We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Cuban Immigration to America

The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now


Cuba is one of the small islands that surround the United States. it is located in the northern rim in eth Caribbean region.  Compared to others, Cuba is the larges of all the Antilles Islands. Cuba is one of the remaining socialist states and has been under the leadership of Fidel Castor and recently his brother Raul Castor took over after Fidel health failed him.  Fidel Castro has been in leadership since 1959 after overthrowing Dictator Fulgencio Batista. According to Wasem (2006) Cuba has maintained a close link with the Soviet Union during the cold war which pitted its relationship with the United States. The principle economic product is sugar. Although having a bitter relationship with Cuba, United states of America retain a large military presence in the Island at Guatanamo bay which of late has been on the highlight as interrogation and detention center for terrorism suspects.

Despite the bitter relations between the two countries, there is a large population of Cuban Americans living in the United States.  According to United stats Immigration Support (2008a) Cuban American have been considered as the third largest Hispanic group in America.  Many of the Cuban Americans are dispersed throughout the United States but Miami and Florida have a significant higher population of Cuban Americans which his partly because they are very near to Cuba. This population has been important in the political decision of the nation considering that there are more than 800,000 Cuban American in the state of Florida who are said to have contributed greatly to the swing voter that carried George Bush to office in 2000 over Al Gore, by swinging the vote to Bush Republican by a small margin.  It has been argued that since there have been sentiment in the congress aimed at lifting the ban on trade and travel of Cubans to United States seeing Cubans and their hatred to the Castor rule could contribute important voting pattern in the United States. (Stone, 2000)

This essay will explore the history of Cuban American and how they arrived to the untied states. It will trace the movement of Cubans to the United States in a historical point of view and later look at the possible contribution that they would have made to the development of the United States.

Cuban immigration to the United States

According to Wasem (2006) in order to fully understand the immigration of Cubans to the United States, there has to be a historical understanding of the mass exodus which has taken about half a century. This mass exodus has landed millions of Cubans in the United States.  They have been coming to America in what appear like waves of immigrants.

According to United stats Immigration Support (2008a) there is a distinct variation in these waves of migration. There are some who were actually pushed by economic immigration factors while majority of them were pushed from their country by the social and political process. Their final denial of Cuba as their home country was contributed partly by their “push” factor most likely their hatred for the Fidel castor regime, and partly due to the “pull” factor of economic prosperity and  political freedom they found in  the united states.

According to Olson and Judith (1995) it should also be noted that, each wave of migration had its own characteristics.  Each was characterized by a different composition in terms of social factors and values like social class, race, education, family composition, gender, and others.  These differences in the composition of waves of migrants eventually had a great impact on the changing phase of the Cuban revolution.  This variability is very well represented in the current Cuban community in the United States.  The Cuban community has different “vintages” which characterizes the different composition of each wave of immigrants.  There are about four distinct major waves of Cuban immigration to the United States which bears different composition in social and economic characteristics.

The original Cuban community in America

The history of Cuban community in America spins long time during the colonial period when Cuba was colonized by Spain.  Before the time Adams Onis treaty and the Louisiana purchase which took place in 1819, Florida and Louisiana were part of Spanish colonial governor of Cuba. This means the as early as 1565, there were Cuban communities living in America. It is recorded that when Pedro Aviles established St. Augustine in Florida there were many Cubans and there Spanish counterpart who moved to Florida together with their families. There was also thousands of Cuban who migrated to Louisiana and Texas during the same period of Spanish rule.

According to Wasem (2006) one of the earliest Cubans who plotted the overthrowing of the Spanish from Cuba, Jose Marti, who was also a famous poet had lived in the United states  in exile before he strategize together with other Cuban opposition leaders to  liberate Cuba from the Spanish rule.   Less than half a decade later, Fidel Castro was also hosted by his enemy, the united states of American in exile before he plotted a revolution in Cuba.

From the above historical perspective we understand that there has been a long history of Cuban migration to the United States. Majority of them had landed in the united state during the Spanish rule and often with a political reason.   There were many Cubans most of them cigar manufactures who migrated to the united states during Ten Year’s War 1868 to 1878 when Cuban nationals were fighting  the Spanish colonizers.

