In case you didn't know, this year is the 30-year anniversary of the Mariel Boatlift, the massive exodus of Cubans to south Florida with the blessing of both Fidel Castro and President Jimmy Carter. Jimmy may have thought it would be a generous act to welcome an unlimited number of unhappy Cubans, plus it would have the Cold War propaganda value of showing people fleeing commie Cuba for the freedom of America.
It didn't work out quite so nicely. Crafty Castro saw an opportunity to cull his nation's herd of undesirables, and he released Cuba's criminals and the insane to the warm, foolish embrace of America. The influx of so many foreigners in a few short months destroyed Miami's American nature.
The Coast Guard records the number of Mariel persons as 124,779 relocated to the United States during six months of 1980.
Recently the folks at National Public Radio noted the anniversary by inviting Marielitos to phone in and share their memories of the event. Naturally the tone was celebratory about the diversity of the huge horde of foreigners who were plopped into Miami, the residents of which had no choice about the matter. (The link below leads to an audio file of the radio broadcast.)
Marielitos' Stories, 30 Years After The Boatlift, NPR, July 20, 2010 [HOST NEIL] CONAN: And the story that was in the Herald described it as a pivotal moment when the city became inevitable, started to change its identity to become the international city it is now. [Ms. LUISA YANEZ (Reporter, Miami Herald)]: Absolutely. All of a sudden — you know, there have been Cubans here. There were Cubans here. But when 125,000 new Cubans arrived here, it changed Miami forever, totally. We became more of an international city. Spanish was spoken. It had been spoken before, but now it was everywhere. You had a whole new crop of new Cuban arrivals in this area. So it really changed Miami forever. CONAN: There was a battle over bilingual reforms that summer, the bilingualism went down, required to speak English, a battle that I think went on for 13 years. Ms. YANEZ: Absolutely, and not everybody welcomed all the Cubans that arrived. So that created some tensions with the older residents here, who felt that they were losing their Miami. So they set out to prevent I guess Spanish becoming an official language in the city and the county. And that was very bitter. That created a lot of bitterness in the community.
Imagine the situation from the viewpoint of Miami residents. Washington deposited 130,000 unscreened refugees, many of whom were violent criminals, within six months who then insisted that the city must accept their language as official. But it's the Americans who are criticized as unwelcoming because they "felt that they were losing their Miami."The city's rapid transformation from an American city into an "international" one is characterized as a positive development—perhaps to Cubans. Continuing:
CONAN: In a lot of ways, you're seeing in some ways the same battle that happened in Miami in 1980 happening in other places in the United States right now. Ms. YANEZ: That's true. You could say that that's the same thing is happening out West, too. But Miami always bounces back. You know, we always we absorbed all those people. Today you know, back then, being, like my dad was saying, being a Mariel could be, you know, a negative term, what we would say somebody who was a Mariel was a you know, it wasn't very nice. But today, 30 years later, I think we're just all Cuban refugees, escaping from the same regime.
The Mariel boatlift was one of the most disastrous examples of failed social engineering via immigration ever. But NPR attempted to paper over the catastrophe with cheerful first-person accounts. American residents of Miami were not invited to call in. In the video below with clips from the time, one police officer noted that Miami's homicide rate doubled the year following Mariel, and a detective described Cuba's criminal export scam saying, "It was like an invading army was dropped in here to rape, pillage and burn in our town."