Cuba in Flux

Photojournalist Yana Paskova began her project on the intersection of democracy and communism in her homeland, Bulgaria, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In this chapter, she shifts the focus to Cuba.

What first drew Yana to Cuba was another 25-year anniversary—that of the Mariel Boatlift, which started on April 20, 1980, when Fidel Castro lifted travel restrictions in the city of Mariel, the closest port to Florida. This resulted in a flow of 125,000 emigres to Miami, until the boatlift ended five months later.

In many ways it was a disaster, with people perishing in purposefully overcrowded boats (in an apparent effort by the Castro regime to discourage future emigration,) and a trickle of criminals and mentally ill Cubans being pushed onto Miami shores by the Castro regime. But for many, the exodus meant a reunion of families, a chance at freedoms previously unknown, and a certain reshaping of the Cuban-American community in Florida.

Many parallels tie Cuba into the overall project--namely the people, places and events that are in some way emblematic of how the current regime functions.

These include graffiti and art of current and past Communist leaders; the markets where food is rationed to families; the May Day workers parade; Cuentapropistas, or private businesses. that have been allowed to form only since 2011, and only if there are no more than five employees; and young people, including artists, involved in underground democratic activity for the purpose of commerce, protest or entertainment. There's also the Ladies in White (Las Damas de Blanco,) who prominently protest against political prisoners every Sunday; and conversely, the governmental surveillance group, CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution.)

Yana tells these intersecting stories through the experiences of Cubans in Havana, Mariel, and Miami.