However this population of Cuban earlier immigrants to the united state cannot be compared to the recent four waves of migration which happened from half of the twentieth century when Fidel Castor overthrew Dictator Batista.  A distinction between the earlier immigrations and the most recent immigration is that while the earlier immigration could have fled Cuban fro political reasons, the recent waves of immigrant have been due to the declining economic fortune in Cuba.

Waves of Cuban immigrant to the United States

(i) The first wave – Cuba elites

According to historical analysis the different waves of migration from Cuba were endowed in deep psychological and political disaffection. In this regard there were the pattern of immigration show that the first immigrants had a psychological of “waiting” which as then followed by “escaping” and later those with psychological factor of “hoping” and later “despairing’. These factors are very evident in the four distinct waves of immigration from Cuba to the United States.

 The first wave of immigrant from Cuba (from 1959 to 1962) was mainly composed of the elites of the community.  This group included the executives, business men and women who owned big firms, merchants, owners of the sugar mills, foreign company representatives,   professionals, and many others.  The elites left their country following the revolution by Fidel Castro which greatly overturned the social order that had been created by Dictator Batista who had the support of American. Therefore it became simple for the elite community to be accepted to the United States since they were seen as close allies of the overthrown dictator.

Pedraza (2008) stress that when Fidel Castro took over power, there was immediate nationalization of American industries and he also carried out extensive agricultural reforms which drove many of those leading the industries out of their properties.  The strong diplomatic link between Cuba and the United States also helped most of them to escape to the United States.  This group had composed those with “”wait” approach since they migrated to the United States hoping that they would be there for a short moment and the would later return back to their properties. They hoped that since the United States had supported the overthrown dictator it would soon retaliate and overthrow Fidel from power and bring back the earlier social order. However this wave of migration peaked in 1959 immediately after the revolution and abruptly came to an end around 1961 after the Bay of Pigs invasion which terrible failed although it was supported by the United States.  However there was still low rate of immigration after this failed invasion and all the immigration in the first wave ended with the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 whet all the flight to the united state s were ceased.

 This first major wave of immigrant mainly composed of the supporter of the Batista regime. After the overthrow of Batista, they felt that their life was endangered by the new Castro socialist regime and they had to seek immediate refugee to the united state. This group was later followed by those who were opposed to the socialist government and who found their life under close scrutiny of the Castro supporters. This second group in the firs wave of immigration constituted of those with “escaping” approach.  This was mainly caused by the increasing political turmoil in the country

According to the United States Immigration Support (2008c) most of those in the second wave migrated due to the new political changes taking place under the new rule. For example the catholic church which was the main religion in the land was silenced for opposing the socialist state,  the electoral system and the civil societies which had been fighting for  their rights of the citizens had collapsed,  the press, television station had all been closed. This doubled the rate of immigration from Cuba to the United States.

While the first group in the firs wave had manly been the upper class, the middle class began mass exodus considered to the upper class, middle managers, landlords, and others who mainly composed the middle classes moved to escape the new socialist order which they had not been used to. Records show that before the United States came up with a blockade to prevent the mass flow of Cubans to the United States, the first wave of migration had already brought about 175,000 Cubans to different states.

(ii)  The second wave of immigration

According to the United States Immigration Support (2008c) Cubans were still finding it difficult to comply with the new order in the socialist state. Those who had migrated to the untied state were still thinking of their relatives who they had left behind and therefore from the fall of 1965, there was a chaotic flotilla migration from Cuba.  In the begging of this second wave, there were hundred of boats which landed in Camarioca port in Cuban from Miami which came with those who had already settled in the united state to pick their relatives.

Gustavo (1994) stress that this migration through the sea posed a particular danger to the welfare of the Cubans as some lost their lives through the sea. Therefore the United States government and new Cuba socialist government negotiated a refugee movement program. Both governments agreed to use an air bridge under which thousand of Cubans were lifted on daily flights.

