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Waves of Cuban Immigrants


Cuban Immigration to the United States

When was the largest wave of immigrant from Cuba to the United States?

1959 – 1960 – 250,000 Cuban immigrants arrived
1965-1973 – 300,000 Cuban immigrants arrived
1980 – 125,000 Cuban immigrants arrived
Present Immigration continues at a high rate

Push Factors

Cuban Immigration to the United States has been mostly for political reasons.

In 1959, Fidel Castro and his Communist regime took over Cuba. Many supporters of the other regime left at that time. During Castro’s rule, the conditions of life, especially economically, have gotten worse, and many people now flee seeking a jobs and a better life.

Many Cubans also attempt to flee the persecution of Castro’s government, who imprison and sometimes execute citizens who speak out against his government.

Pull Factors

The economic conditions force many Cubans to leave seeking a better life and employment. They also often have family members in the United States, giving them a base on which to begin their life.

The freedoms of democracy, such as the freedom of speech and the press, also cause a pull among Cuban immigrants to the United States. With political persecution being rampant through Fidel Castro’s government, freedom is a draw of the United States.

Where did they settle, and why?

The closeness of the Florida coast to Cuba gives many would-be immigrants a close destination to escape the harms of their home country. Most settle in Miami, where there is a section of the city called “Little Havana”, after Cuba’s capital. Today, 63 percent of all Cubans in the United States live in Florida.

There are also large Cuban communities in New York, New Jersey and California.


Cuban Americans are shown to have lower employment rates and better off financially than other Hispanic groups. Despite this, they are still worse off than non-Hispanic whites in both categories.

Cubans are known to place a higher value on education. This is evidenced by the much higher graduation rate of Cuban American children. Cuban Americans also possess one of the highest rates of education in the country. There are also a notably high number of Cuban American doctors.


Cuban American assimilation often depends on the period of migration. Those who migrated in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s were often the rich Cubans fleeing a Communist regime, and therefore assimilated easily due to their high levels of  education and wealth.

However, recent immigrants have mainly migrated searching for employment and jobs, and therefore have not assimilated as easily as earlier immigrants.

Stereotypes, Discrimination, and Other Struggles


In the 1980’s during a massive immigration wave, Fidel Castro put members of Cuban mental institutions and prisons on boats headed towards the United States. While the majority of the immigrants on the boats were simply immigrants looking for a better life, the American media held the event in a negative light. Many Cubans felt persecution following this portrayal.


Earlier, as most Cubans fleeing Cuba were wealthy and of the higher social class, there was not very much racism directed towards the group. However, as most immigrants now are arriving due to the horrible economic conditions of Cuba, many of the stereotypes and discrimination that are directed towards other Hispanic groups is now being extended to Cuban Americans.


Contributions to the United States


25 % of all business owned in Miami are Cuban owned. They also are one of the most educated ethnic groups in the United States.

The Cuban culture is on display throughout the United States. Cuban culture and its extensions, from Cuban cigars to Cameron Diaz, are a reminder of the important contribution that Cuban Americans make to American society.  

Questions for Further Discussion

How are Cuban Americans different from other immigrant groups migrating to the United States?