Landing of Cuban migrant boat on Hollywood Beach causes stir

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A Cuban migrant vessel washed ashore on Hollywood Beach Thursday morning, causing a stir and revealing a series of coincidences about where it landed and who witnessed it.

Photos show the tiny raft being removed from the beach, but the images of those who saw it up close remain vivid.

Beachgoer Ted Sumner described it as being “no bigger than eight feet long, three feet wide.”

The raft was clearly homemade.

“I don’t know how it made it, but I’m assuming it made it from Cuba,” Sumner said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

For witness Ana Beaumier, it’s emotional. She came to South Florida from Cuba as a little girl and took home a little piece of the raft as a reminder of why she’s thankful to be here.

“There are no words to describe the emotions that I feel when I see what people do to get to this country,” Beaumier said.

South Florida is ground zero for the Cuban migration crisis. Landings, the culmination of a dangerous voyage, have become an almost daily occurrence, amid an exodus of historic proportions from the economically-distressed island.

Most of the landings have happened in the Florida Keys, but Thursday’s Hollywood landing comes with a level of irony.

It was right off of Freedom Street.

“Clearly the desperation that’s always been there has just amped up these days,” witness Jose Basulto, Jr. said.

If Basulto’s name sounds familiar, it should. His father was the face of Brothers to the Rescue, a Miami-based nonprofit from the 1990s whose sole mission was to rescue Cuban migrants off the Florida Straits, in what became known as the “Cuban Rafter Crisis.”

In 2022, another crisis unfolds. History repeats itself and those living on Freedom Street have a front row seat.

“It’s not safe to be in one of those in the Intracoastal,” Basulto said. “But you see the tiny, tiny, little raft that they painstakingly, over a great deal of time with great ingenuity, put together and they took their shot. They took their shot to get here.”

It’s not clear how many migrants were packed onto the tiny vessel, or whether they made it to land.

Local 10 News has reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard for an answer.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.