During the mid-1950s, when opposition to Cuba’s Batista dictatorship began to assert itself, a trickle of Cubans started arriving in a predominantly Jewish section of Miami then called Riverside. The trickle became a flood when Fidel Castro took power in 1959, and the area became Little Havana, populated by the affluent Cuban middle classes who had the most to lose under communism.

These original immigrants were joined by a second influx in May 1980, when the Mariel boatlift brought 125,000 islanders from the port of Mariel to Miami in just a few days. These new arrivals were poor and uneducated, and a fifth of them were fresh from Cuban jails – incarcerated for criminal rather than political crimes. Bluntly, Castro had dumped his misfits on Miami. The city reeled, and then recovered from this mass arrival, but it left Miami’s Cuban community utterly divided. Even today, older Cuban-Americans claim that they can pick out a Marielito from the way he or she walks.

That said, local division gives way to fervent agreement when it comes to Castro: he’s universally detested. Despite failing to depose the dictator, Cuban-Americans have been far more successful at influencing the US government. Since the 1980s, Cubans have been vociferous supporters of the Republican Party, and therefore one of the main reasons that the US embargo of Cuba (imposed in 1962) remains in place, for now at least.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

7 places to get off the tourist trail in New York City

7 places to get off the tourist trail in New York City

Ticked off New York City’s big sights and wondering where to go next? From sinking a pint in Brooklyn's Red Hook to sampling Italian delicacies in The Bronx, …

11 Apr 2017 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
In search of the real Wild West on America's Great Plains

In search of the real Wild West on America's Great Plains

Wild West – we all feel something when we see or hear those words. But why? How much is true and how much is fantasy? Our editor Neil McQuillian took to the (…

06 Apr 2017 • Neil McQuillian local_activity Special feature
15 of the most beautiful places in Alaska

15 of the most beautiful places in Alaska

With mountains to climb, rivers to raft, glaciers to coo over and a bevy of bears to photograph, Alaska is the ultimate wilderness – and this year is the per…

30 Mar 2017 • Sarah Reid camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month