Latino Studies Cuban Americans
by
Dario Moreno
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0014

Introduction

Cuban American refers to people of Cuban origins who live in the United States. The term can be applied to recent immigrants from the island as well as fifth-generation native-born Americans of Cuban ancestry. Cuban American studies are focused largely on Cuban exceptionalism. Scholars postulate that the Cuban American community in the United States is unique from other Latino and immigrant groups. The identity of exile combined with Miami’s Cuban economic enclave creates a distinctive immigration experience for Cubans. The idea that Cuban Americans are different from other Latin groups is pervasive throughout the literature. Sociologists argue that Cubans are different from other Latinos on the basis of a variety of socioeconomic indicators. Cubans simply have been more economically successful than any other Latino groups. Political scientists point out that unlike other Latinos, Cuban exiles have become Republicans due to their strong anti-Communist belief. Other political scientists have found that Cuban Americans have unique voting behavior in terms of higher participation and bloc voting. Other writers look at the long history of Cuban migration to the United States, the use of religious symbolism, and Cuban literature and art to understand Cuban American exceptionalism.

Introductory Works

The study of Cuban Americans did not begin until twenty years after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Most of the early research focused on the first two waves of Cuban migration into the United States. Comparing the Cubans of the so-called “golden exiles” with other Latino and immigrant groups was the primary research mission of these scholars. Pedraza 1992 offers an excellent review of the demographic and socioeconomic work that dominated Cuban American scholarship in the late 1970s. These early studies finding that Cubans were relatively better off than other Latino and immigrant groups in the United States gave rise to the notion of Cuban exceptionalism. The fact that Cuban Americans, at first, identified themselves as political exiles rather than immigrants was another important difference between Cubans and other Latin American immigrants. Grenier and Pérez 2003 discusses the consequence of this exile identity in the authors’ excellent overview of the Cuban American experience in the United States.

  • Grenier, Guillermo J., and Lisandro Pérez. The Legacy of Exile: Cubans in the United States. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2003.

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    The authors argue that the Cubans’ identity as exiles has colored all aspects of their lives in the United States. The mindset of exiles has made reclaiming the homeland the top priority for the community and has reinforced a sense of exceptionalism from other Hispanics and immigrants.

  • Pedraza, Silvia. “Cubans in Exile, 1959–1989: The State of Research.” In Cuban Studies since the Revolution. Paper presented at a conference held at Florida International University on 6–7 April 1990. Edited by Damián J. Fernández, 235–257. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992.

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    Pedraza points out that Cuban studies began with the investigation of the first two waves of migration. The studies focused on the demographic and socioeconomic positions of the immigrants. It was not until the 1980s that scholars began exploring Cuban exiles’ impact on Miami (Boswell and Curtis 1984, cited under Cubans in Miami) and its politics (Mohl 1990, cited under Ethnic Tensions).

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