Cuban Americans (Spanish: Cubanoamericanos) are Americans who trace their ancestry to Cuba. Cuban Americans are the third largest Latino group in the United States. The 2010 US Census shows that 85% report as being white.
- Early migrations
- Key West and Tampa Florida
- Other early waves 19001959
- Post Castro revolution 19592016
- Mid 1990s to 2000s
- Immigration policy
- US states with largest Cuban populations
- US metropolitan areas with largest Cuban populations
- US communities with high percentages of people of Cuban ancestry
- US communities with the most residents born in Cuba
- Food and drink
- Political beliefs
- Cuban Americans in the United States Congress
- Cuban Americans in state government
Many communities throughout the United States have significant Cuban American populations. Florida (1.4 million in 2015) has the highest concentration of Cuban Americans in the US, standing out in part because of its proximity to Cuba, followed by California (92,022), New Jersey (89,997), New York (73,439) and Texas (59,115).
South Florida is followed by New York City, Tampa, Union County and North Hudson, New Jersey areas, particularly Union City, Elizabeth and West New York. With a population of 141,250, the New York metropolitan area's Cuban community is the largest outside of Florida. Nearly 70% of all Cuban Americans live in Florida.
Before the Louisiana Purchase and the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, Spanish Florida, and when divided during British occupation, East Florida and West Florida, including what is now Florida and the Gulf Coast west to the Mississippi River were provinces of the Captaincy General of Cuba (Captain General being the Spanish title equivalent to the British colonial Governor). Consequently, Cuban immigration to the U.S. has a long history, beginning in the Spanish colonial period in 1565 when St. Augustine, Florida was established by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, and hundreds of Spanish-Cuban soldiers and their families moved from Cuba to St. Augustine to establish a new life.
Thousands of Cuban settlers also immigrated to Louisiana between 1778 and 1802 and Texas during the period of Spanish rule. Since 1820, the Cuban presence was more than 1,000 people. In 1870 the number of Cuban immigrants increased to almost 12,000, of which about 4,500 resided in New York City, about 3,000 in New Orleans, and 2,000 in Key West. The causes of these movements were both economic and political, which intensified after 1860, when political factors played the predominant role in emigration, as a result of deteriorating relations with the Spanish metropolis.
The year 1869 marked the beginning of one of the most significant periods of emigration from Cuba to the United States, again centered on Key West. The exodus of hundreds of workers and businessmen was linked to the manufacture of tobacco. The reasons are many: the introduction of more modern techniques of elaboration of snuff, the most direct access to its main market, the United States, the uncertainty about the future of the island, which had suffered years of economic, political and social unrest during the beginning of the Ten Years' War against Spanish rule. It was an exodus of skilled workers, precisely the class in the island that had succeeded in establishing a free labor sector amid a slave economy.
The manufacture of snuff by the Cuban labor force, became the most important source of income for Key West between 1869 and 1900.
Tampa was added to such efforts, with a strong migration of Cubans, which went from 720 inhabitants in 1880 to 5,532 in 1890. However, the second half of the 1890s marked the decline of the Cuban immigrant population, as an important part of it returned to the island to fight for independence. The War accentuated Cuban immigrant integration into American society, whose numbers were significant: more than 12,000 people.
Key West and Tampa, Florida
In the mid- to late 19th century, several cigar manufacturers moved their operations to Key West to get away from growing disruptions as Cubans sought independence from Spanish colonial rule. Many Cuban cigar workers followed. The Cuban government had even established a grammar school in Key West to help preserve Cuban culture. There, children learned folk songs and patriotic hymns such as "La Bayamesa", the Cuban national anthem.
In 1885, Vicente Martinez Ybor moved his cigar operations from Key West to the town of Tampa, Florida to escape labor strife. Ybor City was designed as a modified company town, and it quickly attracted thousands of Cuban workers from Key West and Cuba. West Tampa, another new cigar manufacturing community, was founded nearby in 1892 and also grew quickly. Between these communities, the Tampa Bay area's Cuban population grew from almost nothing to the largest in Florida in just over a decade, and the city as a whole grew from a village of approximately 1000 residents in 1885 to over 16,000 by 1900.
