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History of Immigration

[REF: South Dade News Leader, April 14, 1966, P 5]

Cuban Refugees Superimposes Culture and Customs
In Haven from Home

By: H. D. Quigg
United Press International

MIAMI (UPI) - The journey was only an hour to "the magic city."  To the passengers, that Miami slogan was no tourist come-on.  To them the magic of Miami was the magic of freedom.  And the wait had been long.

The big silver transport came down from a mottled sky.  It was the morning flight, one of two daily from Varadero, Cuba, about 85 miles east of Havana, into Miami International Airport.

Down the landing ramp they came, 82 Cuban refugees, set foot on solid American Asphalt, nodded hopefully to two U.S. Immigration Department girls who waved them into three buses.  Among them was one of the handsomest little girls alive.

She was Viviana, 6 years old.  She wore a yellow jacket and in one hand she carried a doll.  The other hand grasped that of a 39- year-old Cuban with a broad, flat nose and full black wavy hair, a very special man because he was her papa -and, a statistic.

13,000th Arrival
Generoso Rodriguez Guerra, an Havana street-cubicle vendor of women's clothing, was the 13,000th refugee to come in on the Cuban airlift since it began last Dec. 1.  He was arriving with Viviana this St. Patrick's Day to join his wife and younger daughter in the U.S.A.

Down the ramp ahead of them had come dark and beautiful Clara Eumelia Muina, nearly 18, bound to join her family in Newark, N.J.

These two family arrivals were cases in point.  Generoso and Viviana were to go to Miami, in whose environs some 100,000 refugee Cubans live.  Clara represented a recent trend -now nearly 75 per cent of those coming to Miami are resettled outside Dade County.

Where do they go?  What do they do?  For one thing, they've impinged on t he culture and economy of Miami -a city of great good tolerance and resilience -to a point that is immediately visible and audible and food-smellable to a visitor.

Spanish Signs
You come into Miami and are struck first by the signs.  On the highway toll station: "Espera Luz Verde."  (Wait for the green light.)  On a storefront: "Sandwiches Cubanos."  At an airport booth: "Seguros de Viaje."  (travel insurance.)  A restaurant name: "La Esquina de Tejas" (a corner of Texas).  All this is far outside the big Cuban settlement and its main street.

You go into any Chinese restaurant and the first thing the waitress plunks down is a basket of "galletas," Spanish biscuits [crackers].  In the Hong Kong restaurant, there is a duality of menu: Chicken chow mein, fried rice & egg roll, is also "chow mein de pollo, arroz frito, egg roll"; and ying yong gai, fried rice & barbecue spare ribs, comes out "masa de pollo rellena, arroz frito, costillitas fritas."

In the heart of the downtown shopping section, Flagler St., just a block and a half up from Biscayne Blvd. by the bay, are many Cuban-catering stores, open Sundays -clothing, electronic gadgetry, novelties, luggage, jewelry.  Sign: "juguetes (toys), T.V., radios, tocadiscos (record players), camaras y rollos Kodak (cameras and film)."

You hear as much Spanish as English in the Flagler St. big-store area, and the best known department store has a behind-scenes order posted to employees: "Speak English on duty."  And indeed, Cuban customers and clerks seem in the majority in the area.

Latin Food Products
In the last five years, more Latin food products have appeared on the shelves - like the little toasted banana shavings called "mariquitas," like the cigarette brand whose owners left Cuba in 1961 and whose customers now are 80 per cent non-Cuban; the black beans that now are in all groceries.

"A lot of Cuban dishes have found their way into our diet," said the 20-year Miami resident.  "Five years ago you'd never get black beans at my house the way you did at my party.  Now, the proper way is to serve rice on the bottom, then beans, chopped onions on top, and pour oil and vinegar... ."

You are listening to sweet music from a big 50 kilowatt radio station and suddenly comes the voice twice daily: "During the following 55 minutes, radio Miami, WGBS, presents a program of news and commentary broadcast daily to Cuba, where nearly 7 million people are living against their will under Fidel Castro's Communist..."

