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Titulo "International Migrations in Cuba: persinting trends and changes


Autor Rolando García Quiñones
Director del Centro de Estudios Demográficos (CEDEM), Cuba



During the last four decades international migration in Cuba has been characterized by its singular social, economic and geopolitical causes, which continue to be latent. The beginning of the Revolution changed the reasons for migration, which began to reflect political factors related to the conflict with the U.S. and economic factors derived from such conflict (for example, the embargo) and from the evolution of the revolutionary process, within a context of social justice, which has confronted enormous financial difficulties, a frail productive support system and limited resources and consumer goods.

Ever since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 the balance of external migrations has remained negative, registering some surges during times of greater conflict in political relations between Cuba and the U.S., and more critical economic situations.

A number of migration flows' stages or cycles can be differentiated in terms of volume and quality:

1) The flow of emigrants following the triumph of the Revolution (1959-1962). These emigrants define themselves as "exiles". The issue of migrations begins to acquire ideological and political connotations within the framework of the Cuba-U.S. conflict, a process that is complemented by the establishment of the embargo. At the beginning of the 1960s the U.S. establishes the Cuban Refugees Program and uses the problem of migration as a hostile tool against the Cuban Revolution.

From the perspective of Cuba, migration policies acquire a defensive, restrictive and excluding character and emigration is viewed as "the abandonment of the homeland", often labeled as "migration without return" or "definitive migration".

2) A wave of emigrants from 1965 to the first years of the 1970's. The 1966 "Cuban Adjustment Law" grants Cuban immigrants to the USA the status of 'political refugee', and comparatively preferential treatment.

Following the 1962 October Crisis (or "Missile Crisis") the possibility of leaving Cuba to enter the U.S. was suspended and the 'pressure cooker' theory, aimed at internally destabilizing the island, led to Cuba's decision to allow the emigration of large numbers of people through the Camarioca harbor (1966-1971).

3) Migration flows since 1980, from the harbor of Mariel ("Los Marielitos").

4) The so-called "Boat People Crisis" of 1994, which led to a revision of the migration problem by both countries and the beginning of conversations on this issue that culminated in the 1994 Migration Agreements and their 1995 complementary agreements. These agreements are aimed at eliminating, or at least reducing, illegal migration, even though they do not remove the preferences for Cuban migrants.

Thus, every migration wave has been conditioned by multiple factors, such as the "temperature" of the conflict between both countries, the preferential treatment granted by U.S. policies to Cuban immigrants, the political pressure exerted by Cuban exiles and, obviously, Cuba's internal economic and social situation.

According to some sources between 1959 and 1999, 1,079,000 Cubans migrated to different countries. Today, the total Cuban population residing abroad is estimated to be above 1,400,000 people. The U.S. 1990 census registered 1,043,932 people of Cuban origin, while in the 2000 census that number totalled 1,241,685, 48.4% men and 51.6% women. Cubans represent 0.4% of the U.S. population and 4.0% of the Hispanic population living in the U.S


4This law modifies the immigration status of all Cubans inspected and accepted by the US Immigration and Naturalization Services, to enable them to obtain residence status one year and one day after arriving in the U.S.



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