Balseros (Rafters, from the Spanish "Balsa", Raft) is the name given to the persons who emigrate illegally in self constructed or precarious vessels from Cuba to neighboring states including the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and, most commonly, the United States. The Cuban Rafters almost always disagree with communism and the Cuban government of the Castro Family.
Mass Cuban emigration to the United States is seen as having had four waves. The first wave was before the Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended travel. The second wave was between 1965 and 1973. The 1980 Mariel Boatlift was the third wave.
Some scholars regard the August 1994 Cuban Rafters Crisis as the fourth wave of Cuban immigration. The 1994 Balseros Crisis was ended by the agreement of the Wet feet, dry feet policy between Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro.
During the 1994 Cuban Rafter Crisis, the most commonly observed raft from the US tanker Coastal New York was constructed of 2 doors atop large truck-tire inner tubes, with the doors connected by 2"x4" wooden beams. A rudimentary 2-3m mast was improvised that supported a small white cloth as a flag or banner that would increase the raft's visibility to vessels traveling nearby. The Coastal New York observed over 75 abandoned rafts in a 4-hour daylight period near the Gulf Stream off Florida's east coast. All the abandoned rafts had been marked with fluorescent orange paint, presumably marked by USCG personnel involved in rescue/recovery operations. USCG documentation would be a more thorough depiction of this event.
- Mariel Boatlift 1980
- Wet feet, dry feet policy 1995
- Balseros - the title of a 2002 documentary about those persons and their experiences in Cuba and in the United States.
- HISPANIC AMERICAN RELIGIOUS CULTURES 2 VOLUME SET Key West, New Orleans, and New York City before 1959, the vast majority of Cuban Americans trace their U.S. residency or birth to four successive waves of immigration after 1960. ... The second wave began in 1965 and ended in 1973."Finally, the Balsero (Cuban Rafters) Crisis of 1994 almost became a repeat of the 1980 Mariel Exodus as some people stormed foreign embassies in Cuba, while thousands of others attempted to flee the island on makeshift rafts and unsafe ..That summer, over a four-day period in late August, a fleet of 16 Coast Guard cutters picked up over 8,000 Cuban rafters. ... Some scholars identify this crisis as the fourth wave of Cuban immigration to the United States, while others interpret it as part of the smaller ... Although the Cuban Rafter Crisis of 1994 was settled by an agreement between Fidel Castro and President William Clinton, the balsero"
- University of Miami's site: The Cuban Rafter Phenomenon: A Unique Sea Exodus.
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