By the 1980s, Cuba’s economy was again in trouble, following a decline in the market price of sugar and 1979’s decimated harvest. Desperate for money, Cuba’s government secretly sold off paintings from national collections and illicitly traded for U.S. electronic goods through Panama.
Increasing numbers of Cubans fled to Florida, who were labelled “scum” by Fidel Castro. In one incident, 10,000 Cubans stormed the Peruvian Embassy requesting asylum, and so the U.S. agreed that it would accept 3,500 refugees. Castro conceded that those who wanted to leave could do so from Mariel port. Hundreds of boats arrived from the U.S., leading to a mass exodus of 120,000; Castro’s government took advantage of the situation by loading criminals and the mentally ill onto the boats destined for Florida.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan became U.S. president and then pursued a hard line anti-Castro approach. These fascinating photos were taken by Javier Gallego that show street scenes of Cuba in 1985.
Havana. Plaza de la Revolución, 1985
Havana Cathedral, 1985
Havana street scenes, 1985
Havana. National Capitol of Cuba (El Capitolio), 1985