The Golden Streets of Miami

Dozens of times during my visits to Cuba, I’ve heard saying, “I want to leave Cuba. I want to go to Miami where the streets are golden!”. Perhaps this was what drove Osiel to leave Consolacion del Sur, a rural area in the Province of Pinar del Rio, where he was born and raised, to emigrate to the USA in November 2012.
He is one of thousands of Cubans emigrated to the US since 1959 for political reasons or looking for a richer life. I first met him in Miami last summer, when I went to visit his aunt who I met in Cuba during her farewell party.
Osiel lives in a small rented apartment with his wife, Gloria, and 2 children, in Hialeah, a district of Miami where 74% of the population is Cuban. The Cuban Adjustment Act allowed him to obtain residency almost immediately.
He describes his new world like “a Cuba with food”. But soon you can realize that the reality is different. Hialeah seems like a bedroom community. There is not the vibrant and cheerful life that you can find on the streets of Cuba. No children playing outside. Even Osiel’s ones live locked in their house, playing with their phones or watching tv. No road is golden. In this dull place what I felt among people was a widespread sense of insecurity that I never experienced in any neighborhood of Cuba, even the poorest.
Osiel works illegally in a refrigeration company. Since he and Gloria are busy until 5pm, they need someone looking after their children while they are at work. That’s why they have chosen a private school full-time, to pay which they do a second job twice a week.
In 3 years he has not learned a word of English, but in Hialeah he doesn’t need it.
He took the driving license, since Miami is too large to walk. He bought a third-hand car. It was quite cheap, like all used cars in the USA, but a symbol of wealth and social status in Cuba.
In Miami immigrants have to work hard to rebuild their lives, and for those without a high level of education, it’s even harder. People often arrive unprepared to face the harsh reality of the city. Osiel and Gloria have quickly learned that they have to pay for everything they want or need. They have little time to share with each other, and sometimes they can not send the expected money to their family in Viñales.
Those who remain in Cuba don’t know almost anything about the difficulties of life in capitalist countries, and they are disappointed when the promised aid fails to arrive. In many Cuban families there is the belief that those who manage to go to the US, they come across a life of economic satisfaction. So they expect some help, either in the form of remittance or sending any electronic equipment, which is not available in Cuba. But the reality is that many of those living in Hialeah can not afford to send anything for a long time.
When Osiel finally visited his family in Cuba, he arrived wearing brand clothes, while Gloria was wearing lots of jewelry, which she displayed proudly. All this reminds me of those stories by the Italian writer Leonardo Sciascia, about our compatriots who return to their village from the US with rented clothes and necklaces to make a good impression, hiding the harsh reality of their lives as immigrants. Now history repeats itself. Osiel and Gloria came back with sparkling stories of their lives in Miami, bringing desirable gifts and making the children dream of this new world, where they say there are streets of gold. The story of Osiel and his family is a common one between Cuban people. It is a story of migration and the desire of prosperity and success. By telling this particular story, I hope to provide an opportunity to those people who remain in Cuba to better understand what could await them in the United States and then re-evaluate what they have at home. They might not have abundance of goods and richness, but they still have strong relationships with nature, tight family bounds, genuine community feelings, a more relaxed rhythm of life, and the time to enjoy life.