In recent years, the pandemic, embargo and government policies have exacerbated a political and economic crisis that has led to the exodus of thousands of Cubans, mostly young people. A record number of Cubans have fled their home country in 2022, with more than 200,000 Cubans fleeing to the United States this year, according to government data, making the current exodus worse than the immigration waves of the 1980s and 1990s combined. The exodus affects an entire generation of young people who are suffering. Those who left faced the perilous journey and the challenges of starting a new life away from home, while those who remained in Cuba witnessed the deterioration of the island and the mass exodus of loved ones.
Through love stories, we illustrate the layered and complex reality of youth exodus today, providing a nuanced insight into migration, belonging, and building a new life, while also focusing on what it means to do so while separated from a loved one. challenge. We follow three couples, one of whom is still in Cuba and another who recently managed to reach the United States.
gabriel and jossel
Gabriel Berrio Fabré, 18, and Yossell Machado Fígueredo, 21, grew up together in Los Pocitos Big, this is a neighborhood in Havana. In January 2022, Yossel traveled to Suriname with his mother, a country that does not require a visa for Cubans. His sister was there, waiting for them to set out together for America. Because Yossel felt guilty and hurt about leaving his best friend, he didn’t say goodbye.
Gabriel continues to live in Los Pocitos, reconnecting with his sister and her boyfriend, and looking for opportunities to become an artist. Yossel arrives in Tampa to start a new life there. He works in a restaurant and finally has money to buy whatever he wants, but he says it’s hard to make new friends. I miss Gabriel every day.
Lauren and Jane
Lauren Rodriguez Ruiz, 26, and Jan Pérez, 23, have been married for nearly five years. They once lived together in a small house near Lauren’s grandmother in Guanabo, a beach village northeast of Havana. The couple is saving money to immigrate to another country together to study for a master’s degree, a tactic often used by young Cuban professionals. However, one day in January 2022, a friend told them that he was going to Nicaragua to go to the United States.
Lauren and Jane quickly decided to use their savings so Jane could join their friends. Since Lauren’s parents are abroad, she has more opportunities to leave and meet Jane in the United States. She is currently waiting for her visa to be approved in Chile, where her father lives, while Jane rents a small studio in Tampa, where he works as a freelance graphic designer. The couple hopes to reunite in the near future. In the meantime, they maintain their daily lives through video calls.
laura and medel
Laura Hernández Ortega, 21, and Maidel Alemán, 26, are sisters from the same mother. They were born in the Guanabacoa neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana. Medel left Cuba in 2020. Finances were never an issue in the family, as their great-aunt Gloria went to Las Vegas when the sisters were children and has been sending money to the family ever since. Medel suffered from the alcoholism of her stepfather (Laura’s father) throughout her life, which was the main reason for her decision to immigrate with her partner.
They flew to Nicaragua with their savings from selling all their belongings. After a few months at work, she decided to travel to the United States, but her boyfriend did not want to go with her and she continued to be alone. Maidel arrived in the United States in May 2021 and has lived in Miami for more than a year. Recently, she moved to Las Vegas to care for Gloria, who was about to undergo major surgery.
In a small apartment in a senior citizen’s residence, Medel set up a nail studio where she primarily catered to the women who lived on the property. Laura still lives in Guanabacoa with her father and her mother, a manicurist. Every day she wondered if she would ever see Medel again.
This project is supported by the Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists from the International Foundation for Women in Media.
Natalia Favre is a documentary photographer living in Cuba and Argentina. You can see more of her work on her website, nataliafavre.comor on Instagram @nataliafavre_. Sanne Derks is a documentary photographer based in Cuba and the Netherlands. You can see more of her work on her website, SanneDerks.comor on Instagram@sanne_derks_journalism.
Photo Editor: Virginia Lozano
Text Editor: Zach Thompson
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