Both Ybor City and West Tampa were instrumental in Cuba's eventual independence. Inspired by revolutionaries such as Jose Martí, who visited Florida several times, Tampa-area Cubans and their sympathetic neighbors donated money, equipment, and sometimes their lives to the cause of Cuba Libre. After the Spanish–American War, some Cubans returned to their native land, but many chose to stay in the U.S. due to the physical and economic devastation caused by years of fighting on the island.
Other early waves (1900–1959)
Several other small waves of Cuban emigration to the U.S. occurred in the early 20th century (1900–1959). Most settled in Florida and the northeast U.S. The majority of an estimated 100,000 Cubans arriving in that time period usually came for economic reasons (the Great Depression of 1929, volatile sugar prices and migrant farm labor contracts), but included anti-Batista refugees fleeing the military dictatorship, which had pro-U.S. diplomatic ties. During the '20s and '30s, emigration from Cuba to U.S. territory, basically comprised workers looking for jobs, mainly in New York and New Jersey. They were classified as labor migrants and workers, much like other immigrants in the area at that time. Thus migrated more than 40,149 in the first decade, encouraged by U.S. immigration facilities at the time and more than 43,400 by the end of the 30s.
Subsequently, the flow of Cubans to the United States fluctuated, due to both the domestic situation in the 40s and 50s in Cuba, and U.S. immigration policies, plus intermittent anti-immigrant sentiment. Cuban Migration in those years included, in addition to workers, a small mass of the population who could afford to leave the country and live abroad. The U.S. was considered a favored destination by the Cuban bourgeoisie and the middle classes of society, to send their children to school, take vacations and bring some of their capital to establish small and medium-sized businesses.
The Cuban population officially registered in the United States for 1958 was around 125,000 people including descendants. Of these, more than 50,000 remained in the United States after the revolution of 1959.
Post-Castro revolution (1959–2016)
After the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, a Cuban exodus began as the new government allied itself with the Soviet Union and began to introduce communism. The first Cubans to come to America after the revolution were those affiliated with former dictator Fulgencio Batista, next were Cuba's professionals. Most Cuban Americans that arrived in the United States initially came from Cuba's educated upper and middle classes centered in Cuba's capital Havana. This middle class arose in the period after the Platt Amendment when Cuba became one of the most successful countries in Latin America. Between December 1960 and October 1962 more than 14,000 Cuban children arrived alone in the U.S. Their parents were afraid that their children were going to be sent to some Soviet bloc countries to be educated and they decided to send them to the States as soon as possible.
This program was called Operation Peter Pan (Operacion Pedro Pan). When the children arrived in Miami they were met by representatives of Catholic Charities and they were sent to live with relatives if they had any or were sent to foster homes, orphanages or boarding schools until their parents could leave Cuba. From 1965 to 1973, there was another wave of immigration known as the Freedom Flights. In order to provide aid to recently arrived Cuban immigrants, the United States Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act in 1966. The Cuban Refugee Program provided more than $1.3 billion of direct financial assistance. They also were eligible for public assistance, Medicare, free English courses, scholarships, and low-interest college loans.
Some banks pioneered loans for exiles who did not have collateral or credit but received help in getting a business loan. These loans enabled many Cuban Americans to secure funds and start up their own businesses. With their Cuban-owned businesses and low cost of living, Miami, Florida and Union City, New Jersey (dubbed Havana on the Hudson) were the preferred destinations for many immigrants and soon became the main centers for Cuban-American culture. According to author Lisandro Perez, Miami was not particularly attractive to Cubans prior to the 1960s.
It was not until the exodus of the Cuban exiles in 1959 that Miami started to become a preferred destination. Westchester, Florida within Miami-Dade County, was the area most densely populated by Cubans and Cuban Americans in the United States, followed by Hialeah, Florida in second.
Communities like Miami, Tampa, and Union City, which Cuban-Americans have made their home, have experienced a profound cultural impact as a result, as seen in such aspects of their local culture as cuisine, fashion, music, entertainment and cigar-making.
