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A guidebook following 2 women through 13 countries to the US & a new life. // Una guía sobre la migración de Cuba a EEUU por 13 países
A guidebook following 2 women through 13 countries to the US & a new life. // Una guía sobre la migración de Cuba a EEUU por 13 países
197 backers pledged $16,515 to help bring this project to life.

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                                                                                             *Español al final 

I’m a Cuban-American photojournalist and have been based in Havana for the last 2 years now. During this time I've witnessed some of the most significant moments in Cuba's history. But nothing compares to the journey I photographed last summer.

I followed two Cuban women every step of the way on their long and dangerous journey from Havana to Texas. Marta, 52 and Liset, 24, were among the very last Cubans to make it across the US border before the end of the “Wet Foot Dry Foot” policy that that allowed Cubans entry to the USA if they could make it to the border.

But that’s IF, when you have to go 8000 miles to get there.

With your help, I will create a photo book from this migration through South and Central America — a take on a classic travel guide complete with photos, field notes, ephemera, maps and charts including information like the costs of human smuggling.

Red Hook Editions, an innovative publishing community that comes together to support photographers, is working with me to make this dream a reality. With their guidance, the book will give the reader the full experience of being on this journey. 

The Backstory:

I’d been living in Cuba for a year when I met Marta Amaro, 52, through another project I was photographing. She had a certain ease at drawing in strangers as close friends. We started spending time together and I quickly sensed she had a story to tell. She’d mentioned a desire to migrate, I said “I’m coming with you.” Marta said “OK.”

Marta (right) and Liset (center) at Marta's home with her children, as the two prepare to leave within a few days.
Marta (right) and Liset (center) at Marta's home with her children, as the two prepare to leave within a few days.

Liset was her friend from the neighborhood, and with an almost 30 year age difference, they were an unlikely pair. The two had an inexplicable bond. Like sisters they were always fighting, laughing, hanging out. No matter how bad things got, they always came together again.

Marta (left) and Liset at a hotel in Brazil using Facebook
Marta (left) and Liset at a hotel in Brazil using Facebook

 On Friday the 13th, May 2016, we went to Jose Martí International Airport and flew off. Our trip began in Guyana, the closest country allowing Cubans to enter without visas, and the latest jumping off point for thousands of Cubans making the same voyage.

By the next day, we were in Brazil.

Marta in Ecuador at a bus terminal
Marta in Ecuador at a bus terminal

As the trip went on, the party girls from the Marianao neighborhood of Havana suddenly faced wilderness, injuries, scrapes with the police, and an extreme mix of high highs and low lows. Liset wore her red Jordans and Marta her green dress through the Darian Gap, a roadless stretch of jungle connecting Colombia and Panama, and through 13 countries, 10 illegal border crossings, 6 planes, countless buses, and many miles on foot.

I continued with them every step of the way shooting on 5 cameras and taking notes, and video. 

Liset applies make up in the Darien Gap
Liset applies make up in the Darien Gap

48 Days after leaving Cuba, they stepped onto US soil and into whole new lives. I have continued to document Liset and Marta during their first year in the US. 

The Book:

The story has run in TIME Magazine, Stern in Germany and XL Semanal in Spain. Now, with your help the story will become a photo book based on a classic travel guide.

 

The book will include photos from all 5 cameras I shot with, social media, charts and maps and even film photos that were damaged in the jungle. 

All these elements combined will give the reader (you!) the experience of being on a journey like this - with all its highs and lows.  

Marta, Day 1
Marta, Day 1

 

Liset's Facebook posts during the journey
Liset's Facebook posts during the journey

A bilingual piece, English and Spanish, the book will be accessible to the diaspora who have taken part in Wet Foot Dry Foot in its 20 years of existence.

Your contribution will also allow us to use the book as an educational tool here in the United States.

The desire and fear of missed chances that compel people to take enormous risks seeking a better life in the United States is a story that needs to be shown and told – a story of the shared experience of immigration and hope.

Your generous contribution will make this book a reality. Independent photo book publishing demands upfront costs to print and distribute. I hope you're as excited about this book as I am!

 Español:

Tu contribución ayudará a financiar la elaboración de este libro, un documento que refleja los últimos días de una ley conocida como “Pie Seco Pie Mojado”, que concedía asilo politico a los cubanos, dejándoles entrar a Estados Unidos, pero solo a aquellos que conseguían llegar a la frontera, algo que era posible después de atravesar 8000 millas.

Mi libro actúa como una guía de viaje, empezando en America del Sur y Centro America hasta llegar a la frontera con Estados Unidos. Incluye fotos, gráficas, mapas e información detallada de los costos del contrabando de personas.

