By Stephen Milder, advanced student in Communication studies (Universidad de Montevideo) and in Economics (UdelaR).

They leave Cuba for Guyana. They then pay a large sum of money to the ‘coyotes’ to be taken by land to Uruguay. On the way, the driver demands another payment under the threat of stopping and leaving them stranded. They end up accepting. A few days later, they arrive in the country under the refugee condition, which they resign shortly after in order to initiate the procedures to obtain legal residence.

The story of two Cubans we interviewed for the “CERES Analyses – A Republic of Immigrants” report in December is shared by many people that arrive in the country in the same way.

The room is small. There are two single beds and a TV on one side. The other side has a closet, a fridge, a counter, and a kitchen. There is another piece of furniture to store essential objects under the windows. Everything is in a twenty square meters room in an irregular boarding house located in the center of Montevideo. They pay 11,000 pesos a month in rent. This is over half the salary that one of these women receives.

The sacrifice has a goal: obtaining Uruguay’s residency to be able to legally leave for the United States.

“Why do you leave Cuba?”

“Because of the country’s economic situation. In Cuba, we used to earn a minimum wage of 250 national pesos—around 10 monthly dollars—which is not enough to live on.”

“Why did you choose Uruguay?”

“Because of the ease in procedures Uruguay offers in terms of residence. We are granted papers so we can go back to Cuba and go out again. Other countries do not offer this possibility.”

There is no doubt that Uruguay offers favorable conditions for the migrant population compared to the bulk of Latin American countries, despite the delays in the residency procedures and the endless requirements to validate academic studies—sometimes of which are out of reach.

Uruguay’s conformation can only be understood by the immigration of those forced to immigrate due to the circumstances or those who glimpsed new opportunities during other times and situations.

With different migratory phenomena occurring in the region, we have the challenge of opening the doors to new immigrants: those coming to invest, those coming to produce, and those just coming seeking a place to feel at ease.

We need them to come, to integrate themselves, and to be one of us. We need them to see Uruguay as a place to settle, instead of simply as an escape route to another place. Therefore, it is vital to eliminate social, cultural, and primarily bureaucratic restrictions so that those who decided to come to Uruguay can offer more of themselves to our country.