Skip to comments.They tried sailing a Chevy, then they gave the Buick a go
Posted on 03/24/2005 5:29:56 PM PST by MadIvan
SOME Cubans are so desperate to cross the Florida Straits for a new life in America that they have attempted the journey on surfboards, in bathtubs and even in converted refrigerators.
But none has been as determined, or as ingenious, as Luis Grass.
Señor Grass, 30, whose two previous attempts to make the voyage in propeller-driven vintage cars ended in glorious, headline-grabbing failure, has finally arrived in the United States with his family after his third try.
This time he came overland an epic, 24-day, 1,140-mile journey.
Trying to cross the Florida Straits on my floating cars was easier, I can tell you that, a beaming Señor Grass said in Miami at the end of a journey that took him, his wife and five-year-old son through snake- infested forests and out of sight of hostile border guards in six countries.
Señor Grass and his long- suffering wife, Isora, 27 he thanked her for going along with his crazy schemes carried their son Angel Luis from San José, Costa Rica, where their journey began on February 16, through Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, making their way on foot, by hitchhiking, and in taxis and buses, to the US.
To avoid detection, he said, they struggled through jungles where they encountered snakes, monkeys and every insect possible and often slept in the open. It was hellish, we suffered a lot, his wife said. This last trip was the scariest. But we are finally here.
Señor Grass, not only a man who refuses to give up, but a master of understatement, added: We kept a positive attitude. It was an attitude that took him and his family across the Mexico-US border on March 12, a dry land arrival that allows him to apply for permanent residence in America.
Señor Grass was already Cubas most famous rafter, one of the hundreds who try to flee the rule of Fidel Castro every year by sailing across the Florida Straits in homemade boats.
The US Coast Guard are still marvelling at his two attempted crossings in 2003 and last year, when he twice got to within 40 miles of the Florida coast before being intercepted. His first voyage was in a converted 1951 Chevrolet, and the second on a floating 1959 Buick.
At his press conference in Miami this week, Señor Grass, a mechanic, said his Chevrolet wagon, which he had placed on 55 metal drums before loading it with nine friends and his family, was his greatest creation. In addition to attracting international headlines it triggered an hilarious exchange between Cuban security guards in Havana and their superiors.
When the Cuban guards saw the 1951 Chevy hit the water running, and then begin sailing out to sea, they radioed headquarters to report that a truck was headed to Miami.
According to Señor Grass, they were reprimanded and told to stop drinking while on patrol.
When the refugees were intercepted by the US Coast Guard 40 miles from Key West, everyone was taken off and sent home.
The Coast Guard sank the vessel in a hail of gunfire a criminal act, according to Señor Grass. That truck was everything to me. Its a symbol of freedom, a way of helping the world understand why people flee Cuba. He says that he wants to build a replica.
Even his wife, whose life Señor Grass admits endangering three times, conceded that it was sad to see that truck that was in our family so long scuttled.
Undeterred, in February last year Señor Grass again tried to reach Florida, this time in a floating Buick. Once again the family were intercepted, but this time they were sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they waited for asylum. In December, the US Government and Costa Rica struck a deal that allowed the Grass family to live in San José, the capital.
Under US law, Cubans who are intercepted at sea, even if just a few feet from shore, must be repatriated. But if they touch land they can remain on parole status for a year before applying for residency.
After their latest journey by land, the family finally crossed the Mexican border by bus at Matamoros, immediately surrendering to US immigration officials. This week they were allowed to travel by van to Miami to stay with Ruben Garcia, Señor Grasss brother-in-law. A peace has finally come over me now that my wife and son are here in the United States, he said.
Wilfredo Allen, his lawyer in Miami, said that Señor Grass had already received two job offers: one as a mechanic in a haulage company, and another as a mechanic in one of citys biggest Chevrolet dealers. It is unlikely, however, that his skill at converting them into boats will be required again.
Too true! Putting innocent Americans to death is almost enough to make a Floridian flee to Cuba!
Well I wouldn't go that far.
North to Georgia is just fine.
Good thing he did it now...General Motors is thinking about shutting down Buick. It would have been a real hassle getting parts later if he waited too long.
If you support the forcible dehydration and starvation of a disabled woman, you have some bloody nerve calling me sick.
Sigh. I search in vain for a non-TerriAllTheTime thread.
He could even make money bringin' old Chevy's into the States. A few tri-fives ('55,'56 & '57's) would put him on easy street.
Big ugly '59 Buicks will still sell, but they're just not as valuable. Although, they probably would be easier to sail with those "wings".
Bless these Cubans. I'm for tight immigration controls but I'd like to see them stay, one, they are fleeing Communism, and two, I admire resourceful people like these, we need more people like them. Anyone that really puts it on the line by making a car/truck float, well, they deserve to stay in the U.S. My hats off to them. I do agree with you about not staying in Florida, if they can go the 90 miles to Florida, I think the old bucket has a lot of life left in her to take them to Georgia.
Sorry, I'll do better with my next article. There are only a few Terri articles in the British press.
Georgia or Alabama. I must say I liked Mobile, Alabama.
I hope this guy lands himself a gazillion dollar movie deal. I know I'd buy a ticket to see it, and I'm sure he'd put the money to excellent use.
It's just that, frankly, I'm sick of all the repetitive Terri stuff over and over with nothing new being offered; FR is sinking under the boring weight of it all. The same bombastic comments are popping up everywhere, relevant or not.
FWIW It's a 6-7 hour drive to the state line from Tampa-St.Pete area, probably a 10-12 hour drive from Miami or Key West. Are you proposing a wager? LOL
I welcome this guy to the US.
These guys are a hoot. Fleeing communism is not usually done with such panache.
They need their own show on Discovery, a la Junkyard Wars.
And I agree. I've read enough about the Schaivo case to know where I stand on this issue and have learned to skim quickly past references to it on an unrelated thread, sort of like a mental filter.
Tell me what this guys status is again ? Political refuge or illegal alien ?
Oh, and if he wants to open an auto shop, I am ready to invest.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.