manage to fill the truck in Miami, Cabrera said he will stop in Tampa and Orlando to load up more goods.
“This truck is going to leave full,” Cabrera said.
Follow Abel Fernández on Twitter: @abelfglez