09/23/13 - Florida Today - Cubans get taste of tourism in US
To gain a U.S. entry visa, Cubans must prove they dont intend to
immigrate, a difficult requirement given the islands low wages and
limited opportunities. Many Cubans given entry visas tend to be older,
said Emilio Morales, who once worked in marketing research in Cuba before
immigrating to the U.S. and opening a consulting business.
Many of those who travel travel with the intention of immigrating, he
Under the Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans who reach the U.S. are generally
allowed to stay and are fast-tracked for residency; that policy would
apply to those who come to the U.S. as tourists as well. Cuba has
complained the policy encourages citizens to flee.
While more Cubans and Cuban-Americans are traveling to and from the
island, record numbers of Cubans also are leaving the island permanently.
More Cubans immigrated in 2012 than in any year since at least 1994, when
thousands fled the island on rafts.
Even though there are record numbers of people emigrating from Cuba,
there are also record numbers of people using the revolving door, and
leaving and returning for longer periods of time, said Ted Henken,
president of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy and a
professor at Baruch College in New York.
He said the new Cuban travelers, however, shouldnt be called tourists.
They dont have disposable income to stay in hotels, Henken said. They
dont have disposable income to go shopping.
The Venturas said they planned to take Perez around Miami to eat at
restaurants, see the beaches and go fishing. Perez also planned time with
relatives, including his brother, whom he had not seen in 33 years. When
he finally emerged through the glass doors at Miami International Airport,
Perez and his friends embraced heartily.
Perez, who is diabetic, carried a small leather arm bag with juice and
crackers he brought for the flight, and wore a gray-striped polo shirt and
I came to see them and to get to know this place, he said.
The first thing Perez did was go to Venturas house, a cantaloupe-colored,
single-story home with white metal gates along a busy, five-lane street
beside a highway. He stood outside the house staring at traffic, struck by
the number of cars and clean streets, until his friends called him inside.
Perez said hed never tried to come to the U.S. before and that the
reforms had encouraged him to try.
It was easier, he said.
After a monthlong stay, he planned to return to Cuba to be with his wife,
parents and nine children.
The entire experience, Perez said, had been life-changing.
I had my eyes closed, he said, and now they are open.
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