Repatriating, Yes. Settling In Is Another Thing / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 November 2016 — "I swore I would never
set foot in this country," recalls Lazaro, age 48 and from Camaguey, who
emigrated in the late nineties to Miami. However, a few months ago he
changed his mind and began the legal process to return to Cuba. "The
land pulls me," he says with a smile while showing off his brand new
At the end of 2012, the average number of emigrants who chose
repatriation that year barely reached 1,000. However, after the
immigration and travel reforms put in place by Raul Castro's government
in January of 2013 – including the elimination of the often-denied
permit needed to travel outside the country –the number has skyrocketed.
During a radio interview, the Cuban ambassador in Washington, Jose Ramon
Cabañas, said that as of the beginning of 2015 until today, some 13,000
Cubans resident in the United States have returned to the island. This
phenomenon is repeated among émigrés in Europe and Latin America.
The reasons for return range from buying a home, to coming and spending
one's old age with one's family. Returnees also recover their right to
an allocation of goods on the rationed market, and the right to vote,
which Cubans living abroad cannot do.
The common denominator among the returnees is that most opt for
repatriation only after acquiring a foreign nationality. "It's not the
same to return as a sato Cuban," a phrase that roughly translates as a
'garden variety' Cuban, "as to return with a yuma passport," i.e. a
foreign one, "in your pocket," explains Lazaro, who has had US
citizenship for a decade.
Although Cuban authorities do not recognize dual nationality, having a
foreign passport streamlines paperwork, facilitates traveling from the
island, and can open many doors in the convoluted management of daily life.
In the case of Lazarus, the motivation to return goes beyond nostalgia.
"I want to buy an apartment and if I'm not a resident of Cuba I can't do
that," he says. The law governing the sale of property only recognizes
this right for citizens who are permanent residents of the country.
Since getting his identity documents, Lazaro has spent a few weeks in
his native land. "Right now I don't want to live in Cuba," he explains,
and adds, "What I'm doing is an investment for the future, for when 'the
thing' changes and it really makes sense to return.
"I have a retired friend who has done all the paperwork to repatriate
because he has a pension that is very low for Miami, but here he can
live like a king," he adds. Among the reasons that motivated the
pensioner, says Lazaro, is to find "a younger woman, because he feels
very lonely over there."
The ability to inherit property, open a private business or to get free
medical care are also among the incentives for return.
Returnees also enjoy the prerogative of one-time opportunity to import a
large volume of belongings. For the General Customs of the Republic,
Yipsi Hernandez says, moving a "household has no weight limit" and is
"tax-free." The official confirms that you can import "two of every
kind" of appliance.
Iliana Hernandez just repatriated from Spain. Her process lasted five
months and to start it was only necessary to go to a notary with the
person she planned to live with, her mother, who took responsibility for
her return to the country.
"With this letter from the notary and a stamp costing 100 convertible
pesos you have to go immigration," she explains. "After filling out some
forms, the authorities send you a notice to collect your ID card, which
takes an average of six months."
The reason for Hernandez's return focuses more on social activism. "I
want to fight to bring a quality of life here that is the same as
abroad," she says. Recently, the athlete, who left Cuba legally after a
failed attempt to swim to the US military base at Guantanamo, has
created Lente Cubano, an audiovisual project that brings together news
and views on various topics.
She says she does not feel regret for having returned. "Sometimes when I
am riding on a bus, I miss my little car. It is hard here," she says,
because "your quality of life is completely lost."
Source: Repatriating, Yes. Settling In Is Another Thing / 14ymedio, Luz
Escobar – Translating Cuba -