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A Cuban American ( ) is a United States citizen who traces his or her "national origin" to Cubamarker. Cuban Americans are also considered native born Americans with Cuban parents. Cuban Americans form the third-largest Hispanic group in the United States and also the largest group of Hispanics of European ancestry as a percentage within the group in the US.

Many communities throughout the United States have significant Cuban American populations. However Miami, Floridamarker stands out as the most prominent Cuban American community, in part because of its proximity to Cuba. It is followed by the Tampa Bay Areamarker, North Jersey, particularly Union Citymarker and West New Yorkmarker.


Prior to the Louisiana Purchase and the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, all of Floridamarker and Louisianamarker 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, Floridamarker 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 – 1802 and Texasmarker during the period of Spanish rule.

In the nineteenth century, many Cubans settled in Key West,and West Tampamarker,and were employed in making cigars, a craft they had learned in Cuba. 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 1886, Vicente Martínez de Ybor moved his cigar manufacturing plant to the west coast of Florida to avoid unionization of workers. Ybor City, currently a neighborhood in Tampa, became one of the state's largest Cuban American communities. Italian immigrants in the early twentieth century also established an enclave in Ybor City. A keyword search using the search term Ybor City will yield a number of songs and stories from Cuban Americans.

Smaller 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 arrived in that time period usually came for economic reasons (1929 depression, volatile sugar prices), but included anti-Batista refugees fleeing the military dictatorship, which had pro-U.S. diplomatic ties.


Political upheaval in Cuba created new waves of Cuban immigrants to the U.S. In 1959, after the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro, a large Cuban exodus began as the new government allied itself with the Soviet Union and began to introduce communism. From 1960 to 1979, hundreds of thousands of Cubans left Cuba and began a new life in the United States. Most Cuban Americans that arrived in the United States initially came from Cuba's educated upper and middle classes. 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 Pedro Pan (Operation Peter 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. 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 even 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, Floridamarker and Union City, New Jerseymarker (dubbed "Little Havana-on-the Hudson") were the preferred destinations for many immigrants and soon became the main centers for Cuban American culture. Union City had the opportunities offered by the embroidery industry. According to author Lisandro Perez, Miami was not particularly attractive to Cubans prior to the 1960's. It was not until the mass exodus of the Cuban exiles in 1959 that Miami started to become a preferred destination. Westchester, Floridamarker within Miami-Dade Countymarker, stands as the area most populated by Cubans and Cuban Americans in the United States, followed by Hialeah, Floridamarker in second.


Another large wave (an estimated 125,000 people) of Cuban immigration occurred in the early 1980s with the Mariel boatlifts. Along with the 125,000 immigrants came 25,000 criminals, mentally ill, and other dregs among Cuban society which Fidel Castro knowingly infiltrated into the country to corrupt the so-called "American Imperialist Society". Some of the "Marielitos" became prosperous through their own efforts, with government assistance and assistance from earlier immigrants, relatives and charitable organizations.

Mid-1990s to 2000s

Since the mid-1990s, after the implementation of the "Wet Foot, Dry Foot" policy immigration patterns changed. Many Cuban immigrants departed from the southern and western coasts of Cuba and arrived at the Yucatán Peninsulamarker in Mexicomarker; many landed on Isla Mujeresmarker. 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 Houstonmarker; this has caused Houston's Cuban American community to increase in size. The term "dusty foot" refers to Cubans immigrating to the U.S. through Mexico. In 2005 the Department of Homeland Securitymarker 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 2000s left due to economic instead of political issues. By October 2008 Mexico and Cuba created an agreement to prevent immigration of Cubans through Mexico.

