Diasporic Profile

Cuban Migration Globally and in the U.S. Location of Cuba

Cuban refugees and asylum applicants can be found many places the world over, however, the countries with the highest number of refugees are the U.S., Canada, Costa Rica, Germany and Peru, while those countries with the highest number of asylum seekers are Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Honduras, and Spain (2005 UNHCR Statistical Yearbook Country Data Sheet – Cuba). At present time, 7,938 are classified as refugees, while 862 are considered asylum seekers (UNHCR Web Page, Cuba Statistical Snapshot). As of 2004, there were just under 1.5 million people of Cuban descent in the U.S., roughly two-thirds of whom are foreign-born       Image from
(Pew Hispanic Center, Cubans in   the United States). Those in the U.S. mainly tend to settle
in Miami, though Southern California, New York and New Jersey have sizable populations as
well (PBS Latinos ’08 Immigration Trends Map).

Cuban Migration to Minnesota

Cubans account for a small minority of the Latino population in Minnesota, only encompassing 2.6 percent as of 2003, which translates to about 4,000 total Cubans (NCLR Minnesota State Fact Sheet). Cubans began to settle in Minnesota around 1950, though never in particularly large numbers (PBS Latinos ’08 Immigration Trends Map). Populations of Latinos in general tend to be dispersed widely throughout the state, and tend to come to Minnesota in search of jobs, mainly those in service industries, construction, and janitorial services (Minneapolis Foundation, Immigration in Minnesota: Mexico, Central and South America). However, particular characteristics of Cuban Americans distinguish them from Latino populations in general. Cuban Americans are shown to have higher employment rates and tend to be better off financially than other Latino groups. Furthermore, Cuban Americans are known to place a higher value on education than Latinos in general, since Cuban American children have higher graduation rates, and Cuban Americans have one of the highest rates of education in the country. (The Advocates for Human Rights, Energy of a Nation,                                                                                                                                                                                  

Cultural Notes                                            

The majority of Cubans in the Twin Cities tend to dislike the Castro regime, though are unlikely to support the calls for his overthrow that have sprung up among members of Miami’s Cuban community (Star Tribune, ‘Let the Cubans Decide’). In 2008, The Minnesota Legislature voted to propose a resolution urging the U.S. to open trade and immigration with Cuba (Minnesota House of Representatives, HF828). However, it was vetoed by Minnesota Governor Pawlenty despite the fact that it was a non-binding resolution, possibly to enhance his chances at the time of becoming Senator McCain’s running mate in the 2008 election (City Pages, Pawlenty flip-flops on Cuba just in time to cozy up to McCain).

Home Country Profile 

In order to develop a relational understanding of Cuban migration, it is crucial to 1) situate 20th century Cuban migration to the United States within the context of the Cuban Revolution and the geopolitics of the Cold War era, 2) avoid categorizing all Cuban migrants using the homogenous terms, “immigrants,” “refugees,” “exiles,” “colonial subjects,” as their historical modes of incorporation differ greatly. This section examines both points to illustrate the currents driving Cuban exoduses in the20th century. Cuban migration to the United States occurred through multiple waves; as Silvia Pedraza-Bailey argues, “Cuban migration is characterized by an inverse correlation between date of departure and social class.”[1] First, between 1959 and 1962, upper class Cuban families, otherwise known as the Batistianos, fled the country as Fidel Castro assumed power; “their exodus was spurred by Cuba’s nationalization of American industry, agrarian reform laws, and U.S. severance of diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba.”[2] Second, from 1965-1974, the United States government working alongside the Cuban government began a series of “freedom flights,” bringing in middle and working class families. These collaborations served the interests of both governments as the United States showcased the success of “capitalism” vis-à-vis Cold War socialism by aiding Cuban migrants with 1.3 billion dollars of “European style welfare,” and as Cuba rid the polity of internal dissenters who threatened the Castro regime.[3] As Alejandro Portes explains, the first two waves of migration were largely influenced by “push factors,” such as the realignment of political and economic allegiances during the rise of socialist Cuba and the ensuing revolution. Later migration waves such as the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and the Camarioca flotilla exodus must be assessed in relation to the decreasing influence of Communism in the 1980s, the attraction of cultural centers in the United States such as Little Havana, and the rise of transnational migration movements between the United States and Cuba. As the political climate of Cuba began to shift towards socialism in the 20th century, more and more people began to leave. However, it is important to consider migration cohorts’ reasons for leaving in terms of the geopolitics stemming from the Cold War era. 

Cuban refugees arrive in Miami, 1962            Families are resettled at some point in the wall map


Balseros at Sea - Cuban refugees attempting to reach Florida, 2003. Source:

Fidel Castro leads demonstrators past the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, Oct. 18, 2000.
Source: Wall Street Journal, 12/27/08

Cuban Refugees. Source:

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