In 1959, the Cuban Revolution initiated a mass migration of Cuban citizens to the United States. This influx was prompted by Fidel Castro’s political defeat of Fulgencio Batista and the July 26 Movement that ushered in a new communist state. Many immigrants arriving in the U.S. after 1959 were wealthy, white-collar professionals, property owners and political elites, looking to protect their assets from the new political system. A diverse range of Cuban immigrants followed—some fleeing political persecution and others drawn by economic opportunity. Due to its proximity, the majority of Cuban immigrants migrated to Miami.
When Castro restricted travel flow between the two countries in 1962, large numbers of Cuban asylum seekers undertook treacherous boat passages to Florida. At least 409,000 families migrated to the United States between 1959 and 1970, shaping the cultural and political identity of Miami as well as U.S.-Cuba immigration policies. The preferable immigration and refugee policies for Cuban migrants reflect the United States’ historic willingness to support individuals fleeing communist regimes.