Profile of a Community
When Roberto Goizueta became CEO of Coca-Cola in 1981, Cubans living
in the United States saw him as a symbol of their business community success
in the world's most powerful country.
Also in 1981, Jorge Mas Canosa, who at the time was a very successful
businessman, established the Cuban American National Foundation along
with a group of his fellow Cubans. Very soon, the CANF became the
most powerful lobby machine of Latin American origin ever seen.
In the early 80s, the Cuban exodus had been moving to the United
States for the past 22 years, after Fidel
Castro took control of the island in 1959. More than 600,000 Cubans
had arrived in America, including 14,000 children of the well known
Pedro Pan Operation, who traveled from Cuba without their parents;
those of the brief Camarioca boatlift; those who took advantage of
the so-called Vuelos de la Libertad from Varadero; and 125,000 "marielitos" in
1980. Many Cubans also traveled to Spain, Mexico, Venezuela and
Panama, and years later came to America.
Over 30,000 "balseros" arrived in 1995, after risking their
lives in the dangerous Florida Straits in the summer of 1994. The
Clinton Administration sent them out to the Guantanamo Naval Base
and said they will never come to America. One year later, "balseros"
were allowed to enter into the United States. In fact, the exodus
has not ended up yet.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 1.2 million
Cubans lived in America in 2000, but they might be many more as of
35.3 million Hispanics counted during the census, at least 6 million
did not specify their nationalities. Today 44.3
million Latinos live in the United States.
The Cuban-American community is made up not only by business people
but also scientists, artists, writers, scholars, and blue-collar workers,
as well as political activists advocating respect for human rights
and democracy in Cuba.
There are five Cuban-Americans in the U.S. Congress, four in the
House of Representatives and two in
the Senate: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican of Florida who in 1989
became the first U.S. Congresswoman of Latino origin; Lincoln Diaz-Balart,
also a Florida's Republican; Mario Diaz-Balart, a brother of
Lincoln and also a Republican of Florida,
and Albio Sires, a New
Jersey Democrat. In
2004, Mel Martinez, a Republican of Florida and former Secretary
of Housing and Urban Development during the first term of George
W. Bush, was elected to the U.S. Senate. Robert
Menendez, a Democrat of New Jersey and a high
ranking figure of his party in the U.S. Congress,
was also elected U.S. Senator in November, 2006.
Pop music celebrities of Cuban origin are also very well known. The
late Celia Cruz, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Willy Chirino, Albita,
Paquito D'Rivera, Israel Lopez (Cachao), Arturo Sandoval, and Juan
Pablo Torres are only a few Cuban singers, composers and instrumentists
living in the United States. Hollywood also opened its doors to Cubans
like Andy Garcia, Cameron Diaz, Eva Mendes, Elizabeth Pena and Steven
Bauer, among others. The late Nestor Almendros, a cinematographer
who was born in Spain but considered himself a Cuban, has been the
only Cuban American who has won an Academy Award. Mr. Almendros won
the Oscar in the late 70s for his work
in "Sophie's Choice" in the category of Best
Photography. He was nominated
Desi Arnaz and his American wife Lucille Ball were pioneers of the
U.S. television with their "I Love Lucy" show. Mr. Arnaz
was also a successful TV producer and businessman. "I Love Lucy"
is being aired by many TV stations even today.
Bob Vila, the Sears' spokeperson for years, is also a Cuban American.
A number of Major League baseball players like brothers Orlando and
Livan Hernandez, are of Cuban origin.
When you go to universities and concert halls, you will also find
Cubans in outstanding positions. Composer Aurelio de la Vega has
been Emeritus and Distinguished Professor at Cal State/Northridge.
His profile can be read in two American encyclopedic books. Dr. Enrico
Mario Santi, a writer and a scholar, has been a professor at Georgetown
University and the Kentucky University. Playwright Nilo Cruz became
the first Latino who has received a Pulitzer Prize in the category
of Drama. Mr. Cruz won the Pulitzer in 2003 for his play "Anna
in the Tropics." Cundo Bermundez is currently the most important
Cuban painter alive. In the 60s he lived in Puerto Rico as an exile,
then he moved to Miami.
According to the 2000 Census, Cubans enjoy the highest levels of
education among U.S. Hispanics, with 23% of those who are 25 years
old graduated from colleges and universities. Central Americans show
a 17.4%, Puerto Ricans 13%, and Mexicans 6.9%
But Cubans are also the oldest Hispanics, with an average age of
40.7 years, while Mexicans are the youngest Hispanics with 24.2 years.
Puerto Ricans average age is 27.3 years. The national average age
is 35.3 years.
Cuban Americans have been so succesfull in business that many people
think of them as the Jews of Latin America. Also according to the
U.S. Census Bureau, in 1997 Cubans owned 125,300 companies with annual
revenues of $26.5 billion.
Seven of every 10 Cubans live in Miami-Dade, Florida. The U.S. nearest
point to Cuba is Key West, Fla., 90 miles away from Punta Icacos,
Varadero, in the Cuban province of Matanzas.
The New York/New Jersey area with more than 150,000 Cubans is second
to Miami-Dade, followed by California where 75,000 Cubans are living
The Cuban presence in the United States did not begin with the anti-Castro
exodus of 1959. Juan de Miralles, born in Spain and raised in Cuba,
where he became a very successful businessman, was a close friend
of George Washington during the American Revolution. He was the first
ambassador of the Spanish Kingdom to the Continental Congress. He
died in April 1780 assisted by Washington's doctors and wife Martha
Later on, Cuban ladies from Havana and Matanzas donated jewels valued
at 1.2 million Tournaise pounds (a currency of the 18th. century)
to help Washington defeat Britons in the decisive battle of Yorktown,
in October 1781.
In the early 1800, Cuban priest Felix Varela was very active in the
Catholic Diocese of New York. He helped the poor and had time to
write a number of texts in defense of the Cuban independence. He
was honored by the U.S. Postal Service in 1997. Father Varela was
Editor of the New York Catholic Register, a religious newspaper.
In 1823 he founded El Habanero, which is considered the first Spanish-language
newspaper established in the U.S. He died at the age of 65 in St.
Augustine, Florida, after living 30 years in America.
In 1892, Jose Marti, the Cuban national heroe, founded in America
the Cuban Revolutionary Party, the key political movement of the
Cuban Independence War which began on February 24, 1895. Marti lived
14 years in the U.S. Since 1985 Radio Marti, a U.S.-government radio
station, broadcasts regular programming and news to Cuba, where the
Communist regime runs all news media. In the early 90s, TV Marti
was also created and is still airing programming to the Caribbean
Many experts believe that the extraordinary economic power of Cuban
Americans will be a very important factor in
a post-Castro's Cuba, when democracy and market economy will rule
the small country.
Cuban American Legacy - Special Edition
Cuban Population - The size of Cuba
as a country
Cuba en Español
Cover - Privacy