GC: n

S: MH – (last access: 1 November 2015); BM – (last access: 1 November 2015).

N: 1. Slang term for “Cuban Rafters” or Cuban refugees utilizing a raft to reach the coasts of the United States to escape former Dictator Fidel Castro’s brother Raul Castro’s dictatorship.
Balsero comes from the Spanish term balsa, meaning raft, a make-shift seafaring craft used to cross a stretch of water separating one country from another. The Spanish term balsero can be used in English texts within the context of the emigration of Cubans to the United States (Miami, above all), the Bahamas or the Cayman Islands. The English equivalent used in this context is rafter, denoting a person who travels on a vessel of this kind. For example, an especially intense period of emigration from Cuba in 1994 became known as the “Balsero Crisis” or “Cuban Rafter Crisis”.
rafter (n): “sloping timber of a roof,” Old English ræftras (West Saxon), reftras (Mercian), both plural, related to Old Norse raptr “log,” from Proto-Germanic *raf-tra-, from PIE *rap-tro-, from root *rep- “stake, beam.”
2. Until January 2013, under Cuban criminal law it was illegal for Cubans to leave their country or to assist others to leave without government permission. If apprehended, violators were subject to a prison term of one to ten years.
Between 1959 and 1994, in defiance of the law, more than 63,000 citizens left Cuba by sea in small groups and reached the United States alive. Thousands more washed up in the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and other Caribbean shores. Over the years, they have been collectively known as balseros (rafters) and their precarious vessels as balsas (rafts). At least 16,000 additional rafters did not survive the crossing.
From 1991 through July 1994 numbers of rafters rose steadily year by year until 500 were arriving daily during the first two weeks of July 1994. As the increase became public knowledge in Cuba, people began hijacking large government owned boats. In August 1994 three large boats were hijacked in a ten day period.
As a result, the Cuban government began to more aggressively prevent rafters from leaving. This increased vigilance frustrated those who wanted to leave and contributed to the outbreak of citizen riots on August 5, 1994 along the Havana seawall and in the old section of the city. Following these events, President Castro announced that the Cuban Frontier Guard (the Cuban Coast Guard) would temporarily cease enforcing the laws against leaving.
In response, 32,385 Cubans left from all parts of the island. Using the U.S. Coast Guard to intercept the rafters, President Bill Clinton refused them entry, sending them to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba where they stayed until finally admitted to the United States in 1995.

S: 1. UD – (last access: 1 November 2015); BM – (last access: 21 March 2014); OED – (last access: 1 November 2015). 2. BM – (last access: 1 November 2015).

SYN: Cuban Rafter

S: BM – (last access: 1 November 2015)

CR: boatman, boat people, emigrant, emigration, émigré, immigrant, immigrated person, immigration, irregular migration, migrant, migration, raft, refugee, small boat.