Why does Miami attract so many Cubans? (includes multimedia content)

Freedom Tower, Downtown Miami, Florida. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Migration from Latin America northward has been common for centuries. In the last 63 years, a particular group has migrated on a massive scale to the United States –Cubans.

Back in Cuba, many residents are faced with the difficult decision to either stay in their home country where they face extreme poverty and an oppressive regime, or flee to Florida, where there are better opportunities. This often means leaving everything behind.

To better understand why Cubans make the complex and difficult decision to leave their homes and culture, you must first learn about the history of the Cuban Revolution and how it caused the spike in the Cuban population in Miami.  

American society started to calm down after World War II and settle into the idealistic life of the 1950s. The 50s were a decade of economic upswing and the rise of family values and a better future was ahead. However, by the end of the decade and the beginning of the 1960s, the tension between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union and its allies was growing.

After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of World War II, more countries became interested in the development of atomic weapons. This interest would begin the “arms race” between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviet Union built and tested its very own atomic bomb named the Joe-1, while the U.S set out to make an atomic bomb that was bigger and more destructive to keep its place as a world power. Suddenly, the threat of global annihilation that came to be known as the Cold War was amongst the public. 

In the mid-50s, uprisings started in Cuba against the corrupt President Fulgencio Batista, which morphed into the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro’s rise to power. Then many upper-class Cuban citizens began fleeing to the United States.

Cuba also became the next testing ground for nuclear weapons as it allied itself with the Soviet Union.

The second wave of Cubans fleeing the country came from various class levels in the early 1980s. Cuban citizens were worn out from the economic hardships from spike drops in oil prices they continued to face. There was also heavy governmental pushback for owning private property from former President Fidel Castro.

Before the ’80s, Cuba’s borders were closed until former President Fidel Castro, opened up emigration from the port of Mariel. The people who left Cuba during this period were known as the Marielitos because of this port, and at this point, Miami’s culture was influenced by the large Cuban community. Many people’s lives changed as they were given a chance for freedom. Many of them decided to stay in Miami where they could have a taste of home and community. 

Migrating to a new country is difficult for anyone, especially if the immigrants are not familiar with the language and culture of the place they are immigrating to. This was the case for many Cubans, so to combat this, the Freedom Tower was built to act as a Cuban assistance center by providing various help to Cuban immigrants. The Freedom Tower is located in the heart of Miami and became a historical landmark for its role in assisting Cubans during a time when the large influx of refugees in a short period of time overwhelmed the U.S government and couldn’t be solely handled.

Historical landmarks like the Freedom Tower are all around the city and represent freedom and a new life to many Cuban immigrants who were born in a country that limited their opportunities. As many more Cuban immigrants continue to settle into the country, they bring their culture to Miami. Nowhere can this be seen more than with the creation of Little Havana, a Miami neighborhood that is known for its rich Cuban culture and as a haven for new immigrants.

After Little Havana came Hialeah, which is also a very populated Cuban neighborhood. Hialeah also has one of the largest Spanish-speaking communities in the country and is known for its Cuban culture from the food to the Spanish-speaking businesses. Hialeah’s familiar feel and central location make it a convenient place to stay in sprawling Miami-Dade County.

Because of the path of early Cuban immigrants, residing in Miami became “easier” than other cities and states because of the resources that were set up to help the younger generation gather the required identification papers, resources, and medical examinations. Miami and its culture bring a sense of home and familiarity that other states in the U.S cannot replicate as well. 

Isabella Naranjo is currently an undergraduate student at Florida International University who is currently studying to get her bachelor’s degree in Digital Communications and Media, with an area of concentration in design and photography. She hopes to one day work in the media and fashion industry as an artistic director and hopes to design campaigns that will be shown all around the world.  

Stephanie Harrigan is a senior at Florida International University pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and Digital Media with a concentration in Digital + Interactive Media. Harrigan has a passion for creativity, storytelling and video production to come to life. She loves working both in front and behind the scenes of production.

Lindsey Perez is an Interactive and Digital Media senior graduating in 2023 from Florida International University. She is passionate about creating informative videos, graphics, and documentaries on important topics. She plans on continuing her career path as a social media manager and content creator for a well-rounded company. Including the creation of original graphics and reports.