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Cuban Exodus of the 1960s
Whether studying the history of the world, or the history of a specific country, the 1960s were an era whose influence is felt in diverse ways, even into the 21st century. The 1960s is a decade ripe for study by historians with diverse interests. Whether a historian or student of history wishes to consider international relations, military strategy, methods of advertising, popular culture, scientific & technological developments, or civil rights, there is ample content from the 1960s to satisfy most appetites. The 1960s is known for several dominant features including explosions in areas of art, music, and film; expansion of perspective regarding topics such as sexism, racism, and other forms of civil injustice; as well as wars and revolutions happening in at least one place on nearly every continent. Many forms of art, music, and thinking would not exist today without the counterculture and cultural tensions of the 1960s. The 1960s were further known for the extent of political conflict, grassroots movements, and social activism, all of which were additionally happening around the world. Of all the historical events and happenings of the 1960s, the focus of this paper will be upon the exodus from Cuba during this decade. Cuba was a country at the forefront of world news for many reasons during the 1960s, including the mass exodus of Cubans from the island during a revolutionary period. In the 21st century, people do not conceive of Miami without thinking of Cuba, Cubans, and Cuban culture, but in the 1960s, Miami endured a great cultural transition with the entrance of many Cubans into the city. This event touches my life personally as my parents would not have met had the exodus not occurred and I would not exist today to reflect upon how this historical event from the 1960s affected my existence.
Militaries and guerilla armies around the world were very active during the 1960s. A general knowledge and awareness of this period would include knowledge of the many wars during the 1960s including the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Six Days War, the Arab -- Israeli Conflict, the Algerian War, and the Portuguese Colonial War. While these were international conflicts, there were many internal conflicts as well such as the Cultural Revolution in China, the student riots in France, riots across the United States of America, and the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico. With regard to Cuba, notable political events of the decade include the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cuban Revolution, the tightening of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the (first) Cuban exodus. The roots of the revolution and exodus trace back into the 19th century, but the more notable events include an armed revolt led by Fidel Castro against dictator, Fulgencio Batista, which initiated the revolution in 1953. After approximately six years of brutal conflict, Castro forcibly removed Batista's regime and instated his revolutionary government.
The collapse of the regime headed by dictator Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959 opened a totally new era for Cuba. In the past, dating back to the first president of the republic, a long series of political frustrations -- due mostly to inept leadership -- had marked the Cuban political scene. This was accompanied as well by a history of various degrees of significant and often crucial American influence on the island. Yet, by the end of 1959, an exodus from revolutionary Cuba had started in huge proportions. This was indeed an unprecedented phenomenon in Cuban political history, since even during the harsh repression of colonial times, or during previous dictatorships after independence, Cubans went into exile in small numbers but did not leave their country in the massive way they did from 1959 onwards. (Clark, The Exodus, 1975)
By the mid-1960s, Castro's government represented the Communist Party of Cuba.
Cubans who sought alternatives to the Castro-led Cuba immigrated in large waves beginning in the 1960s. There were Cubans that did not agree with the newly re-formed Cuban government's alignment with the Soviet Union and disagreed with the introduction of Communism to the country. The first thousands of Cubans that came to America during this period were children. Numerous middle class Cuban parents feared their children would be sent to the Soviet Union or be educated by Soviets in Cuba, so they sent their children ahead before the rest of the family.
Still largely a middle-class exodus, now it was more middle than upper: middle merchants and middle management, landlords, middle-level professionals, and a considerable number of skilled unionized workers, who wanted to escape an intolerable new order. The immigrants of the first two phases were not so much "pulled" by the attractiveness of the new society as "pushed" by the internal political process of the old. When the private universities and schools began to close in 1961, fear that the children would be educated by the state became prevalent. (Pedraza, Cuba's Refugees, 1995)
Nearly 15,000 children were sent to the United States in an operation called Operation Peter Pan/Operacion Pedro Pan. Many of the children were welcomed to the United States by members of Catholic charities who would set them up in foster case, orphanages, and boarding schools until their parents could join them. In 1966, the United States Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act, which provided over $1 billion to help all the hundreds of thousands of Cubans transition to a new life in America with some assistance.
Using data from the 1990 census of the United States, the largest wave of immigrants from Cuba after the revolution has been what is called the second wave -- the roughly 283,000 Cuban immigrants who left the island during the 9 years from 1965 to 1974, or 41% of those who immigrated from 1960 to 1990. (Pedraza, Democratization and Migration, 2002)
The money from the act went to help Cubans in many ways such as low interest college loans, free English courses, and other forms of public assistance. Without this piece of legislation, many Cubans would have not survived and would have causes many social and economic problems for the United States. This act helped the Cuban people transition so well that they were able to settle into the Miami communities and turn out to be one of the greatest cultural influences over the area, as well as exert a cultural influence over the country.
Both of my parents are Cuban. They did not know each other in Cuba. After the revolution, they left Cuba for Miami, Florida. After landing from what were called the "freedom flights," my mother and my father met. They were able to transition to life in America smoothly enough and they began a family of which I am a part. If were not for the revolution and the exodus that followed, I would not have been born to my family. In the United States, I have so much more choice and freedom over my course of study and my choice for profession. I likely would not have been able to pursue nursing in Cuba as I do here. I would have had to perform whatever job I was assigned by the government and not protest. Another difference is that in Cuba, my wages would have been very low, as long as $20 a month. That is not enough to sustain oneself in Cuba or America. In America, I have the opportunity to earn much more money, so that I can afford to sustain myself better and live a better lifestyle. Without the exodus, Miami would not be the same at all as it is today.
The Cubanization of Miami is a dramatic contemporary story in metropolitan America. Cuban refugees have played a major role in transforming Miami from a medium-sized city dominated by tourism…[continue]
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Indeed, over half of the boatlift population had criminal backgrounds. To further support this characterization of the boatlift, Castro himself is quoted as saying that the departing citizens leaving from Mariel are the scum of the country and were surely welcome to leave Cuba for he thought no other country would have them, even America. He openly denounced the population leaving by way of boat at a 1980 May
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