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In 1980 Felipe Villamil, a respected Santeria priest for the Afro-Cuban community from Matanzas, Cuba, was thrown into jail for an unproven offence. Felipe was one the 125,000 people in Cuba known as Fidel Castro’s ‘undesirables’, a group predominantly made up of criminals, drug addicts and disabled people who after a period in jail were given the choice to leave for the US on designated boats or languish in jail. Felipe opted for freedom, despite having to leave behind his wife and family. He now lives in LA were he re-married and lives with his new family.
The rest of his family are still in Cuba and many of them long for the freedom to cross the sea. Felipe believes this vision of the American dream is more often a mirage: “Sometimes I feel like I am only surviving, whereas in Cuba people know how to live. People think that there is great wealth over here. It’s true there’s a lot of money, but to get it you have to put your fingers into the oven, and do you realise how hot that oven is?”