Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A place for tears and hope

 
video




HAVANA, Cuba—It begins at 5 o’clock every morning. Hundreds of Cuban citizens gather at a public square known as the Weeping Park awaiting their final interview that will grant them entry visas to the United States.


On January 14, 2013, Cuba retracted the exit visa requirement, but citizens must still gain entry into other countries. 

Malvíz Leíva 37, holds her youngest, Gabriel, who is three years old. 
Malvíz Leíva, one of the many waiting at dawn, is the last of her family to remain in Cuba. She holds high hopes for herself and her children if they get to the U.S.


Alejandro Leíva, 12, tries to smile for a photo. 

“For me, working, and for them to be paid well and have good futures,” Leíva said. “Very good futures.”


Visas are granted one by one for either travel or permanent residency in the States. The process takes anywhere between a couple months to several years, but no more than 100 individuals are approved per day.
Lines of Cuban citizens wait as each person is called and sorted in the appropriate
line. No more than 100 Cubans are approved to enter the U.S. per day. 

“At this point, I am not working because I am a single mother with three children,” Leíva said.

In Cuba, the average salary issued by the state is $19 a month. Leíva could not afford to pay for the visa applications, so her mother paid for them from the U.S. That was three years ago.

Many inhabitants find other means to earn a living, like running a private taxi business out of their own cars or play instruments in the streets for tips. Leíva is a manicurist for tourists.
Amanda Leíva, 14, smiles with hope as she talks about loving to dance and
wanting to study in the United States when her family reunites with her relatives. 


Her children, Amanda, 14, Alejandro, 12, and Gabriel, 3, waited with her before dawn sitting on a broken fountain amidst the crowds of somber faces.

Amanda Leíva, the oldest, seemed twice her age as she looked over her younger brother and sat exhausted, hoping to at least get into the States.

“We will live with my grandmother for the first couple years until my mom finds work, then I will begin studying,” she said plainly.

Amanda loves to dance and Alejandro wants to be a pilot, but careers in Cuba are not guaranteed unless issued by some trade schools.

“There’s a variety,” Amanda said. “For careers, many have gone, but for me, I like that there is a variety. There are many. Many.”

But she could not list many off very quickly.

In a land where the Internet is illegal and chances are slim, the Leíva family will wait their final four hours for an answer.  

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