It is impossible for Hispanics' political beliefs to go ignored, considering they make up 60.6% of Miami's population according to the 2000 U.S. census.(50) Despite the fact that Hispanics are 12% of the total U.S. population and hold the main political offices in South Florida, they have not achieved political power on the national level like they have in Miami. For example, there had not been a Hispanic in Congress' upper house for 30 years when Mel Martínez and Ken Salazar were elected to the Senate in 2005.(51)

It appears that Cuban Americans dominate Miami 's political system, which makes sense considering over 50%of Miami 's voters are of Cuban descent.(52) In the 1970s, Miami Cubans were united by the fact that they all shared feelings of contempt for Fidel Castro and communism, despite their differences in socioeconomic statuses. In contrast to the 1970s, more recent statistics show divisions amongst Cuban Americans in that they no longer can be characterized as exclusively conservative in their political beliefs. In the early 1990s, the Latino National Political Survey found that 45.5% of naturalized Cubans identified themselves as “moderate” or “liberal.” In addition, a survey done in 1997 found that more than 51% of Miami Cubans would support a dialogue with the Cuban government and that younger residents would be more likely to oppose military action and support opening relations with Castro. These statistics show that Cuban Americans are becoming less stringent in their anti-Castro beliefs, although an anti-Castro and anticommunist sentiment among Cuban Americans is still most visible and influential on politics. It is true that second generation Cuban Americans focus more attention on domestic issues than on Cuba.(53)

Unlike Cuban Americans, the Haitian, Nicaraguan, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Columbian and Honduran populations in Miami have have had more difficulty finding a social and political voice. Phillip Brutus was the first Haitian elected to the Florida State Legislature in 2000.


Important Latinos in Miami Politics

In 1969, “la tribu,” a more radical group of young Cuban Americans, emerged. La tribu started their magazine called Areíto in 1974, and was characterized by their love for Cuba and alienation from the majority of Cuban Americans. This group was partially responsible for initiating “the Dialogue” between the Cuban government and Cubans living in America.(54)

In 1989, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, known as the “darling of the Cuban community,” was the first Miami Cuban to hold a seat in the U.S. Congress. She continued to hold her seat when she defeated a Jewish Democrat from Miami Beach. She helped shape U.S. foreign policy, especially toward Latin America, and advocated human rights and democracy as Chair of the Subcommittee of International Operations and Human Rights.(55)

In 1992, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-born Republican, was elected to the House of Representatives. He helped initiate the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Cuban American Relief Act of 1997 (NACARA), which served to extend legal residency status to immigrants. He also helped preserve the U.S.-Israel relationship and protect U.S. national security.(55)

The mayor of Miami , Manny Diaz, was born in Havana , Cuba . While in office, he has focused on improving the quality of life in all neighborhoods and the economic health of all of Miami . A recent survey reported that 62% of Miami 's neighborhoods are above average in cleanliness. During his term, crime rates have continued to decrease and Miami is no longer considered in danger of fiscal bankruptcy. (56)

Phillip Brutus (D) was the first Haitian American elected to the Florida State Legislature in 2000. In the eyes of Haitian-Americans, his victory represented a step towards their political self-sufficiency. Issues that Brutus deemed important were U.S. policy towards Haiti, domestic affairs such as affordable housing, economic development, healthcare, and tax policy. He also wanted to focus on Little Haiti and reduce crime and unemployment, make health insurance more available and accessible, and improve the economic conditions. He says that he represents not only Haitians, but also back people, all immigrants, and all poor people.(57)

Matti Herrera Bower was born in Cuba and is the Vice Mayor of Miami Beach. She advocates children's rights, supports PTA's, and defends abused and neglected children. She focuses on obtaining safety, equal access, rights, and opportunities for all children.(58)


Important Events in Latino Political History

The curriculum for bilingual education originated in Dade County , Florida in 1960. Due to the large number of incoming Cubans to Miami , there was also a dramatic increase in the number of Cuban children entering the public school district. Thus, parents thought it was necessary for their children to be taught in both the English and Spanish languages. The objective was for the students to learn English, and at the same time retain their Spanish-speaking skills so they would be able to still speak the language when they returned to Cuba after Fidel Castro fell.(55)

On April 17, 1961, Cuban Americans shared their feelings of betrayal by the U.S. government when President Kennedy withdrew all U.S. support from the Cuban Brigade at the Bay of Pigs , after the invasion was already in progress. The “Kennedy betrayal” was one motive for the majority of first wave Cuban Americans to side with Republicans.(55)

Elián González was rescued from an inner tube in the ocean when he was five years old. His mother, who did not survive, intended to migrate to the U.S. with her son and reunite with relatives in Miami . U.S. federal agents took González from his relatives and the government debated how to handle the situation. He was not granted a full asylum hearing, which could have given him asylum in the U.S. if it was proven that he would have been persecuted when he returned to Cuba . Aggressive demonstrations by Cuban Americans included waving the Cuban flag upside down and committing acts of civil disobedience. On June 28, 2000, despite the strong response from most Cuban Americans to allow Elián González to stay in the U.S., President Clinton made the ultimate decision to return him to Cuba. Cuban Americans considered Elián's return to Cuba not only as the U.S. government siding with Castro, but also as another reason to identify with the Republican party.(53) On December 18, 2000, Geraldo Rivera said on Rivera Live , “Elián González won the 2000 presidential election for the Republicans and George W. Bush.”(55)