[Colombians]    [Cubans]    [Dominicans]    [Hondurans]     [Nicaraguans]   [Puerto Ricans]


Colombian migration to the United States has steadily increased since the 1960s. Colombia was considered a peaceful and tranquil country up until the assassination of Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in April of 1948.  In response to his death an urban riot broke out in the capital city of Bogota; an estimated 2,000 people died.  For the following ten years, violence continued between the liberals and the conservatives. During what many Colombians call “La violencia,” an estimated 200,000 people were killed. 32 

The turmoil forced many Colombians to leave the cities. When the violence finally ended in 1957, government leaders reached an agreement to alternate power between the parties.  Peace was short-lived; violence soon broke out again and became commonplace in Colombian society.

The effort to suppress liberal, left wing views resulted in the disappearance, death, and imprisonment of many young subversives.  The political conflict, along with the emerging cocaine market in the 1970’s contributed to 35 years of civil war and unrest. At this time, many educated, middle-class Colombians left for the United States and came demanding well paid jobs and higher salaries.33  Over the next few decades, Colombian immigration increased as internal living conditions deteriorated.

Growing political unrest, violence and poverty have caused many Colombians to leave their native country. Colombia’s economy hit a new low in 1999 when its GDP fell 4.5 percent; that same year unemployment reached 20%.  In 1999, about 182,415 Colombians left their native country just between the months of January and June.  Over three million Colombians are officially registered living abroad, many of which have settled in Miami.34


Cuban immigration began after the victory of the Cuban revolution over the tyrannical leader Fulgenecio Batista in 1959. Batista was feared by the people and looked at as a cruel dictator. He was involved in the mafia and was guilty of many human rights abuses. Despite his flaws, he had the full support of the United States who funded his army. At the time, the US motivated by its fear of a communist/socialist revolution.  After Batista was ousted, Fidel Castro assumed control.  Castro's communist ideology put him at odds with the US government, and he sough to be independent from American interests.

Cuban immigration can be broken down into four waves.  The first wave was comprised of the Cuban elites and occurred approximately between 1960 and 1962.  These successful, educated Cubans fled to the
US to avoid the revolutionary measures of the new Cuban order.  The nationalization of American industry, agrarian reform laws, and the severance of economic and diplomatic ties with the US resulted in substantial personal losses for successful Cubans, and the first wave of Cuban immigration began.  There are two parts to this wave: “those who wait” and “those who escape.”

“Those who wait” were the first to leave. These Cubans thought their departure would be temporary and eventually they would return to
Cuba after US intervention.  “Those who escape” left when they started to discover the revolution was not ending anytime soon. During this time the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis occurred.

The Cubans in the second wave from 1965 to 1974 have been deemed “those who search.”  These economic immigrants left Cuba as the government began to nationalize small businesses. This immigrant population included a larger number of working class people than the previous wave.  Small business owners, independent craftsman, and other mid-level employees made use of President Lyndon Johnson's “open door” policy as they were welcomed in large numbers into the US.

The third wave of Cuban migration is known as the Mariel Exodus which occurred between 1978 and 1980. This immigration was mostly young men of the working class.  Most were unskilled to semi skilled laborers.  The Cuban government looked at them as “scum.” About 40% of the Marielitos were black. There was a fear in the US that these new immigrants were criminals, and it was after this migration that the doors to further migration were closed.

The fourth wave of Cuban immigration started in 1989 and is still in progress today. This wave is known as “Los Balseros”--“those who despair".  In the 1980s,
Cuba’s economic crisis had sunk to a new low. The fall of communism in the Soviet Union had a devastating impact on the Cuban economy.  While Cuba had previously depended on the Soviet Union for trade and economic support, it was now left without this and had very few other resources.  The fourth wave of migration is largely marked also for the significant increase in illegal immigration.  Cubans of all different backgrounds, desperate to flee the reigns of Castro's regime, took rafts and other homemade vessels to travel the 90 miles to Florida.