Another large wave (an estimated 125,000 people) of Cuban immigration occurred in the early 1980s with the Mariel boatlifts. Most of the "Marielitos" were people wanting to escape from communism, and have succeeded in establishing their roots in the US.
Fidel Castro sent some 20,000 criminals directly from Cuban prisons, as well as mentally ill persons from Cuban mental institutions, with the alleged double purpose of cleaning up Cuban society and poisoning the USA. Those people were labeled "unadmissible" by the US government, and with time, through many negotiations, have been returned to Cuba.
Mid-1990s to 2000s
Since the mid-1990s, after the implementation of the "Wet feet, dry feet" policy immigration patterns changed. Many Cuban immigrants departed from the southern and western coasts of Cuba and arrived at the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico; many landed on Isla Mujeres. From there Cuban immigrants traveled to the Texas-Mexico border and found asylum. Many of the Cubans who did not have family in Miami settled in Houston; this has caused Houston's Cuban-American community to increase in size.The term "dusty foot" refers to Cubans emigrating to the U.S. through Mexico. In 2005 the Department of Homeland Security had abandoned the approach of detaining every dry foot Cuban who crosses through Texas and began a policy allowing most Cubans to obtain immediate parole.
Jorge Ferragut, a Cuban immigrant who founded Casa Cuba, an agency that assists Cuban immigrants arriving in Texas, said in a 2008 article that many Cuban immigrants of the first decade of the 21st century left due to economic instead of political issues. By October 2008 Mexico and Cuba created an agreement to prevent immigration of Cubans through Mexico.
In recent years, Puerto Rico has become a major drop-off point for Cubans trying to reach the United States illegally. As a U.S. Commonwealth, Puerto Rico is seen as a stepping stone for Cubans trying to get to the continental U.S., though Puerto Rico itself is home to a number of Cubans.
Fidel Castro died in 2016, marking the end of the Castro revolution.
Before the 1980s, all refugees from Cuba were welcomed into the United States as political refugees. This changed in the 1990s so that only Cubans who reach U.S. soil are granted refuge under the "wet foot, dry foot policy". While representing a tightening of U.S. immigration policy, the wet foot, dry foot policy still affords Cubans a privileged position relative to other immigrants to the U.S. This privileged position is the source of a certain friction between Cuban Americans and other Latino citizens and residents in the United States, adding to the tension caused by the divergent foreign policy interests pursued by conservative Cuban Americans. Cuban immigration also continues with an allotted number of Cubans (20,000 per year) provided legal U.S. visas.
According to a U.S. Census 1970 report, Cuban Americans as well as Latinos lived in all fifty states. But as later Census reports demonstrated, the majority of Cuban immigrants settled in south Florida. A new trend in the late 1990s showed that fewer immigrants arrived from Cuba than previously. While U.S.-born Cuban Americans moved out of their enclaves, other nationalities settled there.
In late 1999, U.S. news media focused on the case of Elián González, the six-year-old Cuban boy caught in a custody battle between his relatives in Miami and his father in Cuba, after the boy's mother died trying to bring him to the United States. On April 22, 2000, ICE (now USCIS) agents took Elián González to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C. From there, his father took him back to Cuba.
On January 12, 2017, President Barack Obama announced the immediate cessation of the wet feet, dry feet policy. The Cuban government agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals. Beginning with the United States–Cuban Thaw in 2014, anticipation of the end of the policy had led to increased numbers of Cuban immigrants.
Many Cuban Americans have assimilated themselves into the American culture, which includes Cuban influences.
Cuban Americans live in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, which received thousands of anti-Castro refugees as well in the 1960s. Since the 1980s, Cuban Americans have moved out of "Little Havana" and "Hialeah" to the suburbs of Miami, such as Kendall, as well in the more affluent Coral Gables and Miami Lakes. Many new South and Central Americans, along with new Cuban refugees, have replaced the Cuban Americans who have relocated elsewhere in Florida (Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa Bay and West Palm Beach) and dispersed throughout the nation. Nevertheless, Cubans are still heavily concentrated in Florida, which slows assimilation; according to the 2010 Census, 68% of Cuban Americans still live in Florida.
