By Lauren Barnas
LA CRUZ, Costa Rica – Three-year-old Sebastian Sanchez wandered the makeshift shelter behind a church in La Cruz, Costa Rica.
The energetic Costa Rican boy carefully adjusted the straps on his Spiderman mask and stepped to the left, avoiding the laundry scattered on the concrete floor. Imaginary spider webs shot from his wrists, capturing the Cuban migrants seeking refuge from the heat and from their homeland. No matter how hard Sebastian tries, his webs can’t keep the migrants safe in the shelter forever.
About 8,000 Cubans were left stranded in Costa Rica when Nicaragua, the country to the north, closed its border to the migrants a few weeks ago.
“At night, we were out lost in the jungle without knowing anything or where we were,” Cuban migrant Isael Luna Morrero said.
One man traveling with his family said their stop in Colombia was marked with police corruption.
“They do everything they can to find the money we’ve hidden,” Michel Contreras said.
Nearly 40 shelters are scattered throughout Costa Rica to provide assistance to Cubans stuck in Central America on their way to the United States.
Starting next week, the Cubans can be flown to El Salvador and then bussed to Mexico to get closer to the U.S. border. This decision from Central American nations Monday is giving hope to some migrants who can afford the plane ticket.
Mayor Felix Roque, of West New York, N.J., visited Costa Rica Tuesday and said he would donate an unspecified amount of money to migrants who can’t afford the trip.
“The mayor [in] New Jersey and thanks to God this path has been opened,” said Mariela Maite Caceles Rosabal. “We’re practically no longer immigrating.”
Since 1966, Cubans who escape from their country, which has been ruled by a Communist dictatorship, have been able to apply for U.S. residency. The current migrants said they’re moving now because Cuban-American relations have gotten better after 50 years of open hostility.
Some migrants are most concerned with political justice.
“A lot of people think it’s just silly, but it’s no longer just an immigration problem, it’s a political problem,” Caceles Rosabal said.
Others are focused on finding their families.
“I’ll return to Cuba to find my wife, and if not I can bring her here,” Jorge Felix said.
In the mean time, Sebastian and his parents who help run the shelter will be there to lighten the mood.