On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mariel boatlift,
a Pulitzer Prize winner’s extraordinary memoir of her
childhood in Cuba and her historic journey to America.
“A thorough and exciting account of the events leading to the daring,
massive exodus of more than 125,000 people from Cuba's Mariel harbor in 1980.
A skillful melding of individual personalities with the grand currents of
"Until I read this book, the Mariel refugees were headlines in a newspaper,
stereotypes fed by political rhetoric. In Finding Mañana, Mirta Ojito
has given me a peek behind the headlines, and a sense of how history affects
—Esmeralda Santiago, author of When I was Puerto Rican.
“Finding Mañana is a strongly written, straight-shooting and
affecting memoir about one family’s experiences leading up to the Mariel
boatlift out of Cuba. Rich in detail and concise in its capturing of that
chapter of Cuban history, the book is also a touching tale of a young woman’s
coming of age during a time of great political turmoil and personal travails.”
— Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus
by Mirta Ojito
For five tumultuous months in 1980, more than 125,000 refugees made the trip from communist Cuba’s Mariel Harbor to South Florida. Their chaotic and widely publicized exodus dominated American politics for most of the year—an election year—and their sheer numbers changed the Cuban émigré community forever. Now, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mariel boatlift, reporter Mirta Ojito, member of the New York Times team that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting five years ago, illuminates this historic event through the story of her own family’s life in Cuba and their wrenching departure in FINDING MAÑANA: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus (April 11, 2005; The Penguin Press).
Growing up, Ojito was eager to excel and fit in, but her parents’—and eventually her own—incomplete devotion to the revolution held her back. As a schoolgirl, she yearned to join Castro’s Young Pioneers, but as a teenager in the 1970s, when she understood the darker side of the Cuban revolution and learned more about life in el Norte from relatives living abroad, she began to wonder if she and her family would be safer and happier elsewhere. By the time Castro announced that he was opening Cuba’s borders for those who wanted to leave, she was ready to go; her parents were more than ready, having planned to leave shortly after their wedding, only to watch the Cuban Missile Crisis unfold on their honeymoon.
In FINDING MAÑANA, Ojito seeks out the men who made the boatlift happen: Bernardo Benes, a Miami banker with ties to President Carter’s White House who held secret, and later public, meetings with Castro to bring 3,000 political prisoners to the United States; Héctor Sanyustiz, who crashed a bus through the gates of Havana’s Peruvian Embassy, thus opening the way for thousands of his countrymen who followed him—the colony of would-be defectors whom the boatlift was conceived to evacuate; Napoleón Vilaboa, who negotiated their release and sailed to Mariel on the first boat of the flotilla; and Captain Mike Howell, the Vietnam veteran who brought the Ojitos from Mariel to Key West on his boat, Mañana.
Ojito illuminates a pivotal moment in US-Cuban relations while filling out the shaded contours of her own life. Her experience illustrates a chapter often neglected in more than four decades of antagonism between Washington and Havana: the Cuba of the 1970s, when no one was getting in, few were getting out, and the Caribbean iron curtain was firmly in place. A vibrant and moving memoir, FINDING MAÑANA is a peek behind that curtain and into the heart of one courageous teenage refugee. It is the story of a family caught in the midst of Cold War politics, written with all of the determination and intelligence that carried the author through the Mariel boatlift and made her a prizewinning journalist.
A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus
By Mirta Ojito
The Penguin Press
April 11, 2005
320 Pages * ISBN 1-59420-041-6 * $24.95
For more information, please contact Abigail Cleaves, 212-366-2846