More recently, there has been substantial growth of new Cuban-American communities in places like Louisville, Kentucky, the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, Katy, Texas, and Downey, California; the latter city now having the second highest percentage of Cubans and Cuban Americans in the Western United States at 1.96% of the population.
Cuban Americans have been very successful in establishing businesses and developing political clout in Miami. Cuban Americans have also contributed to and participated in many areas of American life including academia, business, acting, politics, and literature.
In the last 15 years, due to the growth of interest around the world for genealogy, Cuban Genealogy has become a major interest for Cuban Americans and a growing segment in the family research industry. This has complemented assimilation by preserving Cuban and colonial roots, while also adopting American culture and value
In the census in 2000 there were 1,241,685 Cuban Americans, and in the 2010 census there were 1,785,547 (both native and foreign born), and represented 3.5% of all Hispanics, and 0.58% of the US population. About 85% of Cuban Americans identify themselves as being White, mostly Spanish, which is the highest proportion of all other major Hispanic groups. In the 2007 American Community Survey (ACS), there were 1,611,478 Americans with national origins in Cuba. 983,147 were born abroad in Cuba, 628,331 were U.S born and of the 1.6 million, 415,212 were not U.S citizens. In the 2013 ACS, there were 2,013,155 Cuban Americans.
U.S. states with largest Cuban populations
The Top 10 US states with the largest Cuban populations are:
US metropolitan areas with largest Cuban populations
The largest populations of Cubans are situated in the following metropolitan areas (Source: Census 2010):
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL MSA – 982,758
- New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA-CT MSA – 135,391
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA – 81,542
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA MSA – 49,702
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA – 36,724
- Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI MSA – 20,633
- Las Vegas-Paradise, NV MSA – 20,569
- Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX MSA – 19,130
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA – 17,648
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA – 14,527
U.S. communities with high percentages of people of Cuban ancestry
The top 25 US communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Cuban ancestry are (the top 22 of which are in Miami-Dade County):
- Westchester, Florida 65.69%
- Hialeah, Florida 62.12%
- Coral Terrace, Florida 61.87%
- West Miami, Florida 61.61%
- University Park, Florida 59.80%
- Olympia Heights, Florida 57.65%
- Tamiami, Florida 56.63%
- Hialeah Gardens, Florida 54.31%
- Medley, Florida 51.91%
- Sweetwater, Florida 49.92%
- Palm Springs North, Florida 43.59%
- Miami Lakes, Florida 42.28%
- Kendale Lakes, Florida 38.58%
- Fontainebleau, Florida 37.29%
- Miami, Florida 34.14%
- Miami Springs, Florida 31.83%
- Richmond West, Florida 29.30%
- Coral Gables, Florida 28.72%
- Virginia Gardens, Florida 26.11%
- South Miami Heights, Florida 25.70%
- Kendall, Florida 21.31%
- Miami Beach, Florida 20.51%
- Ybor City, Florida 20.28%
- West Tampa, Florida 20.23%
- Surfside, Florida 20.15%
U.S. communities with the most residents born in Cuba
For total 101 communities, see the reference given. Top 20 U.S. communities with the most residents born in Cuba are (all of which are located within Miami):
- Westchester, Florida 55.8%
- Hialeah, Florida 53.5%
- Coral Terrace, Florida 51.9%
- West Miami, Florida 50.5%
- South Westside, FL 48.3%
- University Park, Florida 48.1%
- Hialeah Gardens, Florida 47.5%
- Medley, Florida 46.0%
- Tamiami, Florida 45.7%
- Olympia Heights, Florida 45.2%
- Sweetwater, Florida 45.2%
- Westwood Lakes, Florida 44.9%
- Sunset, Florida 32.7%
- Fountainbleau, Florida 32.3%
- North Westside, FL 30.4%
- Miami, Florida 30.3%
- Miami Lakes, Florida 30.1%
- Palm Springs North, Florida 29.8%
- Kendale Lakes, Florida 28.9%
- Kendale Lakes-Lindgren Acres, FL 24.3%
The ancestry of Cuban Americans comes primarily from Spain. Cuba, compared to other Latin American countries, has had a sizeable White population because the indigenous Tainos were wiped out, and the rigid system of slavery (made even more rigid after the Haitian Revolution).