The Dominican exodus began in the mid-1960’s after an uprising in 1965 aimed to restore President Juan Bosh's power.  Juan Bosch was the country’s first democratically elected president. He was elected after tyrannical leader General Rafael Trujullio was assassinated in 1962.35  Because of Bosch’s refusal to repress the Communist movement he made quick enemies with the US and was eventually exiled to Puerto Rico where he still maintained a loyal following among the Dominican people.  President Lyndon Johnson feared the revolt would turn out like the Cuban revolution, and in response, he sent troops to the Dominican Republic to side with the Dominican army and crush the revolt.  After Juaquin Balaguer was backed by the US and resumed office in 1966, there was a mass exodus of Dominicans to the United States.  Ironically, the United States government was very welcoming to the revolutionaries it had helped to fight against just years before.36

For the next thirty years, the Dominican Republic was plagued with political turmoil and unresolved conflicts. Bosch supporters were violently suppressed for nearly ten years after the 1966 election. Thousand of Dominicans were killed and even more suffered from poverty and government brutality. Although the US was aware and partly responsible for the atrocities, they still would not recognize Dominicans as political refugees as they had the Cubans.37  Although many Dominican immigrants traveled to New York, there were 36,454 Dominicans in Miami-Dade County in 2000.38


War broke out in Honduras after several hundred thousand illegal Salvadoran immigrants entered in 1963 following the overthrow of the El Salvador democratic government by a military junta.  While the war lasted only five days, it had serious and long-lasting repercussions.  Violence on the border along with the ousting of elected official Ramón Ernesto Cruz in 1971 led to instability in Honduras.
Political unrest continued through the 1970s and into the 1980s.  Insurgent activity emerged as a problem in the 1980s when the Contras began using
Honduras as a base for their action against the Nicaraguan government.  Hondurans became very agitated with the Contras presence in their country and started protesting to express their discontent with the status quo.  The situation escalated and a formal declaration of a state of emergency was made.  During this period, many Hondurans found their way to the US to escape the turmoil.  The problem with the Contras ended in 1989, and Honduras enjoyed peace and economic prosperity for a few years.  Hurricane Mitch in 1998 left 5,600 people dead and millions homeless.39  According to Honduran Immigration Director Reina Ocho, about 300 Hondurans left each day, most of which came to the US.40


For more than 40 years, the United States supported the dictatorial rule of the oppressive dictating Somoza family in Nicaragua.  The people of Nicaragua eventually turned against the Somozas after the 1972 Earthquake in 1972 destroyed much of the capital Magua. While most Nicaraguans were busy trying to save people and reassemble their city back, Somoza soldiers and followers embezzled millions of dollars worth of relief supplies.44

Soon after, a group of revolutionaries called the Sandinista National Liberation Front emerged. At this point the
United States was still backing the Somozas despite the hatred the government had acquired from the people.  Finally in 1979, President Carter arranged for a peaceful removal of the Somoza regime. By the time this happened, the Sandinista had already assumed control.  In the 1980s, the Reagan administration began backing a contra army of Somoza soldiers. Reagan ordered the CIA to train, arm, and fund the Contra Army.  After a series of secretive and illegitimate transactions transcended as part of the Iran-Contra Scandal, Nicaraguans had begun to emerge as a growing population in the US which sought to leave behind the political turmoil and violence that had come to characterize Nicaragua.45

Puerto Ricans

Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Puerto Rico in 1493.  The Charter of Autonomy in 1897 later confirmed Spain’s autonomy in Puerto Rico. However, The Spanish American War of 1898 had great consequences for European imperialism, and Puerto Rico came under United States control.41

Puerto Ricans started migrating to the
United States around the 1840s. Other periods of large-scale migration were from 1910-1940, and during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Puerto Ricans also migrated steadily during the period of the Second World War. The Jones Act passed in 1917 made Puerto Ricans citizens of the United States, and new immigrants to the US were quickly used for their labor as well as in the military.42

Today, Puerto Ricans residing in the United States have slowly tried to assimilate into the American culture while at the same time embracing their rich and distinct Puerto Rican culture. This is evident from the cultural activities and festivities that are celebrated in the United States, such as the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, a large celebration with floats, music, dance and marches.  In addition, the Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade and Festival in Hartford, Connecticut helps Puerto Ricans embrace their roots while in the northeast.43

Site created by Kim Brow, Carmen Lafia, and Umang Malhotra 2004