Snapshots of Florida's Hispanic Community
Within Florida's Hispanic community, diversity is increasing.
No nationality has transformed Florida like Cubans have. Now the largest Hispanic group in Florida is itself in transformation. Cubans, once the majority of Hispanic Floridians, have become a plurality, down to 29% of the Hispanic population, as other groups grow faster. In Miami-Dade County, Cubans share the city, if not power, with hosts of new immigrants from Latin America. Spanish accents, music and food have become more diverse. St. John Bosco, the Little Havana Catholic church that welcomed and served so many Cubans that it became known as the "exile's cathedral," now has a Nicaraguan pastor.
|Top Cuban Communities
|Kendale Lakes (Miami-Dade)
|Percent of Total Population
|% of Cubans
|West Miami (Miami-Dade)
|University Park (Miami-Dade)
"If you were to do a profile, the cafeterias epitomize the changes," writes Alex Stepick, a Florida International University professor, in an email. "Cuban coffee still predominates, and every cafeteria has some Cuban pastries, but they are now likely to also have Colombian and Venezuelan ones, too. And, driving down (Calle Ocho), even in the heart of Little Havana, there are Peruvian, Mexican, Colombian and other restaurants."
There's nothing on the immigration horizon to suggest a return to a Cuban majority. Last year, Cuba announced it would make it easier for its citizens to leave — and return. But Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, and Jaime Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, don't expect a major new flow from the changes because the United States hasn't changed its 20,000 annual Cuba visa quota.
Within the Cuban-American population of 1.21 million in Florida, change is occurring too. Researchers keep busy tracking the different backgrounds, fortunes and outlooks of the waves of exiles, from those first to flee Castro repression in 1959 and the early 1960s through the Mariel immigrants in 1980, who grew up with no memory of pre-Socialist Cuba, to the post-1990 rafter, or balsero, wave, whose formative experience was the desperation, disillusionment and deprivation of Cuba's "Special Period" after the loss of Soviet aid exposed the shortcomings of the "Workers' Paradise." Two noticeable ways the differences play out: Generational conflict among Cuban-Americans over U.S. Cuba policy and a shift by younger Cuban-Americans toward Democrats. FIU professor and pollster Dario Moreno says Cubans went 70-30 for George W. Bush but only 55-45 for Mitt Romney. "It's a pretty significant shift over the last eight years," Moreno says. Says University of Florida professor Philip J. Williams, director of the Center for Latin American Studies, "As the older Cuban generation dies off, that has political consequences."
L. Felice Gorordo, born and raised in Miami to Cuban parents, reflects the new nuances. His father came as a child from Cuba in Operation Pedro Pan and his mother on a Freedom Flight. His grandparents followed and were die-hard Republicans. Gorordo himself is a registered Republican but says his politics are moderate. He interned in the George W. Bush White House, worked for three years at Liberty Power, served in the U.S. Commerce Department under Bush but voted in 2008 and 2012 for Barack Obama and served a non-partisan White House Fellowship under Obama. Gorordo now works for Clearpath, a company bringing TurboTax ease to immigration paperwork.
Gorordo attended Georgetown, where he took a course in Cuban studies. A professor counseled him that a visit would be worthwhile, and Gorordo approached his parents. "It was a heated discussion. In the end, they gave me their blessing, and I went," he says. He found the country of his heritage beautiful, welcoming and sad. "It was disillusioning to see so many young people with no hope for a future," he says.
In college, he founded Roots of Hope, Raíces de Esperanza, to "empower Cuban youth to become the authors of their own future."