During the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th century, large waves of Castilians, Basques, Canarians, Catalans, Andalusians, Asturians and Galicians emigrated to Cuba. Canary Islanders immigrated to many countries along the Caribbean from Louisiana to Venezuela. But Cuba was the Latin American culture most influenced by the emigration of Canary Islanders (they developed the production of sugar in Cuba), and Cuban Spanish is closest to that of the Canary Islands. Canary Islanders were viewed by other Spanish-Cubans as superstitious but also hard-working. Some of Haiti’s white population (French) migrated to Cuba after the Haitian War of Independence in the early 18th century. Also, minor but significant ethnic influx is derived from diverse peoples from Middle East places such as Lebanon and Palestine.
There was also a significant influx of Jews, especially between the World Wars, from many countries, including Sephardi Jews from Turkey and Ashkenazi Jews from Poland, Germany and Russia. Other Europeans that have contributed slightly include Italians, Germans, Swedes, and Hungarians. Many Chinese also settled Cuba as contract laborers and they formerly boast the largest Chinatown in Western Hemisphere as most Chinese Cubans left for Florida.
Being of primarily Spanish extraction, most Cuban Americans are Roman Catholic, but some Cubans practice African traditional religions (such as Santería or Ifá), which evolved from mixing the Catholic religion with the traditional African religion. Cuban Catholicism was also influenced by the Catholicism practiced by the Canarian people. However, there are many Protestant (primarily Pentecostal) with small numbers of syncretist, nonreligious or tiny communities of Jewish and Muslim Cuban Americans. The Protestant movement in Cuba started after the Spanish–American War when many Americans came to Cuba.
Similar to the 67% of other Hispanics, 69% of Cubans under 18 speak a language other than English at home. For Cubans over the age of 18, the percent speaking a language other than English at home climbs to 89%, which is higher than the 80% among other Hispanic groups.
Only 12% of Cubans under the age of 18 speak English less than very well, which is much lower than the 20% among other Hispanic groups.
Food and drink
Cuban food is varied, though rice is a staple and commonly served at lunch and dinner. Other common dishes are arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), pan con bistec (steak sandwich), platanos maduros (sweet plantains), lechon asado (pork), yuca (cassava root), flan, batido de mamey (mamey milkshake), papayas, and guava paste.
A common lunch staple is the Cuban sandwich (sometimes called a mixto sandwich), which is built on Cuban bread and was created and standardized among cigar workers who traveled between Cuba and Florida (especially Ybor City) around the turn of the 20th century
Cuban versions of pizza contains bread, which is usually soft, and cheese, toppings, and sauce, which is made with spices such as Adobo and Goya onion. Picadillo, ground beef that has been sauteed with tomato, green peppers, green olives, and garlic is another popular Cuban dish. It can be served with black beans and rice, and a side of deep-fried, ripened plantains.
Cuban coffee is popular in America. Cubans often drink cafe cubano: a small cup of coffee called a cafecito (or a colada), which is traditional espresso coffee, sweetened with sugar, with a little foam on top called espumita. It is also popular to add milk, which is called a cortadito for a small cup or a cafe con leche for a larger cup.
A common soft drink is Materva, a Cuban soda made of yerba mate. Jupiña, Ironbeer and Cawy lemon-lime are soft drinks which originated in Cuba. Since the Castro era, they are also produced in Miami. Other famous Cuban drinks include guarapo de caña.
A popular drink of Cuban origin is the Cuba Libre, a mix of Cuban rum and cola, usually Coca Cola.