Sign on a big building "Wig world -‘go-go wigs'."

3,600 A MONTH
The airlift brings in 800 to 1,000 refugees a five-day week -averaging 3,600 a month.  It's a relative-to-relative program - a relative in the United States must claim those in Cuba.  So they go to relatives - those 75 per cent who are resettling - hopefully where there are jobs.  One recent week they went like this:

New York City, 226; Newark, 176; Los Angeles, 65; San Juan, 60; Chicago,41; Tampa, 37; New Orleans, 25 - they were the big receiving cities.  In a recent week there were 855 resettlements out of 892 arrivals.  There are still clandestine boat arrivals - 86 persons on 12 small boats in February.

Since the advent of Castro in January, 1959, an estimated 659,000 have left Cuba - 300,000 of them to the United States, with one-third of these staying in Miami.  Since the U.S.-Cuban refugee program began in February, 1961, around 105,000 arrivals have been resettled outside Miami.  They went to all states.

The totals now range from Alaska's low one refugee to those five leaders: New York, 28,455; New Jersey, 14,149; California, 10,617; Illinois, 5,549; Massachusetts, 3,540.  But if Puerto Rico were a state it would rank third, with 10,629.

Generoso Rodriguez Guerra cares little about being the 13,000th airlift statistic.  He's thankful he got out.  The bus took him and his daughter 11 ½ miles to Opa Locka, a Miami suburb.  There at the Cuban refugee center's compound, they went through immigration, health, and settlement routines.  And he registered for a job.  Any job.

Broken Family Problems
Theirs was about the 1070th case of family reunions involving children since the airlift began Dec. 1.  The worst problem facing the voluntary resettlement agencies is that of broken families.

These experienced voluntary agencies, in their local communities, are the outfits to be contacted with job offers.  They are the National Catholic Welfare Conference, which handles 80 per cent of the cases; Church World Service (Protestant), United Hias Service (Hebrew Immigrant aid society), and International Rescue Committee (nonsectarian).

More than 10,000 job offers from around the country have come to the "freedom tower" offices of the Cuban refugee center in downtown Miami since President Johnson made his "asylum for the oppressed" speech last Oct. 3 The center can only reply: "Check with your local church or civic groups."

As of jobs, and human types, the Opa-Locka processors say the refugees are "a pretty good cross section" of Cuba.

At the Opa-Locka compound, Rodriguez Guerra and Viviana were met by his wife Carmen , 30, in her 1955 Buick, and they drove home to see Grisle, 3 1-2, who came out with her mother when she was one month old, in August, 1962.

Home is a tiny cottage, white and green frame, behind another cottage in a racially mixed neighborhood.  It has a little living room, bedroom, and kitchen.  In a side yard, behind shrubs and dappled by a banyan tree's shade is a swing and slide set for the kids.

Carmen preferred this cottage to the street side apartments of the downtown refugee section.  She pays $50 a month rent.  She drives 6 1-2 miles to an egg packing factory, works past midnight, and makes $1.25 an hour for $56 to $62 a week.

The husband is looking for a job, but it's tough because he speaks no English.  Finances?  "Going to be very difficult."  He's willing to pack up and go to any city where there's work.  He gets nothing from the government.

That's rather new–presumably to encourage resettlement.  It's like this: The Cuban influx began in 1959 when the overthrown Batista people came in.  Then came the 1959-60 peak when around 2,000 refugees a week came.  In 1962-63 refugees were given a government check and went out and found a room.

No city could have been more tolerant or hospitable than Miami-there was never a detention or refugee camp set up.  There was a definite burden on schools, health-keeping, police (although no increase in crime because of the Cubans).

No Backing Up
In the old days, when there was no quick resettlement, a refugee family got $100 a month maximum, a person without family, $60.  Since the "new wave" of refugees began, with Castro's  last-September announcement he would let anybody leave, the plan is to try to prevent their backing up in Miami, as in 1962-63.

