Since Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959, thousands of Cubans left the island due to political persecution. Leaving via boats and other forms of watercraft – despite the risks – became a popular route for many. This method gained steam during the Mariel Boatlift. As hardships and tensions mounted, more and more Cubans were taking to the ocean in hopes of arriving to other countries, especially the United States. Many of these individuals opted for using self-made rafts to reach freedom. They became known as balseros, or rafters. In August of 1994, hundreds of Cubans spontaneously took to the streets to protest the attempts of the government to keep them from fleeing via ocean. Fidel Castro’s response was to once again announce that the Cuban Coast Guard would temporarily cease enforcing laws against using the sea as an escape route. Over 32,000 Cubans left the island on water vessels – mostly makeshift rafts – in the period of August 1994 and 1995, with the majority once again arriving in Miami, Florida.