With go-to-hell defiance for both Washington and Havana, the refugee boatlift from Castro's Cuba continued to wash into this tropical port today.
The two-day total is more than 1,300 refugees, with thousands more reported waiting in Cuba for vessels to bring them here.
The tide that began to come in Sunday showed no signs of abating. It has this mellow vacation resort standing on its head. Motels are jammed and city streets carnival-like at 4 a.m.
Fishing boat captains, laughing off threats of prosecution by Washington, were leasing space on their vessels for $1,000 or more per person to take exiles on the 90-mile cruise to pick up relatives at a port near Havana.
Cubans swarmed around the city's docks through the night and all day today, haggling about charter prices, while other clogged the transocean highway through the Florida keys, towing all sizes of pleasure boats for private missions.
Always sensitive to a dollar in the offseason, some local boatmen were offering their vessels for sale. A boat that changed hands yesterday for $10,000 sank, with no loss of life, just after its new owners left port for Cuba.
In Miami, Coast Guard spokesman Mike Kelley said his office has been besieged with calls from boat owners asking how they could make the run to Cuba legally. "We tell them it's againt the law, but some of them have been taking off in 23-foot pleasure boats -- the kind you water-ski with," Kelley said worriedly.
As a result, he said, the Coast Guard has rescued 30 disabled boats in the last 24 hours. "We're trying to do a juggling act here," he said, referring to the Coast Guard's twin responsibilities of rescue and law enforcement.
[He added that so far there are no reports of boats actually being seized for violating the law in making the 180-mile Cuba round trip.]
Withal was an air of incongruity. Sun-pink tourists walked the streets, seemingly oblivious to the human drama around them. Autos bore bumper stickers that said "Russians Out of Cuba" and cartoons of Mickey Mouse gesturing obscenely at Fidel Castro.
Cuban radio carried play-by-play baseball. Voice of America Spanish-language broadcasts carried news of the U.S. warnings that boat operators illegally bringing refugees here face prosecution.
But like the charter captains, the private boat operators paid Washington no heed, quickly taking on provisions and getting their boats into the water.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, for its part, dutifully processed refugees as they landed. The Coast Guard and port officials were helping organize the private boats to cross the straits to Cuba in more secure small flotillas.
"Prosecute these people?" asked the Rev. Vicente Concepcion, of Miami, who fled Cuba in 1961. "Why, there would be a revolution in south Florida." w
If the exiles already here were defiant of Washington, the newly arrived Cubans -- many old, many young, some ailing, all joyous -- were vociferously antagonistic toward the Castro regime they had just left.
Enrique Pla, 13, who came here alone after hiding for 10 days in the Peruvian embassy in Havana clutched a Honda motorcycle brocure and expressed it as well as anyone.
"I had to get out of there," he said. "I've wanted to get out of Cuba since I was young. Now I hope my parents and brother can come here, too."
Enrique was part of a group of 52 that landed early today on a fishing boat that made the trip on calm seas in 12 hours. After processing, they were herded into a holding center a few blocks from Ernest Hemingway's old home.
At the center, they were plied with food and drink and given used clothing. Some children, like the 6-year-old son of Wilber Quesada, fondled new treasures -- in this case, a stuffed mouse, a real mousetrap and an old national Geographic.
Quesada, 32, has reddened eyes after two days without sleep. He smoked dark tobacco cigarettes that he brought with him. He, his wife, and son had spent eight days in the Peruvian embassy compound, awaiting exit.
"When we got on the boat and passed the three-mile limit," he said, "I had the desire to cry and shout at the same time."
Quesada and others described a "chaotic" political situation in Cuba, which they said was intensified by the flood of 10,000 refugees who sought asylum in Peru's embassy.
At current rates, the influx quickly will surpass the 3,500 refugees that President Carter announced he would allow in the United States.
Refugee Quesada, a factory technician, said that as of yesterday 1,700 Cubans remained in Peru's embassy. Castro's boatlift procedures require that for every relative picked up at the port of Mariel, an exile must bring four more Cubans from the embassy.
Information from Mariel was sparse. Several charter boat captains said that maritime radio today indicated a huge pleasure-boat fleet anchored at Mariel, with loading delays of four or five days anticipated.
There also were reports that Cuban authorities were treating the boatlift crews with courtesy were not allowed to land, they reportedly were being given food and drink by the Cubans today.
At the holding center here, Dr. Eliazar gonzalez, 38, a clinical psychologist who landed today with his wife and two children, still showed many of the "perpetual tension" he said many Cubans feel.
"There is an anxiety, a feeling of not knowing which way to turn," he said. "For us, there was to other solution, so we took the risk and hid at the embassy."
He added, "I don't think Fidel counted on this happening. Statistically, 10,000 people in the embassy is a pretty good representation of the feelings of a population of 10 million. When you have the youth -- those born during the Castro years -- wanting to leave, you know something's seriously wrong."
In Miami, staff writer Margot Hornblower reported that about 500 Cuban boat people passed through a makeshift processing center yesterday.
At the center, a vast warehouse on the fairgrounds of Tamiami Park, the refugees filled out federal immigration forms, were fingerprinted and X-rayed. r
Many then joined anxious relatives waiting outside. Others were bused to the Everglades Hotel and other facilities until permanent homes could be found.
It was a visibly happy group, although tired and hungry from 12-hour journey across the straits of Florida in a ragtag flotilla and the four-hour trip by bus from Key West. Most also had spent a week or more in the Peruvian Embassy in Havana, unsure whether they would be allowed to leave their country.
Children romped, trying out hundreds of toys. Mountains of ham sandwiches, barrels of soda pop and piles of free clothes advertised a land of plenty. Everywhere was laughter and euphoria and the babbles of voices.
In one corner of the warehouse, refugees sat at long tables with open-shirted officers from the U.S Immigration and Naturalization Service. They answered a barriage of questions: What is your ethnic affiliation? What is your religion, if any? What specific skills do you have? Why did you leave your country? Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" All were given political asylum request forms to return by June 24.
"They're in a remarkably good mood," said Ruth Zavoli, INS supervisor, who was expecting a new batch of 300 refugees en route from Key West.
"It's wild, absolutely wild," said a medical officer, barely making himself heard over the animated conversations of hundreds of Cubans and the constant ringing of unanswered telephones.