Faculty File: Hialeah
history Professor Patricia
Fernandez-Kelly explores the world of the Cuban immigrant
The sunny climes of Hialeah, Florida, are not your typical, academic
But sociology professor Patricia Fernandez-Kelly has been so taken
with the city, which sits northwest of Miami, and the sociological
richness of its predominantly Cuban exile population that she hopes
to "place Hialeah on the academic map."
Fernandez-Kelly has written numerous books on international economic
development, gender, the labor force, and related topics. She also
coproduced the 1986 Emmy award-winning documentary The Global Assembly
Line, which took viewers inside the new global economy and the lives
of working women and men in the free-trade zones of developing countries
and North America.
Fernandez-Kelly says she has been an informal observer of Hialeah
for more than a decade. Most of her scholarly has gone into examining
the Cuban-American working class in Hialeah and South Florida. Her
Alumni Day 2002 lecture was entitled "Hialeah Dreams: The Remaking
of the Cuban-American Working Class in South Florida."
Her work on Hialeah covers the history of the city, once envisioned
as a playground for the rich. The Hialeah racetrack, which opened
its doors in 1925, was the jewel in that playground. But Cuban exiles,
fleeing Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, finished the work started
by World War II veterans and city planners and turned it into a
working-class community. "It became an affordable Eden,"
Fernandez-Kelly, who was born in Mexico City and earned her doctorate.
at Rutgers in 1981, describes the city as "a place where different
groups have left their imprint while trying to create a sample of
what life should be like."
Several waves of Cuban exiles, beginning right after Castro's
takeover in 1959 and continuing through to the Freedom Flights (1965-1973),
the Mariel boatlift in 1980, and the "balseros" or boat
people of the late 1990s, have created what Fernandez-Kelly says
is the most economically successful immigrant enclave in U.S. history.
Hialeah is the only U.S. industrial city that continues to grow,
Hialeah and south Florida are also home to many practitioners
of the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, which mixes Roman Catholic
and African religions, says Fernandez-Kelly. The city took one church
all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the ritual of animal
sacrifices, but the court sided with the Church of the Lukumi Babalu
Aye in 1993.