the inspiration

By Craig Grant Hollenback

Living near Key West and hearing countless stories of Cubans who come ashore,
I had never touched a boat that survived the perilous voyage.

Then, abandoned in the mangroves, I discovered a raft that had just made landfall.
It was constructed entirely from junk and no two screws or bolts were alike. The thin metal sides had markings from an old Cuban bus, the ribs, hand cut from wooden shipping pallets and the diesel engine salvaged from a Russian tractor.
Inside the makeshift hull, floating in a foot of oily water, were empty bottles, clothes, sneakers, shoes, a religious statue and a child's stuffed toy.

I felt an immediate connection and imagined the exhaustion of the phantom travelers, their lives, their hopes and the desperation that fuels Cubans to risk it all for freedom.
Of the nearly fifteen hundred men women and children who attempt the crossing each year, an estimated one third are never found or heard from again.
It's a political bloodsport that's been going on for over 30 years
and a story that must be told.

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