Lecture Notes: Cuban-Americans in Miami



About 1.7 million Cubans or people of Cuban descent.

Who are these guys?

Almost 100% of Cuban population is urban and over 52% are in Miami/ Ft.

As usual, lets begin with a statistical tour of the Cuban-American
population and the context in which they live.

Florida is fairly unremarkable state in term of it socio-economic ranking

High service dependence

Most remarkable is that it is first in terms of violent crime--- a lot of
this in its major cities.

As with other states, it is increasingly Hispanic (not necessarily Cuban)

				1995				2025

White				12 M				16.5 M
Black				2M				3.5M

Hispanic			1.9M				4.9M

What about Dade County?

Closer to size of San Antonio-- 2 million in 1995

In the aggregate, Dade County is poorer and less educated than the state
as a whole

(but this is hiding a great deal of inequality and difference inside the

A major part of this is geographical.

 a great deal of racial and ethnic segregation. (Map of the city)

50 % of the population is Hispanic

60% of these are Cubans (30% of total Dade)

other major groups are Nicaraguans, Colombians, and Dominicans

Hispanic population largely classifies itself as white (87%)-- note
difference with LA

Spanish language much stronger here as roughly 90% of Hispanics claim they
speak it at home.

Part of this has to do with large groups of recent immigrants.

Fully 45% of the population is foreign born!
 How about the measures we have used before on education and income?

Census numbers available are for Hispanic Pop in Dade County-- I will give
you more exact Cuban numbers in a minute.


Non-H H: 25% of those >25 w/o HS Diploma
Hispanics: 45%

Non-H H: 24% of those >25 have a college degree
Hispanics: 14%

Note that these numbers are still better than LA.


per capita income for Non-H in 1989: $13,600
per capita income for Hispanics in 1989: $10,800

much less of a gulf than we had seen previously.

You also see a little MORE of a middle class (a la San Antonio)

51% of Hispanic families under 25K and 6.7% over 75 K

Lets just look at Cubans (not just in Miami)


46% did not have a HS diploma and 16% had a bachelors degree.
note the spread-- the below HS numbers do not change very much but the
college numbers go up.

What is going on?  A generation effect.  US born Cuban Americans have
actually a better educational performance than Anglos!

much more bimodal distribution of key characteristics inside the

important here to remember that Median age in 1980 was 37.7 vs. 30 for US.

about half the ratio of people under 18 years old as found in other
Hispanic groups.

much lower fertility and reproduction rates.

actually a population whose demographic presence might begin to decline.

In income, 

Cubans were lagging behind Anglos, but came close to average of Dade
County as a whole--- way ahead of other Hispanic groups.

If we look  at Cuban Americans born in the US, however, C-Aís do better
than Anglos again.

55% of US born CA had HH incomes over 30K vs. 44% of Anglos
37% of US born CA had HH incomes over 50K vs. 18.1% of Anglos

Very few US born CA under poverty line.

Not surprisingly, much higher rates of professional and managerial

Also big generational differences when you are dealing with identity---

 much more identification with US than with Cuba.----

and much lower levels of use of Spanish.

Yet, interestingly, second generation claim higher levels of
discrimination than 1st generation.

You have a very clear case of extremely successful assimilation into US
society following a relatively successful immigrant experience.

Certainly if we look at family structures, we see less of the disruption
found in other Latino communities.

Fewer kids in one parent families

Important to remember both sides of the story----

Lets first look at how they got here.

Cuban presence in the US actually goes back to 19th century.

Dating back to migrations form development of cigar industry in the US in
the 1850s and 1860s

waves following dislocation caused by first war o independence and then

Centers included New York, Key West, New Orleans, and Tampa

Latter is home to a relatively large CA community that has been here for
several generations.
But the most dramatic growth begins after revolution in 1959

Came over in four big waves: 1959-1961, 1961-65, 1980, and now 1994..

Rough numbers (the best I could come up with)

1961-1965: 500,000

1980: 125,000

1994: 30,000

First two waves fit the traditional image of relatively white from MC and
upper class

Mariel and 1994 waves have tended to be more from working class and also
larger percentage of black or mulatto.

Next we will turn to what this population did in terms of political and
economic success.


Cuban American Politics

CA Politics in Miami are important because they represent one possible
model for obtaining national prominence.

Moreover, they represent a very different model of identity politics.

