The choice between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is highlighting an inter-generational divide between young Cuban-Americans born in the United States and those who experienced Fidel Castro’s regime firsthand, then migrated to the United States.
After decades of Cuban-Americans supporting the GOP, younger voters are shifting left. Over 56% of Cubans ages 18 to 49 identified with the Democratic Party compared to 39% of those who are 50 years and older, according to the Pew Research Center.
Ruben Escobar, 18, said he will be voting for Biden in part because the candidate has stated he would build on Obama-era policies towards Cuba.
“It’s an honor,” he said. “I feel that as voters in this election, we have to be well informed as the stakes are high.”
Escobar was born in the United States in 2002. His parents and siblings migrated in the early 2000s. All are Democrats.
He has spoken to several families around his neighborhood. Some seem to fear a “second Castro-like regime” if the former vice president is elected.
“And now we are left with those who migrated over here and now will be voting for the first time such as myself, who have a certain reverence for the vote, as we know what this means to us [Cubans],” said Escobar.
But Yasibel Alvarez, 18, who was born in Cuba, said she is voting for Trump because of what she saw growing up.
“Raised in Cuba and seeing how bad a communist regime could be for the people… as well as being a first-generation Cuban, I feel that it was my duty [to vote],” she said.
In this presidential election, she will be looking for a candidate who will improve relations with Cuba, not set them back.
“I will closely pay attention to each of the candidates and what each of them have to offer me… not only me but the Cuban community as well,” said Alvarez.
Her family believes a Biden Administration will be a “step closer to a communist state,” she said.
“I feel like most Cuban-Americans will vote for Trump because coming from a regime where freedom and success were not something they could attain, they feel that voting for Trump instead of Biden will guarantee them that success and freedom which was stripped away from them during the Castro government,” said Alvarez.
For the last 28 years, Julio Martinez, president of the Republican club of Hialeah, has worked at the voter precinct located at John F. Kennedy Library in Hialeah. The Vietnam War veteran and Cuban-American said his community normally favors the GOP.
“Traditionally this is true, I know exactly how the people vote over here, especially with Cubans who tend to lean towards the Republican party,” said Martinez. “I think that every citizen, especially those of us who come from another country deserve to pay back our country through our vote.”
He acknowledges, though, that there are a significant number of Cubans who will be supporting Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris.
According to the Cuba poll conducted by Florida International University, a majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County have supported Trump’s policies towards Cuba. Additionally, the poll estimates 59% of the community will vote for the current president.
Done since 1991, this year the poll was done through a series of random telephone surveys from July 7 to Aug. 17. The survey included 1,002 participants.
Over 367,233 Cuban-Americans are registered Republicans in Florida, and 180,227 are registered as Democrats.
As indicated by the poll, 52.6% of Cubans in the district are registered as Republicans, while 25.8% are under the Democratic party. The remainder is either independents or members of minor parties.
“The poll is a bit interesting in terms of identifying where Cuban-Americans see themselves politically, but does not necessarily represent the community as a whole,” said Maria Lopez, vice-chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.
Lopez, who was born in Cuba, said Republicans have focused more on the conservative Cuban exile community, but the politics of the group are much more complex.
“The new wave of Cuban-Americans who are voting for Trump, are Cubans who still have this lingering fear of communism,” she said. “They need to really sit down and consider the policies proposed by both candidates.”