The Miami Herald
Tue, Sept. 23, 2008

Cubans' share of Miami-Dade County population up again


For years, the influx of non-Cuban Hispanics diversified the mix of Latinos in Miami-Dade, one of the nation's most heavily Hispanic counties.

But the Census Bureau is releasing numbers Tuesday that show Cubans have grown significantly as a percentage of all Hispanics, reversing a demographic trend that began in the mid-1970s.

The reason: The population of Cubans in Miami-Dade since 2000 has risen rapidly, far outpacing the population growth of non-Cuban Hispanics.

From 2000-2007, the number of Cubans rose more than 144,000 to nearly 795,000. Meanwhile, the number of non-Cuban Hispanics inched up by fewer than 22,000.

As a result, 54 percent of all Hispanics in Miami-Dade last year were Cuban, up from 50 percent in 2000. The percentage of non-Cuban Hispanics -- including Colombians, Argentines and others -- fell from about 41 percent to 37 percent.

Non-Cuban Hispanics include most Hispanics from South and Central America and the Caribbean but do not include Mexicans or Puerto Ricans, who comprise the largest U.S. Hispanic groups.


The census numbers are based on estimates by the agency's American Community Survey and includes Cubans born in the United States and abroad.

"There is a 'Cubanization' process again,'' said Thomas Boswell, a University of Miami professor and demographics expert.

The population of Cubans climbed quickly, beginning in the 1950s and through the 1970s, in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution, Boswell said. During the latter part of the past century, other Hispanic groups began settling here in large numbers due to political and economic turmoil in their native countries.

The slower population growth among non-Cuban Hispanics, said Boswell, may be caused by improved homeland economies or a desire to leave Miami-Dade for other places.

He said non-Cuban Hispanics may have left Miami-Dade and moved to as near as Broward County or as far as Los Angeles.

Indeed, Weston and Miramar have large Hispanic populations, but Cubans do not represent a majority in those places. Miramar is home to more than 24,000 non-Hispanic Cubans, double the number of Cubans. In Weston, non-Hispanic Cubans outnumber Cubans by about 4-1.

Whatever the case, the new census data reaffirm recent research and federal immigration statistics showing a spike in Cubans during the past seven years.

A recent University of Miami study, for example, found that more Cubans had arrived since 2000 than during the 1980 Mariel boatlift and the 1990s rafter crisis combined.


Experts said the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, established during the 1990s rafter crisis, likely contributed to the increase in the local Cuban population.

To end the rafter crisis, the Clinton administration worked out an agreement with the Cuban government to return Cubans interdicted at sea. Those who make it to dry land are allowed to remain.

More Cubans also have used the U.S.-Mexico border to enter the country. In addition, the United States agreed to grant 20,000 visas for Cubans wishing to leave the communist island nation, beginning in the late 1990s.

The latest census figures confirmed another trend in Miami-Dade: Hispanics continue to grow as a percentage of the county's population. Hispanics represent 62 percent of all county residents, up from 57 percent in 2000.

Miami-Dade is home to the nation's third-largest Hispanic community behind Los Angeles County and Harris County (Houston), Texas.

Miami Herald research editor Monika Leal contributed to this report.