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Flight to Freedom: Caribbean Rafters
 
Raft on beach
Raft on beach

Florida beachgoers gawk at the homemade vessels, called Balsas, which lie abandoned or washed up on the South Florida coast. The fate of the rafters themselves is often unknown.

The lure of economic opportunity and political freedom enticed many Caribbean people to attempt the risky journey to the United States aboard rafts and other flimsy vessels. Those arriving from communist Cuba were generally given refugee status and allowed to stay, while most from Haiti and other impoverished areas were returned.

Following Fidel Castro’s communist revolution in 1959, the exodus from Cuba to the United States increased. Florida became increasingly Hispanic as large numbers of refugees started a new expatriate life in the United States.

Raft used by refugees
Raft used by refugees
Saint painted on a refugee raft floatation tank
Saint painted on a refugee raft floatation tank
Raft on Florida beach
Raft on Florida beach
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