Now safe in Florida, Julio Martínez, described the multicountry journey that started in Cuba last month and got him reunited with his family members in Miami after 21 days of perilous travel.
Martinez, who is 63 and has only one leg, particularly remembers how he felt when he and others were about to cross the turbulent and often deadly river that separates Mexico and the U.S. As night fell over Piedras Negras, he recalled, the Río Grande looked like a liquid highway.
“Seeing that the water was a little above the waist, two companions of the group told me to hold onto them,” said Martínez. With someone else carrying his canes and his prosthetic leg in a backpack, “little by little we went through the current until we reached the shore.”
Following a journey across highways, jungles, rivers, bridges and cliffs, Martínez is now reunited with his wife, mother and two daughters. He left Cuba on April 3 to Nicaragua, from where he made his way to the U.S. southern border.
“The prosthesis is uncomfortable and I was only able to put it on for a part of the route in Guatemala,” he said, explaining that the chafing caused his skin to break and peel. “In my current health condition, I thought about it a lot before making the trip. But I said, ‘I’m going to take a chance.’”
The number of Cubans arriving at the border could reach a historic level by the end of the year.
Around 35,000 Cubans were apprehended in April at the U.S. Mexico border, according to unpublished data cited by The Washington Post, making up the second-highest nationality of those crossing the border after people from Mexico. Around 32,000 Cubans were apprehended in March, up 460 percent over the last year, and more than the number from Central America.
More journeying from Nicaragua
Most Cuban migrants are flying to Nicaragua and making their way by land to the U.S.-Mexico border. Nicaragua, a close ally of Cuba, dropped its visa requirements for Cubans in November.
Source: NBC Latino