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
To the passengers, that Miami slogan was no tourist
them the magic of Miami was the magic of freedom. And
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
east of Havana, into Miami International Airport.
Down the landing ramp they came, 82 Cuban refugees, set foot
American Asphalt, nodded hopefully to two U.S. Immigration
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.
Generoso Rodriguez Guerra, an Havana street-cubicle vendor
clothing, was the 13,000th refugee to come in on the Cuban
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
Down the ramp ahead of them had come dark and beautiful
Clara Eumelia Muina, nearly 18, bound to join her family in
CASES IN POINT
These two family arrivals were cases in point.
Viviana were to go to Miami, in whose environs some 100,000
Cubans live. Clara represented a recent trend -now
nearly 75 per
cent of those coming to Miami are resettled outside Dade
Where do they go? What do they do? For one
impinged on t he culture and economy of Miami -a city of
tolerance and resilience -to a point that is immediately
audible and food-smellable to a visitor.
You come into Miami and are struck first by the signs.
highway toll station: "Espera Luz Verde." (Wait for
light.) On a storefront: "Sandwiches Cubanos."
airport booth: "Seguros de Viaje." (travel
restaurant name: "La Esquina de Tejas" (a corner of
this is far outside the big Cuban settlement and its main
You go into any Chinese restaurant and the first thing the
plunks down is a basket of "galletas," Spanish biscuits
[crackers]. In the Hong Kong restaurant, there is a
menu: Chicken chow mein, fried rice & egg roll, is also
de pollo, arroz frito, egg roll"; and ying yong gai, fried
barbecue spare ribs, comes out "masa de pollo rellena, arroz
In the heart of the downtown shopping section, Flagler St.,
block and a half up from Biscayne Blvd. by the bay, are many
Cuban-catering stores, open Sundays -clothing, electronic
novelties, luggage, jewelry. Sign: "juguetes (toys),
radios, tocadiscos (record players), camaras y rollos Kodak
You hear as much Spanish as English in the Flagler St.
and the best known department store has a behind-scenes
order posted to
employees: "Speak English on duty." And indeed, Cuban
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
like the cigarette brand whose owners left Cuba in 1961 and
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,"
20-year Miami resident. "Five years ago you'd never
beans at my house the way you did at my party. Now,
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
and suddenly comes the voice twice daily: "During the
minutes, radio Miami, WGBS, presents a program of news and
broadcast daily to Cuba, where nearly 7 million people are
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
3,600 a month. It's a relative-to-relative program - a
in the United States must claim those in Cuba. So they
relatives - those 75 per cent who are resettling - hopefully
there are jobs. One recent week they went like this:
New York City, 226; Newark, 176; Los Angeles, 65; San Juan,
Chicago,41; Tampa, 37; New Orleans, 25 - they were the big
cities. In a recent week there were 855 resettlements
out of 892
arrivals. There are still clandestine boat arrivals -
on 12 small boats in February.
Since the advent of Castro in January, 1959, an estimated
left Cuba - 300,000 of them to the United States, with
these staying in Miami. Since the U.S.-Cuban refugee
began in February, 1961, around 105,000 arrivals have been
outside Miami. They went to all states.
The totals now range from Alaska's low one refugee to those
leaders: New York, 28,455; New Jersey, 14,149; California,
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
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
immigration, health, and settlement routines. And he
for a job. Any job.
Broken Family Problems
Theirs was about the 1070th case of family reunions
since the airlift began Dec. 1. The worst problem
voluntary resettlement agencies is that of broken families.
These experienced voluntary agencies, in their local
the outfits to be contacted with job offers. They are
National Catholic Welfare Conference, which handles 80 per
cent of the
cases; Church World Service (Protestant), United Hias
Immigrant aid society), and International Rescue Committee
More than 10,000 job offers from around the country have
come to the
"freedom tower" offices of the Cuban refugee center in
since President Johnson made his "asylum for the oppressed"
Oct. 3 The center can only reply: "Check with your local
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
3 1-2, who came out with her mother when she was one month
Home is a tiny cottage, white and green frame, behind
in a racially mixed neighborhood. It has a little
bedroom, and kitchen. In a side yard, behind shrubs
by a banyan tree's shade is a swing and slide set for the
Carmen preferred this cottage to the street side apartments
downtown refugee section. She pays $50 a month
drives 6 1-2 miles to an egg packing factory, works past
makes $1.25 an hour for $56 to $62 a week.
The husband is looking for a job, but it's tough because he
English. Finances? "Going to be very
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
came in. Then came the 1959-60 peak when around 2,000
week came. In 1962-63 refugees were given a government
went out and found a room.
No city could have been more tolerant or hospitable than
was never a detention or refugee camp set up. There
definite burden on schools, health-keeping, police (although
increase in crime because of the Cubans).
No Backing Up
In the old days, when there was no quick resettlement, a
got $100 a month maximum, a person without family,
$60. Since the
"new wave" of refugees began, with Castro's
announcement he would let anybody leave, the plan is to try
their backing up in Miami, as in 1962-63.
Now, there's no immediate handout–the person gets pocket
and a flat "transitional grant" of the $100 or $60 is mailed
resettlement destination. It's assumed that a person going
relative in Miami will be cared for by the relative, and he
check at all.
About 12,000 refugees in Dade County still are getting
assistance. In 1962-63 between 65,000 and 70,000 were
As for taking over jobs, the Florida State Employment
market department points out that if there's a function to
be done, and
a refugee holds it, someone else would have been doing
the north. But the refugees have created jobs, buoyed
in their own accumulation, plus government money, that
helped during a
1961-63 local recession.
Estimates of Cuban worker percentages in Miami industry
garment work, 75; hotel service, 40-60; furniture and
40; lumber products, 20; chemicals, 50; printing and
restaurant, 15-20; retail and small stores, very heavy.
Prior to the "new wave" that followed President Johnson's
speech, the Dade County school system was getting from the
government 60 per cent of total expense for refugee children
families were on relief, 45 per cent for those not on
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
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
prior to last Oct. 3, there were 15,501. The "new
now number 1,221. So the total now is 16,722.
The man-in-street belief in Miami is that many resettled
return to Miami. The refugee center says only 5 per
and half of these relocate again. The county labor
think the returnees exceed the center's figure.
school system spot-checked 347 refugee children and found 28
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
took on an area that was going backward and refurbished it,
Just at the start of the area–a colorful, wholly Cuban
clean business street-you encounter the Sosa Cigar factory,
Juan Sosa, the proprietor, supervises 14 employees in the
family once ran in Cuba. He's been here three years,
worked in a
factory a while, and started the cigar business 18 months
makes 80 boxes a day, sells to New York, Detroit, Chicago.
Also Sells Paperbacks
Nearby, the "farmacia Navarro-medicinas a Cuba, precios de
like any American drugstore except that it has Spanish
magazines and supplies of guava paste and marmalade.
But it also
has paper backs of Tom Sawyer, the Scarlet Letter, and
One success story often cited is the nightclub called Les
formerly in Havana. It's on Biscayne Blvd. and always
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
Gutierrez, works at a brewery, his wife, Estrella, at a
factory, and a
daughter and son are doing well. The first person off
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
and went in the bus past the beautiful dress shops and
with milk cartons ("magnifico!") to "freedom house," a sort
hotel at the airport for those outbound.
Next day she was with the father and step-mother in a Cuban
Newark–a high-school-age girl with an urge to be an
The mother is a registered nurse, the father an auto body
man. There are three other children, and they all live
little flat with the customary religious decorations on the
What was her first impression of America?
"Magnifico," she said again.
"Liberty!" said her father.
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