Until recently, Cuban immigration was welcome for both documented (Cubans entering the United States through normal immigration procedures, including legal departure from Cuba) and undocumented Cubans (those arriving in the United States without immigrant visas, who have usually left Cuba illegally). Unlike other immigrant groups, there was not a quota for Cubans entering the United States via normal immigration procedures until 1985. All undocumented Cuban entrants have always been assumed to be refugees fleeing political persecution and have therefore had automatic access to the special benefits that refugees are entitled to.

There have been, since the revolution, three basic waves of Cubans coming to the United States . These groups tend to differ from one another in their opinions and values and have different acculturation experiences, depending partly on when and why they emigrated from Cuba , and partly on their reception in the U.S. (17)

Many of the first Cubans to arrive in the U.S., especially among the earliest groups of immigrants, only expected to stay for a short while before the new government in Cuba was overthrown. With the passing of time, however, some Cuban Americans came to face the possibility that they would not be returning home in the near future, and went about building a new life in their new home. Today approximately 1.2 million Cubans reside in the United States (2000 census).

Soon after their arrival, Cuban immigrants gained a reputation for success, in part because of the relative affluence of the first“golden” generation. However, most Cuban immigrants faced the same struggles as all other immigrant groups. The arrival of the Marielitos in the 1980s led to a backlash from non-Cuban Miamians, as well as by some more established Cuban Americans. Even the most successful Cubans have had to overcome language discrimination and religious intolerance in the U.S.

For the vast majority of Cuban immigrants, Miami , Florida was their new home. In 1960, the Hispanic population of Miami was 50,000; in 1980, it was 580,000; in 2000 it was approximately 800,000. By 1970, 50% of Miami hotel staff members were Cuban American, and in 1980 half of all Miami-area construction companies were Cuban-owned. Today most Cubans in Florida call Miami-Dade County their home, and at the center of their home is Calle Ocho, Eighth Street, in Miami's Little Havana. (18)


Copyright 2000