Finally, they have served as a precursor of a lot of issues

First bilingual program in 1963

First English-only movement in 1980

a lot of anti-immigrant feeling in 1960s, 1980 and in 1994.

great concern is that it represents a prominent example of Latino-Black

We can look at this on three levels:

1) Political preferences of the CA community


2) Dynamic of national influence

Regional concentration

3) Exile Representation

Relationship with Cuba

1) Political preferences of the CA community


important to realize that despite reputation o the community, CA are not
necessarily more likely to participate in political activities

tends to be correlated with same things as in the rest of the pop:
education and income

same thing with political knowledge.

there is the fanatical Cuba issue, but again this is arguably a minority

traditionally dominated by Republican party--- 

up to 70% in vote

in 1989-90, close to half said they were Republicans and only <15%

but in 1996, gave half of support to Clinton

The Republican support is partly a reflection of conservative position of
the community


class position
but more has to do with exploitation of single issue of Fidel

the two congressional representatives are republican

but their support has to do with leadership of anti-Castro efforts.


anti-communism and anti-Castroism

in 1985, 3/1 margin against normalizing relations with Cuba

50% supported a US invasion (Miami)

this remained in 1989, but a considerable difference with the younger
generation being more willing.

Manichean view of ideology and politics

includes an unwillingness to accept opposition voices in the community

Max Castro account of different Miami Herald and Nuevo Herald headlines.

Different view of the US

seen much more a s a savior

involves an element of reciprocity

difference  on ethnic discrimination with older CA not seeing that much
discrimination against "Latinos"

this goes along with a refusal to be seen as a minority

exiles not migrants

but this hasnít stopped a lot of Cubans form using "minority benefits"

root of anger with 1994 decision on rafters.

			generation gap here

increasingly however some link with other groups on opposition to English
only, etc.

less support for increased government spending

for example, much lower levels of support for government spending oriented
toward its own community (different from MEX and PR)

small level of distrust in government as in population, but older
generation seems to rust government more.

increasing activity in labor unions as the middle-class enclave effect
2) Dynmaics of influence

Openly dominant in local politics

increasingly difficult to find prominent Dade Co. politicians who doesnít
have a link to Cuban community

part of the reason is turnout

in a congressional election 70% Cuban turnout vs. 33% for Black pop.

Needs of Cuban community tend to predominate

Not only doe sit help if you are Cuban

you have to cater to Cuban tastes and sensibilities

Very nasty politics with accusations of everything imaginable.

Cultural dominance is probably the most extensive of any of the cities we
have looked at

You have Spanish culture thrown in your face quite a bit in Miami

Businesses-- "English spoken here"

Bilingual Ed in Coral Gables school in 1963

1973 declaration of bilingual county

1976 creation of El Herald.
one reason why is has been the home of some of the worst political
backlash against Latinos.

1980 English Only

support from non-elite whites

some support from Black population

Latin-Black relations are probably the worst in Miami

black population has practically been 


geographic isolation

lack of resources 

This dominance may be shattered by increasing class divisions inside Dade
County and the splitting off of the County into different incorporated

Also influential nationally

Cuban Americans dispropotionally able to influence US foreign policy

especially towards Cuba but also on other issues such as Angola and

US policy remains an embargo and a refusal to deal with Fidel regime.

establishment of Radio and TV Marti

virtual veto power over relevant bureaucratic appointments



became the dominant player in the 1980s in alliance with Reagan.

led by Jorge Mas Canosa

wealthy businessman

autocratic tendencies

widely seen as a potential dictator in post-Castro Cuba

political and economic intimidation

links to more extreme groups (Alpha, Omega) who have engaged in terrorism.

several defeats-- most prominently Fidel is still there.

but still dominant.

major backer of Helms-Burton


gave $750,000 to candidates

individual members gave even more

can target and destroy politicians

 Regional concentration

Miami plays  major role in Florida politics

Cubans way over-represented in terms of issues since they are only 7% of
electorate in Florida-- but they can be "purchased" easily.

Pain/pleasure syndrome in US politics

3) Exile Representation

declining levels of identification with the community and positive
self-image thereof.

CANF and Conservative Wing


AM Radio has played a major role in propagating the right wing views

also dominate the two major newspapers

at times has exercised veto on Miami Herald.


Left of center group composed of business men and some academics

(I am member)

position is some negotiation with Fidel

dismantling of embargo

relatively small popular base (even if large part of the pop may agree)

Cambio Cubano

	Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo.


Antonio Maceo Brigade

remains fairly marginal.

Relationship with Cuba

The dismantling of a community?

Next we turn to the economic souses of the CA


As we have seen, the Cubans are the most successful major Hispanic group
in the country.

