The first Cubans came to the United States in the nineteenth century. Most of these individuals left Cuba to either work in the American cigar and tobacco industry or to escape political persecution by the Spanish. The Spanish were driven from the island by the United States in 1898.
For half a century following Cuban independence, few Cubans emigrated to the U.S. During the 1950s, however, growing political unrest and economic uncertainty caused thousands of Cubans to flee the island for Miami and other Northern points. This exodus grew even larger after Fidel Castro seized control of the island on January 1, 1959, and began nationalizing large companies and confiscating the property of the upper middle class and wealthy. Between this date and the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, more than 150,000 Cubans came to the United States.
In the following years, Cuba's status as a communist country made the U.S. particularly receptive to Cuban immigrants, with hundreds of thousands of Cubans entering the U.S. Perhaps the most noteworthy event in this immigration is the Mariel boatlift of 1980, in which 125,000 people were allowed to immigrate to the U.S. from Cuba in a matter of weeks. Since this time, a few thousand Cubans have managed to escape their country each year. These Cubans, and those who came before them, are heavily concentrated in the Miami area, although large numbers can also be found in and around New York and Los Angeles.
Contacts and Sources
Cuban Genealogical Society
Institute of Genealogy and History for Latin America
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