“It’s Better to Die on Your Feet than Live on Your Knees”

(p. A1) MIAMI — In an unexpected echo of the refugee crisis from two decades ago, a rising tide of Cubans in rickety, cobbled-together boats is fleeing the island and showing up in the waters off Florida.
Leonardo Heredia, a 24-year-old Cuban baker, for example, tried and failed to reach the shores of Florida eight times.
Last week, he and 21 friends from his Havana neighborhood gathered the combined know-how from their respective botched migrations and made a boat using a Toyota motor, scrap stainless steel and plastic foam. Guided by a pocket-size Garmin GPS, they finally made it to Florida on Mr. Heredia’s ninth attempt.
“Things that were bad in Cuba are now worse,” Mr. Heredia said. “If there was more money in Cuba to pay for the trips, everyone would go.”
. . .
(p. A18) . . . Yannio La O, 31, [is] an elementary school wrestling coach who arrived in Miami last week after a shipwreck landed him in Mexico.
He and 31 others departed from Manzanillo, in southern Cuba, in late August on a boat they built over the course of three months. They ran into engine trouble, and the food they brought was contaminated by a sealant they carried aboard to patch holes in the hull. They spent 24 days lost at sea.
“Every day at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m., somebody died,” Mr. La O said.
Nine people, including a pregnant woman, died and were thrown overboard, and six more got on inner tubes and disappeared before the Mexican Navy rescued the survivors, Mr. Sánchez said. Two more died at shore. Mr. La O said he survived by drinking urine and spearing fish.
. . .
“Even if half the people who leave from Cuba do not survive, that means half of them did,” Mr. La O said, speaking from his grandmother’s house in Miami, where he arrived last week. “I would tell anyone in Cuba to come. It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.”

For the full story, see:
FRANCES ROBLES. “In Rickety Boats, Cuban Migrants Again Flee to U.S.” The New York Times (Fri., OCT. 10, 2014): A1 & A18.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed word, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 9, 2014.”)

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