Duke Libraries

Ask us now


CUBA 1959-2008

Cubans fleeing their country by sea use three types of boats: balsas, botes and modern go-fast boats. The balsas are rafts made of scraps such as inner tubes, styrofoam cups, bamboo sticks, barrels, used cars or any other “invention.” Botes are conventional rowboats powered by oars or small motors. Modern go-fast boats are racing boats used by smugglers who currently charge about $10,000 per passenger.

It is 90 miles to South Florida from the north side of Cuba;150 miles to the Cayman Islands from the south side of Cuba and 300-500 to the Caribbean coast of Central America.  Between 1959 and 2008 at least 213,000 Cubans survived the boat trip and either entered the U.S. or were returned to Cuba. An estimated 16,000 – 20,000 probably died at sea.

Although most Cubans leave from the north side of the island trying to reach the United States, those departing from the south side wash up in the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Belize and Honduras. In addition to those who set out on their own, smugglers have in recent years brought over 10,000 Cubans to the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico where they travel north to the U.S. border.

Under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (P.L. 89-762) nearly 100% of Cubans who manage to put both feet on dry U.S. soil are allowed to stay. One year after arrival they are eligible for legal resident status (a “green card”). However, since 1995 anyone picked up at sea has been returned to Cuba via the port of Cabañas. They are not criminally prosecuted in the U.S. or Cuba.


follow us on Twitter follow us on Facebook follow us on YouTube follow us on Flickr follow us on Pinterest follow our blogs and feeds

Contact Us919-660-5870
(Perkins Circulation Desk)

Home | Libraries | Ask Us Now | Catalog | Hours | Library Web Site Search | Site Index

Mobile Library Home (content for handheld devices such as cellphones)

Some material on this page may be protected by copyrights not held by the Duke University Libraries, all other material is copyright 2009 by Duke University Libraries.

For complete information about use and reproduction of Duke materials,
please read our Use and Reproduction Policy.

Last modified September 7, 2009 10:39:06 PM EDT