Fifth Place Photojournalism II – Picture Story/Series
Fifth Place Photojournalism II – Picture Story/Series
Thousands of migrants have fled Cuba ahead of the potential change in the special humanitarian provision of a U.S. law, the Cuban Adjustment Act. They flooded the small town of La Cruz, Costa Rica after the Nicaraguan government closed its border to all illegal immigration on Nov. 13, 2015. Most of the migrants have been been there for months and will be airlifted north to El Salvador with a final destination of the United States. Many government shelters have reached their capacity and new Cuban arrivals have resorted to sleeping in the streets and other public areas. Chamay Hidalgo Martinez, left, Yosvani Mejias Espinosa and others awake after sleeping under an awning in the center of town on Dec. 26, 2015.
From right, Vladimir Infante Hurtado, Dariel Pérez Pacheco, José García Pérez, top, and Laízaro Quintero Alvarez shave and wash themselves in one of the Costa Rican shelters. Many of the migrants are men between ages 30-40 that have left to support their families back in Cuba. They have grown accustom to the lack of privacy since they started their journey north from Cuba to Ecuador and through Central America.
Dianelis Rodriguez Mola, 23, and Eduardo Suarez Peña, 31, rest in a shelter in La Cruz. Like many of Cuban migrants, they sold all their belongings to pay for their journey to reach United States. The young couple plans to reach Las Vegas, Nevada where they have family. They recall the hardest part of their journey was when they had to travel my boat to reach the Panama border from Colombia. "If he didn't hold on to me I would have fallen off that boat," said Mola. "When one is willing to give everything to that person and thats how you know youre in love."
Matthew Requejo Paumier, 3, left, chases after Jonathan La Rosa Mesa, 5, after Jessica Cordoba Tabares, 8, failed to make them play a game with her. There are few young children in the shelters because many parents thought the journey would be too difficult for them. Many Cubans left a spouse or family member back in Cuba to take care of their children.
Yerandy Rodriguez, 33, cuts Samuel Gonzalez Ruíz's, 6, hair as a free service provided to all his fellow migrants. Some migrants perform tasks in the shelter that they had learned while in Cuba. Rodriguez co-owned a unisex barber shop with his wife while they lived in Cuba.
Cuban artists finish a mural on the main street of La Cruz. The mural is a combination of cultural symbols from both Cuba and Costa Rica, but it is also a gift to the Costa Rican people for helping the Cuban migrants. "We dont really have many things here, but at the same time we have many things because we have very good friends who are the Costa Ricans," said Jorge Luis Herrera, one of the artists. "They have offered their country, their houses and the few things they have. Wherever we go we will always talk about the love of Costa Rica, its government, its church and its community."
Yordanis García, 32 of Havana, left for Cuba over a year ago after spending several months working in Ecuador to save money for his trip north. His tattoo reads Si no hay carro nos vamos en balsa, (If theres not a car, well raft), a lyric in Spanish that is spoken by Cuban-American rapper Pitbull in the song Rain Over Me. The phrase is a way to protest because to own a car in Cuba is very expensive," said García. "We dont migrate only for freedom, but also for economic and political problems. Political for the king that we currently have and economic because in the end they dont pay us what they owe us." Cubas National Statistics and Information Bureau (ONEI) in 2012 reported that the average monthly wage for Cubans is equivalent to US $20.
A group of Cuban men listen to Felix Roque, center, mayor of West New York, New Jersey, explain the collaborative solution to transport Cuban migrants out of Costa Rica to eventually reach the United States border. The Cuban-American mayor made a extended visit to Costa Rica on Dec. 22, 2015 to help the migrants and bring awareness to the crisis. Many Cubans are thankful for his help in acquiring Cuban passports after losing them during their journey. He now promises to allocate funds from private donations to pay for the travel expenses of migrants that cannot afford their way to the U.S. border.
A mixed group of Cuban and Costa Rican young adults play a game of basketball in a nearby city park in La Cruz. They regularly played games to pass the time and socialize.
Orlando Peña Holguin-Mayari, 43, improvises a clothesline by hanging clothes on a door frame near a shelter in the center of La Cruz.
Hands of Cuban migrants Yasiel Valero, Elier Becker, Arnnier Dranguet, and Raymel Escobar reach for domino pieces to start a game in a shelter in La Cruz. Dominoes is a classic game in Cuba that people of all ages and backgrounds frequently play.
A group of Cuban men adjust a makeshift spit as they roast a pig along the fence of a shelter. The act of slow-roasting a pig is an annual tradition in Cuba to celebrate the arrival of a new year.
Diamelis Sanchez, left to right, Hiran Baltrell, Yalien Siaz Aguilera, and Sebastian Jimenez dance salsa in celebration of the new year on Dec. 31, 2015. Many were in good spirits when a plan was announced on Dec. 28 to airlift the Cuban migrants to El Salvador and then continue their trip by bus to reach the U.S. border.
Religious statuettes remain in cardboard shrine to celebrate the feast day of San Lázaro. The day is the largest religious pilgrimage in Cuba. The religion is popularly known as Santeria and is a mix of Roman Catholicism and Yoruba, a Nigerian spirituality that was brought over during the slave trade.
The Costa Rican shelters are a temporary stop for these Cubans and by the end of 2016 most of them will have reached the United States to begin their new lives as legal permanent residents. The Cuban government has never approved of the Cuban Adjustment Act and blames the United States legislation for causing the humanitarian crisis. Thousands of more Cuban migrants are still stranded in Colombia and Panama after Costa Rica stopped giving out visas in December, 2015. There is no clear solution for the next wave of Cuban migrants that will try to reach the United States by this new route.