Now, there's no immediate handout–the person gets pocket money here, and a flat "transitional grant" of the $100 or $60 is mailed to the resettlement destination. It's assumed that a person going to a relative in Miami will be cared for by the relative, and he gets no check at all.

About 12,000 refugees in Dade County still are getting federal assistance.  In 1962-63 between 65,000 and 70,000 were getting it.

As for taking over jobs, the Florida State Employment Service labor market department points out that if there's a function to be done, and a refugee holds it, someone else would have been doing it–maybe from the north.  But the refugees have created jobs, buoyed the economy in their own accumulation, plus government money, that helped during a 1961-63 local recession.

Estimates of Cuban worker percentages in Miami industry include: garment work, 75; hotel service, 40-60; furniture and fixtures making, 40; lumber products, 20; chemicals, 50; printing and publishing, 20; restaurant, 15-20; retail and small stores, very heavy.

Prior to the "new wave" that followed President Johnson's Oct. 3 speech, the Dade County school system was getting from the federal government 60 per cent of total expense for refugee children whose families were on relief, 45 per cent for those not on relief.  This is continuing for those enrolled before Oct. 3.

Support Cuban Teachers
For the "new wave," the government agreed to a flat outlay of $600 per child, plus $518 yearly in operating costs.  Additionally, it will pay $60,000 supplemental money to provide one Cuban aide (translator) per 6 children, one visiting teacher and one counselor for each 500, a psychologist for each 1,000.

Refugees in the county schools peaked at 18,260 in 1962.  Just prior to last Oct. 3, there were 15,501.  The "new wave" enrollees now number 1,221.  So the total now is 16,722.

The man-in-street belief in Miami is that many resettled refugees return to Miami.  The refugee center says only 5 per cent return, and half of these relocate again.  The county labor statisticians think the returnees exceed the center's figure.  Recently, the school system spot-checked 347 refugee children and found 28 per cent had lived elsewhere in the country.

The Cuban community, near downtown Miami and centered along 15 or 20 blocks of 8th St., has been enterprising and industrious.  They took on an area that was going backward and refurbished it, coming in with nothing.

Just at the start of the area–a colorful, wholly Cuban atmosphere of clean business street-you encounter the Sosa Cigar factory, for example Juan Sosa, the proprietor, supervises 14 employees in the business his family once ran in Cuba.  He's been here three years, worked in a factory a while, and started the cigar business 18 months ago.  He makes 80 boxes a day, sells to New York, Detroit, Chicago.

Also Sells Paperbacks
Nearby, the "farmacia Navarro-medicinas a Cuba, precios de discount" is like any American drugstore except that it has Spanish language magazines and supplies of guava paste and marmalade.  But it also has paper backs of Tom Sawyer, the Scarlet Letter, and Treasure Island.

One success story often cited is the nightclub called Les Violins formerly in Havana.  It's on Biscayne Blvd. and always crowded and reportedly has been offered $500,000 for the name alone.

The first family ever registered at the Cuban refugee center, on Feb. 27, 1961, now is in Milwaukee.  The husband, Felix Antonio Gutierrez, works at a brewery, his wife, Estrella, at a factory, and a daughter and son are doing well.  The first person off on the first airlift plane, Mrs. Virginia Olazabal Delgado, 75, went to live in the Bronx, New York.

And a recent resettlement case?  Let's take the beautiful girl who preceded the 13,000th airliftee.  Clara Muinia cleared Opa-Locka and went in the bus past the beautiful dress shops and markets heaped with milk cartons ("magnifico!") to "freedom house," a sort of refugee hotel at the airport for those outbound.

Next day she was with the father and step-mother in a Cuban section of Newark–a high-school-age girl with an urge to be an architect.  The mother is a registered nurse, the father an auto body repair man.  There are three other children, and they all live in a little flat with the customary religious decorations on the wall.

What was her first impression of America?

"Magnifico," she said again.
"Liberty!" said her father.

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