Llevaba viviendo en Cuba ya un año cuando conocí a Marta, enseguida percibí que ella tenia algo que contar. Ella tiene la facilidad de llegar a las personas como un amigo cercano, como se dice en Cuba, tiene guara. Cuando me contó sus planes de irse, le dije: “Me voy contigo” y ella dijo: “Dale”. 

Nuestra relación se hizo mas estrecha, a pesar de saber y recordarle a menudo que yo la acompañaría con otro propósito diferente, en calidad de periodista para poder documentar este viaje.

Liset y Marta eran vecinas, con una diferencia de edad de casi 30 años, eran un duo sorprendente. Las dos tenían un vínculo inexplicable, eran como hermanas, a menudo discutiendo, riendo o quedando para salir. Aunque las cosas fueran mal entre ellas siempre se reunían de nuevo.

En abril, Marta me llamó un día para contarme que ella y Liset estaban decididas a emprender su viaje y que al día siguiente comprarían los billetes de avión para salir en dos semanas, quería saber: “¿Venes o no?”

Salieron de La Habana el 13 de mayo de 2016, solo sabían que querían llegar a los Estados Unidos, pero no cómo hacerlo. Al día siguiente ya estaban en Brasil. Su objetivo era conseguir el amparo de la ley "pie Seco Pie Mojado." Una ley que ha terminado en enero de este año.

Por que Guyana no estaba visado para los Cubanos, su travesía empezó allí. Ellas son dos de las ultimas personas que llegaron antes de la cancelación de esta ley.

Estuve allí con ellas en cada paso del camino, durante casi dos meses, documentando el viaje. Hice las fotografías, videos y audios con 5 cámaras, incluido mi iPhone. Crear un libro con este material permitirá a los lectores, como ustedes, experimentarlo tal y como es, con toda su esencia toda sus altas y bajas. El proyecto se ha vendido a varias revistas y periódicos pero la composición del libro va a ser la única guía completa de la travesía.

Fuimos a través de Tapón Darien, un tramo de selva sin caminos que conecta Colombia y Panamá, pasando por 13 países, 10 cruces ilegales de fronteras, 6 aviones, autobuses y un sin fín de millas a pie. Nos encontramos con funcionarios de inmigración, narco traficantes y otros inmigrantes de Bangladesh, Somalia, Haití y Nepal, todos tratando de conseguir lo mismo, llegar a la Tierra Prometida.

En Costa Rica, Marta y Liset se separaron después de una pelea por el dinero. Yo continué con Liset. Después de casi dos meses Liset cruzó la frontera con Estados Unidos y entró en Brownsville (Texas) iniciando de una nueva vida.

Marta se quedó con un grupo de inmigrantes cubanos, y pisó los Estados Unidos doce días después, cruzando a Nuevo Laredo. Ambas se han reconciliado, estan buscando trabajos estables, y extrañan a Cuba. 

Esta es una historia poco común, con un giro muy diferente en la historia de la inmigración. Liset y Marta son inmigrantes económicas, pero arriesgaron sus vidas por la oportunidad de un futuro mejor. Son mujeres autorizadas, heroínas por derecho propio y este libro les dará la voz que realmente merecen.

Red Hook Editions es una comunidad editorial innovadora, que se unen para apoyar a fotógrafos a la vez que crean y distribuyen libros.

Gracias por tu apoyo!

++++++

Choose your print!

Choose from these photos below for any pledge category with a print!

New bonus print choice -- now choose from 4 photos!

Marta and Liset checking social media in Peru at 4am
Marta and Liset checking social media in Peru at 4am

 

Liset sleeping, Peru
Liset sleeping, Peru

 

Liset in the Darien with migrants from Bangladesh
Liset in the Darien with migrants from Bangladesh

 

Marta takes a break, The Darien Gap
Marta takes a break, The Darien Gap

 

Press coverage for 48 Days:

 

 

Risks and challenges

As with all creative projects, the process can sometimes be slower than expected. I'm working hard to ensure the material is accessible to both English and Spanish speakers, and I hope to create a book that can also be an educational tool in the future. I hope my book will be out by the end of the year.

---

Al igual que con todos los proyectos creativos, el proceso a veces puede ser más lento de lo esperado. Estamos trabajando de manera activa para asegurar que el material sea accesible tanto para los ingleses como para los hispanohablantes y nos gustaría usarlo como una herramienta educativa en el futuro. Las historias sobre la migración son mas importantes que nunca y pero esperamos que el libro salga a finales de año.

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Funding period

- (48 days)