Ode To The Sunhippie

Another beautiful wood hulled shrimp trawler is gone, caught this on the way home today, she was in pretty rough shape but still afloat last summer. Turns out she had a very colorful history as well in 1980 the 63.6' Sunhippie brought over 190 refugees from Cuba during the Mariel Boatlift. 

The Mariel boatlift was a mass emigration of Cubans, who traveled from Cuba's Mariel Harbor to the United States between 15 April and 31 October 1980. The term "Marielito" (plural "Marielitos") is used to refer to these refugees in both Spanish and English. The boatlift was precipitated by a sharp downturn in the Cuban economy.

After approximately 10,000 Cubans tried to gain asylum by taking refuge on the grounds of the Peruvian embassy, the Cuban government announced that anyone who wanted to leave could do so. The ensuing mass migration was organized by Cuban-Americans with the agreement of Cuban president Fidel Castro. The arrival of the refugees in the U.S. created political problems for U.S. president Jimmy Carter, first when his administration struggled to develop a consistent response to the immigrants and then when it was discovered that a number of the refugees had been released from Cuban jails and mental health facilities. The Mariel boatlift was ended by mutual agreement between the two governments in late October 1980, after as many as 125,000 Cubans had reached Florida.

This was originally posted in 2014 and on Sep 17 2016 I received the below story from Juan Diaz who was a passenger on her from Cuba at the age of 15.  He is now the Fire Chief of the Mountain View Fire Department in California. 

From Juan -  Here's what I wrote last night: 

To "SunHippie" the greatest shrimp boat that ever was.

Those of you that are close to me know that at my house there's a prominent picture of a shrimp boat. SunHippie originally out of Key West Fla. In May of 1980, after 20 years of my dad and mom trying to leave Cuba for the American Dream we boarded SunHippie. I was 15 years old. This was during the infamous "Mariel Boat Lift" where approximately 120,000 Cubans migrated to the U.S.

Well my dear savior, it was saddening tonight to learn of the details of your demise & that you have been scrapped and left to rot. You were where I ate for the first time in my life an apple and a piece of ham. You gave me my first Coca Cola drink, my first piece of gum and my first milk in a carton (that I didn't know how to open). It was on your deck where I felt freedom for the first time as we were able to openly express our disapproval for the Castro's regime. Remember?  We were chanting USA USA USA Si! Castros No!  These were symbols to me of good life to come in the best country in the world, the USA. You floated us out of misery and into the American fresh air. You made my American Dream possible and for that I have always cherished you.

I visited you on just about every trip to Florida and to your owners Mr. and Mrs. Larry Foltz, I will always be grateful for allowing me to visit you. But this summer you weren't there. I knew you traveled up and down the Atlantic coast shrimping. But something was telling me something was wrong. I knew you were getting old and your old wooden planks built in Spain in 1979 were taking a toll on you. I was lucky to have my kids board your old deck a few years back and for them to appreciate how lucky we were because of you. You navigated the rough waters of the Straits of Florida that warm night and although overloaded with dreamers like me, you safely docked us in Key West. So to you, my savior, I say Thank You "SunHippie" for shining a bright light in my life. May you rest in peace.

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