Monday, May 24, 2010
Roots in the Sea: The Mariel Database
On Friday May 21, 2010, the Miami Herald unveiled the online Database for the Mariel Boatlift that took place between April and September of 1980. The database includes the names of the more than 130,000 Mariel refugees and other related information: US sponsor, boat name and date of entry.
I was fortunate to visit the Miami Herald’s Mariel exhibit at the Cuba Nostalgia Festival accompanied by my husband and my childhood friend Liana Dominguez Suarez. Liana and I met 30 years ago when we had both arrived to the US from Mariel. The three of us were able to have access to a copy of the US Coast Guard’s handwritten log that included other data; such as, the names and dimensions of 1,600 boats, number of crew and refugees per vessel, and even marginal notes (i.e. if the boat was confiscated upon arrival).
I was overwhelmed when I saw the page for the May 27th entries and discovered a few interesting details: My parents did not remember accurately the complete name of the boat; I learned that it was indeed the Nettie May. I also found that my mother did not appear as ever entering the country. I figured out the reason. Because of a medical emergency, she had been airlifted by the Coast Guard to Key West while the Nettie May was still at sea and, apparently, she was not processed. Another discovery was that our listed entry date was erroneous, by confusing arrival and processing dates.
Liana and I found the Santa Fe, her vessel, as well as other boats in which two other friends arrived: Crazy Legs, which transported Rolando Pulido and the Sandra J, which brought Humberto de la Cruz and his family. We photographed the pages and sent the images via MMS. For a brief moment all four of us were emotionally connected over this extraordinary experience.
I enthusiastically communicated my findings to Ruben Legra Jr. His father, the late Ruben Legra Sr., was the owner of the Nettie May and was aboard during the trip. Both his son and I are saddened that he could not experience the commemoration of the XXX Anniversary of the Mariel Boatlift in which he played such an important role.
Finally, I met and spoke with Miami Herald reporter Luisa Yanez, who noted my observations, promised me to make the necessary corrections to the database and to stand ready to support other research projects. I’m very grateful to Ms. Yanez, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for supporting this five-month long project.
It was very heartwarming for Liana and I to share such an experience 30 years after the traumatic events that brought us to the United States. Just as we rediscovered our steps so many years later, I hope this database will one day help our children and future generations to discover their ancestry.