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:

  1. Westchester, Floridamarker 65.69%
  2. Hialeah, Floridamarker 62.12%
  3. Coral Terrace, Floridamarker 61.87%
  4. West Miami, Floridamarker 61.61%
  5. University Park, Floridamarker 59.80%
  6. Olympia Heights, Floridamarker 57.65%
  7. Tamiami, Floridamarker 56.63%
  8. Hialeah Gardens, Floridamarker 54.31%
  9. Medley, Floridamarker 51.91%
  10. Sweetwater, Florida 49.92%
  11. Palm Springs North, Floridamarker 43.59%
  12. Miami Lakes, Floridamarker 42.28%
  13. Kendale Lakes, Floridamarker 38.58%
  14. Fountainbleau, Floridamarker 37.29%
  15. Miami, Floridamarker 34.14%
  16. Miami Springs, Floridamarker 31.83%
  17. Richmond West, Floridamarker 29.30%
  18. Coral Gables, Floridamarker 28.72%
  19. Virginia Gardens, Floridamarker 26.11%
  20. South Miami Heights, Floridamarker 2765745635.70%

U.S. communities with the most residents born in Cuba

For total 101 communities, see the reference given.Top 101 U.S. communities with the most residents born in Cuba are:

  1. Westchester, FL 55.8%
  2. Hialeah, FL 53.5%
  3. Coral Terrace, FL 51.9%
  4. West Miami, FL 50.5%
  5. South Westside, FL 48.3%
  6. University Park, FL 48.1%
  7. Hialeah Gardens, FL 47.5%
  8. Medley, FL 46.0%
  9. Tamiami, FL 45.7%
  10. Olympia Heights, FL 45.2%
  11. Sweetwater, FL 45.2%
  12. Westwood Lakes, FLmarker 44.9%
  13. Sunset, FLmarker 32.7%
  14. Fountainbleau, FL 32.3%
  15. North Westside, FL 30.4%
  16. Miami, FL 30.3%
  17. Miami Lakes, FL 30.1%
  18. Palm Springs North, FL 29.8%
  19. Kendale Lakes, FL 28.9%
  20. Kendale Lakes-Lindgren Acres, FL 24.3%


Many Cuban Americans have assimilated themselves into the American culture, which includes Cuban influences.

Since the 1980s, Cuban Americans have moved out of "Little Havana" and "Hialeah" to the suburbs of Miami, such as Kendallmarker, as well in the more affluent Coral Gablesmarker and Miami Lakesmarker.

Many new South and Central Americans, along with new Cuban refugees, have replaced the Cuban Americans who have relocated elsewhere in Florida (Fort Lauderdalemarker, Orlandomarker, Tampa Baymarker and West Palm Beachmarker) and dispersed throughout the nation.

Cuban Americans live in all 50 states, Washington, D.C.marker and Puerto Rico, which received thousands of anti-Castro refugees as well in the 1960s, and Cuban American population growth is found in Californiamarker, Georgiamarker, Illinoismarker, Indianamarker, Massachusettsmarker, New Yorkmarker, New Jerseymarker, Rhode Islandmarker, North Carolinamarker, and Virginiamarker.

More recently, there has been substantial growth of new Cuban-American communities in places like Hazleton, Pennsylvaniamarker; Raleigh, North Carolinamarker, Palm Desert, Californiamarker and recently a small increase in Appleton, Wisconsinmarker.

Cuban Americans have been very successful in establishing businesses and developing political clout by transforming Miami from a beach retirement community into a modern city with a younger demographic base with a distinct Caribbean flavor.

Cuban American culture

Political beliefs

Cuban Americans tend to be slightly more politically conservative than other Hispanic groups in the United States and form a major voting block for the Republican Party (GOP) in the state of Floridamarker. Many Cuban Americans fled the island to escape what they felt as a political and economic repression that they experienced under the Fidel Castro's communist government. As such, they tend to identify with the strong anti-communist stance of the Republican Party.

The failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and its association with John F. Kennedy, left many Cubans distrustful of the Democratic Party. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, is particularly popular in the Cuban exile community (there is a street in Miami named for Ronald Reagan). More recently, the Clinton administration's heavy handed use of armed INS agents in the seizure and return of Elián González to his father in Cuba under the direction of Janet Reno and Eric Holder may have affected the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election by stoking the passions of the exile community and serving to increase the Republican turnout in a contest that was ultimately decided by fewer than 1,000 votes in Florida.


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.

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.


Cubans often drink cafe cubano: a small cup of coffee called a cafecito (or a colada), which is traditional espresso coffee, sweetened, with a sugar 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.