Cuban Americans have tended to be more Republican than other Hispanic groups. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and its association with John F. Kennedy, left many Cubans distrustful of the Democratic Party. Many Cuban Americans believe that Kennedy deliberately denied Cuban exiles air support, leading to a rout by Castro forces. The trauma of this event has led to speculation about possible Cuban-American involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy. Cuban exiles began an alliance with the Republic Party of Florida. In Florida, Cuban-American congressmen have tended to be Republican, beginning with Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The presence of Cubans in the Republican Party was highlighted by the 2016 presidential race, which featured U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as prominent candidates, both of whom are of Cuban descent. But in New Jersey, another state with many Cuban Americans, Cuban-American congressmen have tended to be Democrats, for example Representative Albio Sires. Ronald Reagan is particularly popular in the Cuban exile community (there is a street in Miami named for Reagan).. And George W. Bush received 75 and 78 percent (in 2000 and 2004 respectively) of the Cuban-American vote. The Cuban-American lobby has also lobbied both parties on causes important to Cuban Americans.
In recent years, the Cuban-American vote has become more contested between the parties. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 47% of the Cuban-American vote in Florida. According to Bendixen's exit polls, 84% of Miami-Dade Cuban-American voters 65 or older backed McCain, while 55% of those 29 or younger backed Obama. In 2012, Barack Obama received 49 percent of the Cuban-American vote in Florida, compared to 47 percent for Mitt Romney according to Edison Research exits polls. By the spring of 2014, this increasing trend among Cuban-American voters having a preference for Democratic Party candidates increased particularly for younger voters aged 18–49, increasing to some 56% for the younger voter demographic, versus Cuban-American voters over 50 years of age having just a 39% preference for Democratic candidates.
Cuban Americans in the United States Congress
Eight Cuban Americans currently serve in the United States Congress. There have been seven Cuban-American US representatives elected from Florida, two from New Jersey, and one from Texas and West Virginia.
Three United States Senators:
Five are United States Representatives:
Cuban Americans in state government
Cuban Americans have had much success at the state level. In Florida, where Cuban-American legislators hold more seats than anywhere else in the nation, pro-democracy, anti-Castro, and anti-Chavez legislation is often promoted and passed even though States cannot dictate foreign policy. Even in states where Cuban Americans are not concentrated in large numbers they have had successes especially in New Jersey, where albeit a tiny minority concentrated in Union City, Elizabeth, and Newark, they have had enormous political successes.
Eduardo Aguirre (R) served as Vice Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States in the George W. Bush administration and later named Director of Immigration and Naturalization Services under the Department of Homeland Security. In 2006, Eduardo Aguirre was named US ambassador to Spain. Cuban Americans have also served other high-profile government jobs including White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu (R) Florida-based businessman and Cuban exile Elviro Sanchez made his multimillion-dollar fortune by investing the proceeds of his family's fruit plantations. He is one of the most low-profile philanthropists in the Southern States. Cuban Americans also serve in high-ranking judicial positions as well. Danny Boggs is currently a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Raoul G. Cantero, III, served as a Florida Supreme Court justice until stepping down in 2008.
The median household income for Cuban Americans is $36,671, a figure higher than all other Hispanic groups, but lower than that of non-Hispanic whites.
In contrast, U.S.-born Cuban Americans have a higher median income than even non-Hispanic whites, $50,000 as compared to $48,000 for non-Hispanic whites. Cubans living in Florida have a lower median income than those living outside of Florida.
61% of Cubans own their home, compared to 47% of all other Hispanics. The highest rate of home ownership for foreign-born Cubans, 72%, is among those who entered before 1980.
Poverty rates among Cubans is generally lower than the rates for other Hispanic groups.
25% of Cuban Americans have a college education, about twice the average of all other Hispanic groups, and lower than that of non-Hispanic whites, of which 30% are college graduates.
39% of U.S.-born Cuban Americans have a college degree or higher, as compared to only 30% of non-Hispanic whites.
49% of Cuban Americans have a high school education, which is slightly higher than the 47% among all other Hispanic groups, and lower than non-Hispanic whites, which is 59%. 48% of foreign-born Cubans have a high school education, compared to the 54% of native-born Cubans.