April 20th marks the 40th anniversary of the Mariel Boatlift. As published by the History Channel:
“Today in History: On April 20, 1980, the [Castro regime](https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/fidel-castro) announces that all Cubans wishing to emigrate to the U.S. are free to board boats at the port of Mariel west of Havana, launching the Mariel Boatlift. The first of 125,000 Cuban refugees from Mariel reached [Florida](https://www.history.com/topics/us-states/florida) the next day.In all, 125,000 Cubans fled to U.S. shores in about 1,700 boats, creating large waves of people that overwhelmed the U.S. Coast guard. Cuban guards had packed boat after boat, without considering safety, making some of the overcrowded boats barely seaworthy. Twenty-seven migrants died, including 14 on an overloaded boat that capsized on May 17.” – FROM: HISTORY.COM .
Did you migrate to the US through the Mariel Boatlift? We want to hear your story!
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My name is Janet and I arrived in Key West on May 23, 1980 by way of the Mariel Boatlift. My uncle, Rafa, bought a new 28′ boat and headed to Cuba with a cousin, Mario, to pick up 8 family members. They were picking up my Abuelo Tingue, my mom, 2 brothers (13 & 11) and me (7). Along with us, Rafa was picking up his son and wife (who was pregnant) and her 12 year old daughter. A total of 10 people were to travel here on that boat. My uncle and cousin were in Cuban about 30 days waiting to be able to get us and bring us to the US. Finally, we were picked up from our home and driven to “El Mosquito” to wait. The Cuban government bussed people into our neighborhood to scream and yell at us “Gusano” and other things. After waiting for about a week, we were taken to the boat. Once on, the government loaded us up with about 18 strangers. It was their way or the highway, as with everything related to the Cuban government. They wanted us all to sink and die. We were 16 hours in the Gulf of Mexico. There were big waves and maybe storms. The boat was taking on water, my brothers were throwing up and my uncle was trying to unload weight from the boat. A commercial shrimping boat came up on us and asked for some of the people on the boat to be transferred to their boat so we would not sink. Some of the strangers did not want to go. Rafa told them that they had to go or risk drowning. They went and our journey continued. Upon arriving in Key West, my mom fainted and that gave us “VIP” treatment from Coast Guard and medics. They handed me a can of a Pringles while they attended my mom. It was the most glorious thing I had ever tasted. Our family picked us up and drove us to Miami. I don’t know at what time we arrived but there was about 100 family members waiting at my aunt’s house with lechon asado and all the fixings. I learned English quickly and we all adjusted well here. I am thankful every day to Rafa and other family members that made it possible.