This refugee program started in 1965 and ended in 1974 when the program ended.  This second wave of migration was more order as it involved the efforts by both governments to oversee and order movement of refuges which can be described as an anticipatory refugee movement.  This has been seen as the largest wave of immigration which brought around 250,000 Cuban refuges to America

The second wave of immigration therefore brought many small entrepreneurs to the United States. They included those who had been pushed by Castro revolution which had confiscated about 55,000 small businesses and nationalizing them.  By 1970s, Cuba had embraced Eastern European communism which eventually replaced idealism and romanticism with pragmanticism. There was a reconciliatory mood between the government and those exiled in Cuba and as a result the government released more than 3,600 prisoners and those migrated to the United States were allowed to visit their families in Cuba

(iii)  Third wave of migration

Pedraza (2008) stress that when the government agreed those who were exiled to visit their relatives at home, this was one of the factor that engineered the third wave of migration.  Like before, there was a chaotic departure of thousands of Cubans from Mariel harbor in the 1980s which saw more than 125,000 Cubans enter America.  Those who have settled in Miami sailed through to Cuba and brought back their relatives to Miami with them. An interesting thing about this migration is that those who were considered as outcast of the society were also brought to American. There were those who Castro had decried as social undesirables included prisoners, mental ill patients, and others were majority of who migrated to the United States in the third wave of migration.

According to the United States Immigration Support (2008c) unlike the other waves of migration, the third wave of migration was characterized by youth migrates.  Most of them were young men who were not married and who were looking for a better life rather than political push factor. Therefore it can be argued that this wave of migration resulted from a boiling crisis in the social order and declining economic fortunes for the young generation.  There was a higher population of black community who were also migrating in the third wave of migration. (Buffington, 2008)

Unlike in the earlier migration which saw the elite and the middle class moving to America, this wave of migration has whooping 71% blue-color job migrates.  However there were many young educated Cubans who had not found a foot in their country who also migrated to the United States in this wave of migration.  Characteristically we can say that this group was composed of hopeful youths looking for a better life. Pedraza (2008) stresses that, this wave of migration was therefore composed of different groups or vintage that had experienced the communism life in Cuba. They could not be compared with the eelier waves of migrant who had fled from their country and had not experienced any socialist government. Therefore in terms of political reality, those in the third wave of migration had seen the worst of their country especially for the young intellectuals and the artist who found it very difficult to express what they felt about their state of government.

(iv) The fourth wave of migration

Cuba had made strong ties with eth communism Soviet Union and therefore it had been supported far and wide. However with the fall of communism in the 1980s, Cuba started to face new challenges economically and the situation was becoming worse in the country. This triggered the fourth wave of migration which countries up to date.  Although Fidel Castro had predicted this to be a short period, it went on for many years. The situation was made worse by the United States tightened embargo which made the lives of many Cubans miserable.  Poverty and hunger was the daily life of many Cubans and a chance to flee from the country was most welcomed.

According to Pedraza (2008) this migration had been declared illegal.  The life of Cubans became more desperate and some of them left in rafts, tires or makeshift vessels. some made it to the united states but others lost their lives dying due to dehydration, starvation, drowning or attack by sharks. It is recorded that from 1985 to 1993, there were about 6,000 Cubans who made it to the United States.  In the summer of 1994, there were about 34, 000 Cubans who left their country at the height of the crisis. When the situation was getting out of hand, the Castro government decided to let those who were willing to migrate to go owing to the high risk at the coast

Gustavo (1994) stresses that at the height of this migration there was a sudden policy change in the United States, in which the attorney general considered the young generation of migrating Cubans as illegal immigrants.  This was a sudden change of the long held US policy that migrating Cubans were victims of communism and therefore they were not considered as illegal immigrants.

According to Pedraza (2008) the status of Cubans immigrant was suddenly changed from political exiles to illegal immigration. Under this direction The US coast guards intercepted most of the migrating Cubans and instead moved them to Guatanamo. The united states against had to seek government intervention and both governments signed new Migration Agreement. All those who had been detained at Guatanamo as refugees were resettled in the United States.  Characteristically, this could be described as despairing population. Therefore the fourth wave of migration constituted of those who despair.

According to Buffington (2008) the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 gave birth to the wet foot, dry foot policy in 1995. Under the new policy, anyone who had migrated from Cuba and settled in United States, they would be allowed to apply for residency only after 1 year. United States Immigration Support (2008b) asserts that this agreement also saw the Clinton administration agree to the Cuban socialist government to stop admitting anyone who was found in the sea.  Under the wet foot, dry foot policy, all the Cubans who were found in the sea, in this case with a wet foot, would be repatriated home or sent to a third country. Anyone who made it to the shore of the United States, in that case dry foot, would be allowed to enter the United States and later one would be allowed to apply for permanent residency.

