Copyright © 1999 International Development Options
All Rights Reserved
Volume One Winter 1998-Spring 1999 Numbers 3-4.
OFF-SHORE POLITICS: CHANGES WITHIN THE CUBAN EXILE COMMUNITY
Center for Latin America and Caribbean Studies
New York University
53 Washington Square South
New York, New York 10012
Published online: December 15, 2016
Almost one million Cuban-Americans reside in the United States, making it the largest Cuban population outside of Cuba. Not unlike other immigrant groups, Cuban-Americans came to the United States because of (and in reaction to) political circumstances in their country of origin. However, Cold War politics and the United States' disdain for the proximate communist regime set an immediately distinctive tone to the Cuban immigration waves following the 1959 Revolution. The U.S. government's rhetoric hailed Cuban exiles as champions of freedom and democracy—against Castro's revolution. Forty-one years later the Revolution is still intact on the island, and what was once expected to be a temporary Cuban exile community in the United States has instead developed into an economically and politically prominent American constituency. This economic and political clout, commensurate with Cuban-Americans' vested interest in Cuba's future, make the exile community an intrinsic factor in U.S. discussions of twenty-first century Cuba. Indeed, many international policy makers deem the "psychological civil war" between Cubans living on the island and Cuban exiles as a "core issue to understanding Cuba." This article will provide an overview of the Cuban-American immigration experience and discuss the pertinence of the community to U.S. relations with Cuba.