Official Immigration to the U.S
Year of
White Black Other Asian Number
1959-64 93.3 1.2 5.3 0.2 144,732
1965-74 87.7 2.0 9.1 0.2 247,726
1975-79 82.6 4.0 13.3 0.1 29,508
1980 80.9 5.3 13.7 0.1 94,095
1981-89 85.7 3.1 10.9 0.3 77,835
1990-93 84.7 3.2 11.9 0.2 60,244
1994-2000 85.8 3.7 10.4 0.7 174,437
Total 87.2 2.9 9.6 0.2 828,577
Race by Cuban national Origin, 2000
Country of Origin White Black Other
Cubamarker 85.0% 3.6% 7.1%
Total: 1,241,685 1,055,432 44,700 88,159

The ancestry of Cuban Americans comes primarily from Spain

During the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th century, large waves of Basques, Canarians, Catalans, Andalusians, and Galician emigrated to Cuba. Much 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 Sephardic Jews from Turkey and Ashkenazic 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.

US Census and ACS

In the most recent census in 2000 there were 1,241,685 Cuban Americans, both native and foreign born and represented 3.5% of all Hispanics in the US.About 85% of Cuban Americans identify themselves as being White, mostly Spanish, which is the highest proportion of all other major Hispanic groups. In Florida, Cuban Americans have cultural ties with the state's large Spanish American or European Spanish community. In the 2007 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 a U.S citizen.


The median household income for Cuban Americans is $36,671, a figure higher than all other Hispanic groups, but lower than for non-Hispanic whites.

In contrast, US-born Cuban Americans have a higher median income than even non-Hispanic whites, $50,000 as compared to $48,000 for non-Hispanic whites.


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.

However, 39% of US-born Cuban Americans have a college degree or higher, as compared to only 30% of non-Hispanic whites, and 12% for all other Hispanic groups.


Being of primarily Spanishmarker extraction, most Cuban Americans are Roman Catholic, but some Cubans practice the African Traditional Religions (such as Santeria or Ifá), which evolved from mixing the Catholic religion with the traditional African religion. However, there are many Protestant (primarily Pentecostal) with small numbers of syncretism, nonreligious or tiny communities of Jewish Cuban and Muslim Americans.

Immigration policy

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 feet, dry feet policy". 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 50 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 6-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, INS agents took Elián González to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C. From there, his father took him back to Cuba.

Political representation

There are now four Cuban-American members of the United States House of Representatives; Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Albio Sires and two Senators (Mel Martinez of Florida, and Bob Menendez of New Jerseymarker) in the United States Senate. The former Secretary of Commerce, Carlos M. Gutierrez, is also a Cuban-American

Eduardo Aguirre 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.

Cuban-Americans also serve in high ranking judicial positions as well. Danny Boggs is the current chief judge of 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.

In 2006 Marco Rubio became Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Further reading

  • Miguel A. De La Torre, "La Lucha for Cuba: Religion and Politics on the Streets of Miami," University of California Press, 2003.

See also


  1. Microsoft Word - SomeOtherRace-Final 12-04.doc
  7. "Immigration: Cubans Enter U.S. at Texas-Mexico Border." Houston Press. 1.
  8. "Immigration: Cubans Enter U.S. at Texas-Mexico Border." Houston Press. 2.
  9. "Immigration: Cubans Enter U.S. at Texas-Mexico Border." Houston Press. 5.
  10. "Immigration: Cubans Enter U.S. at Texas-Mexico Border." Houston Press. 3.
  11. " Cuba, Mexico Look To Block The Texas Entrance To The U.S.." "Hair Balls." Houston Press. October 20, 2008.
  12. Olsen, Alexandra. " Cuba: Mexico to fight illegal migration to US." Associated Press via The Monitor. October 20, 2008.
  13. Cuba 1953 UN Statistics; Ethnic composition. Page: 260.May take time to load page
  14. Cuba Statistics Demographic and Immigrants to the USA. Page 156.
  15. CIA - The World Factbook - Cuba
  16. Cuban Americans in 2007
  17. [1] from
  18. [2] from
  19. [3] from

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