Current settlement of Cubans in the United States

Buffington (2008) stress that the earlier Cuban immigrants settled in Florida, New York cities, Miami, Key west, Tampa and other areas.  However, today they can be found in almost all the states in the United States.  Jorge et al., (2001) assert that a high population of Cubans is to be found in Florida, Miami and New Jersey. Most of them have been assimilated to eth American culture. The Cuban community in the United States has been characterized by some unique qualities but most notable is their interest to retain catholic religion. They have also shown a high interest in education of their children and they are perhaps the most educated Hispanic community in the United States. They also enjoy a far more economic security as compared to other immigrants to the United States.

According to Jorge et al., (2001) the fact that most of the initial immigrants were elite and businessmen, they were able to establish a strong economic base which their successive families and immigrants have worked on. However the more recent immigrants to the United States have faced harsh economic realty and harsh reception as compared to the earlier immigrants.


The history of Cuban immigration to the United States spins back to the time of Spanish rule.  However these initial immigrants were not pushed by any factor to the United States but it could have been for exploratory reasons. However the consequent migration of the United States was due to push factor most being the changing political pattern in the country. There are four distinct waves of Cuban immigration of the United States which began immediately after Fidel Castro overthrew Dictator Batista. Since then the changing political and economical reasons have continued to push Cubans out of the country to United States up to date.


Buffington, S. (2008): Cuban Americans. University of Park. In this book, the author traces the movement of Cuban from their country to United States. The author gives a recount of the movement of Cubans to the United States and their eventual distribution in the states. The book can be considered as one of most important source of Cuban American history

Gustavo, F. (1994): The Cuban-American way. Austin: University of Texas. In his particular book Gustavo shows how Cuban American migrated to the United States and how they were assimilated to the America way of life. However it ales recounts the particle characteristics of their home culture that Cubans have not shed off. This book is a good recount of the social political and economical integration in the United States

Jorge, A., Suchilicki, J. & Leyva, A. (2001): Cubans in Florida: Presence and contribution. University of Miami. This public traces the settlement pattern of Cubans in the United States. It recount on the population of Cuban American community in the Florida and their contribution to the development of Florida

Olson, J. & Judith, E. (1995): Cuban Americans: From Trauma to triumph. New York: Twayne Publishers. In this book Olson and Judith recounts the suffering of the earlier Cuban immigrants top the untied state. The authors recount how Cubans migrated from their country fleeing the political oppression and the problem they encountered in the course of immigration and their last resettlement in the United States. The book also gives an emotional account of Cuban migration to the United States

Pedraza, S. (2008): Political disaffection in Cuba’s revolution and exodus.  Cambridge University Press.  This is perhaps the most complete account of Cuban migration to the United States.  In this book Pedraza gives an account of the waves of Cuban immigration in view of the political disaffection they were facing. This publication has a complete account of Cuban migration although it does not trace their settlement patter in the United States.

Stone, P. (2000): Cuban clout. National Journal, February 2000. IN this journal publication, the author gives a clear description of Cubans and how they have been moving to the United States. The public traces the reason for migration and settlement pattern in the United States

United States Immigration Support (2008b): Wet-foot Dry-foot policy. Retrieved on 13th October 2008 from, http://www.usimmigrationsupport.org/wetfoot-dryfoot.html. This a united states government review of the 1990s changes in polices towards the migration of Cubans in the united states. It recounts the changes in policies during Clinton administration which greatly changed the Cuban migration pattern to the United States.

United States Immigration Support (2008c): History of Cuban Immigration. Retrieved on 13th October 2008 from http://www.usimmigrationsupport.org/cubanimmigration.html In this site, the united states government recount the historical movement of Cubans from their country to the united states. It looks at the migration of Cubans from a historical perspective and the factors that made them to leave their country to the United States

United stats Immigration Support (2008a): Cuban immigration to the United States. United States Government. This is an official US government site which recount on the immigration of Cubans to the United States.  The site recounts how Cubans have been migration to the United States, their number ad policy changes that have affected their movement. The site can be considered as an important source of Cuban-American migration history

Wasem, E. R. (2006): Cuban migration policy and issues. Congressional Research Services.  In publication, Wasem looks at the changes in polices and issues that have affected the migration of Cubans to the United States. It recounts how the United States suddenly changed their attitude towards migration of Cubans to the United States.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59