They have higher individual and family incomes

more professionals

More importantly: more businesses

For example, while Miami only has 5% of the Latino population in the US, 

half of the 40 largest Hispanic owned business are there-- including 2 of
the three largest.

with its.30,000 businesses it has by far the highest rate of per capita
business ownership in the country

Cuban owned firm had $5.5 billion in sales in 1987

Total receipts for Hispanic firms in Miami were $3.8 billion--- $450
million more than in LA and $2.1 billion more than in New York!

these numbers and reputation should not make us think that all Miami
Cubans are rich and powerful.

remember that we talked about a generation effect with elderly not doing
so well as the "yuca" generation.

for example of 25,000 business in 1982, only 12% had any employees and
they all together generated only less than 19,000 jobs.

the word business may be an exaggeration of a Mami y Papi cafe stand.

Hispanics in Miami (no way to break it down) are still over-represented in
manual professions.

Nevertheless, the Cuban population ( as we saw in the statistics at the
beginning of the course) outperforms other Hispanic groups.

How do we explain this?

Individual level approach:

Human capital:

Cubans came over with particular skills.

Cuban version of Protestant ethic

knowledge of no-return focused efforts

A common Cuban answer (and it is relevant in what it says about the
Cuban-American culture which will become relevant in a little bit)

"Cubans just work harder and are smarter"
Demographic/Family Structure

interesting that when you look at data on an individual level as opposed
to family, you get less of a gulf between Cubans and other groups.


low fertility 

no kids

high female labor participation

Cuban females employment often served as a supplement as opposed to major

three generation family

come over in family units that allow economies of scale in household

take care of grandkids

steady source of income from social security

Structural Approach

Places emphasis on context in which population exists.

Stepick and Grenier say that Cubans possessed three critical forms of


Money--- some actually were able to get money out and they formed a base.

Knowledge: training and education

Networks: knew US employers or had contacts with future buyers or

another important aspect was availability of loans because in some banks
loan officers were Cubans who were willing to give loans on the basis of
known character.

Timing: during 1960s boom.


race effect: people were more ready to hire them because they "looked"

displaced part of the African-America population through this.

data uncertain on this process

 Refugee status: 

had protection of the law

did not have to spend a lot of money or time protecting themselves

Cuba professionals had government assistance in re-creating their status

$$$ support from government

75% of Cuba arrivals before 1974 received some government help.

could take IRS losses from property in Cuba

offered direct assistance

CIA one of the largest employer sin the State of Florida

Great Society-- provided state support

educational grants

school loans

Affirmative action

 Social/Community Solidarity

Solidarity through language and national origin

automatic support network

careful not to romanticize it, but it exists

Cuban enclave employment

Perhaps the most important aspect of this is the number of Cubans who work
for other Cubans or for themselves

of  Cuban Mariel refugees after 6 years in the US, 45% employed by fellow

and another 28% self-employed.

compared to 14.6% and 5.4% for Mexicans.
Progression from arrival.

these jobs have advantages for employees

no new language necessary

working with compatriots

for the employers:

they provide loyal employees with emotional links to owner 

low levels of unionization

cheaper source of labor

for example--- garment sweat shops in Miami beginning in the 1960s.

some also found in Union City

construction business finds similar "short-cuts"

if we look at recent immigrants from the 1970s and 1980s we find that

a) they spend some years under poverty line-- low wages do mean economic

b) BUT they rise out of this relatively quickly outstripping comparative
groups who came in at the same time.

(interesting gender effect here in that female employment lags behind


less alienating

less disempowering?

often not a dead-end job, but with some possibility of advancement

Foe employers and suppliers-- provide a base of loyal customers.

a survey in mid-1980s or 1980 Mariel refugees found that 75% to 80% 

lived in Cuban neighborhoods

shopped in Cuban stores

buying Cuban products

consuming Cuban media

Ethnic solidarity often used to excuse exploitation and thus ethnic

Willingness to accept low wages because of cultural flexibility

Community investment--

less "Cuban middle-class flight"

more investment in community?

 Cubans provide for one another

Again, this is nto to deny the very poverty which exists in the Cuban

but solidarity tends to disguise it

this makes the pain often worse

but it might also work in a functional way.

Moral community

linked to Manichean vision of refugee experience

expectation of brotherhood


Solidarity has a very ugly side in that it helps to maintain the Cuban

refusal to recognize race as an issue in Cuba

refusal to recognize race as part of Cuban-American experience.

competition might solidify ethnic solidarity

Cultural explanation

I want to suggest a mechanism through which all these might work

This is related to the self-vision of the Cubans discussed above

Not supported by a scientific research but by a set of personal

That is that the Cubans might succeed because they cannot imagine another
possible fate.

Let us consider how each of the elements discussed above might contribute
to this

Human capital:

view as professionals

come with a high degree of socialization to success


support this vision through familial "legends"


Entry into the US is accompanied by  perceptive support

Enclave contributes to this image

Employers and other authorities are Cuban

Pintado family story

examples and idea of refugee aristocracy