Little Havana: a generational divide?

Why do many Cubans living in the US tend to be Republicans and how is it shifting nowadays? Miami, Florida, where the largest group of Latinxs are exile-Cubans, and you can feel it at every corner. The streets are full of little Cuban cafecitos and panaderias. But it is not only their original food that they are known for, but also their political attitude, with which they tend to shift Florida to the right. Over 50% of Cuban Americans in Florida, voted for Donald Trump in 2016. 

What is the reason for this establishment? 

In the beginning of John F. Kennedy‘s presidency, who was a well-known Democrat, the CIA supported the counter-revolutionaries and their attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro who led the communist revolution in Cuba, 1959. Elderly Cuban Americans, so called “exile-Cubans” started to consider the Bay of Pigs invasion as a symbol of treachery by Democrats and leftist Americans. Moreover, Cuban immigrants of the first generation, who fled the communist revolution got quick opportunities to engage in voting and politics through the 1966 Cuban adjustment act.

Having almost no trust in left-wing politics, many Cuban immigrants were drawn to the Republican party which peaked in their votes for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The former president won against his opponent Carter by 17 points through the votes in Florida. This specific time in history is often referred to as the one where many exile Cubans solidified their “belief” in the Republican party after Reagan’s policies proclaimed to bring down the Soviet Union. Another huge part plays their resentment towards Fidel Castro, to whom many exile Cubans lost their whole companies and funds. They connect this resentment with the Democratic party. “Cubans in the U.S associate Hillary with communism, they make a parallel between her and the Cuban government“, Johan Carlos Sánchez, 53, artist, says. 

In Trump’s case, many of his Cuban supporters are acknowledging his economic policies and his patriotism. The mayor, Carlos Hernandez, Diaz-Balart, 57, mentions, that the community‘s support of the GOP intensified under Trump, which polls by the Washington Examiner can confirm. The midterm elections showed that president Donald Trump is favored by Cuban Americans with 61%. Furthermore, he concludes that democratic policies and their approach to “socialism” occurred to show signs of resistance within the Cuban community but also among Venezuelans in Florida who are, as of right now, witnessing a formerly functioning and democratic, socialist regime’s destruction. A huge majority believes that replacing Trump with a Democrat would lead to an age of socialism in the United States as seen in Venezuela. They fear their past to become the present. 

The change? 

Unlike their grandparents or parents, many young Cuban Americans are having a different point of view on politics, while a lot of analysts claim, that  Cuban conservatism in Florida is decreasing. Andy Vila, a 21 year-old, Florida-based Cuban American used to prefer the Republican party but changed his mind during the 2016 Trump campaign. Particular reasons were for instance the hostile stance towards immigrants. Andy Vila says: “Cuban Republicanism is mostly just tradition… A lot of ideas I grew up with, didn’t make sense…

His family is against his beliefs, thinking that he supports the ideology hey fled from. Relatives would “look at me funny and say, ‘We’ve escaped that.’” Andy Vila belongs to a group of young Americans, who are in favor of socialism even though they grew up in the mostly, on Cuban part, anti-left Miami. Interpreted in many different ways, the socialist idea has a growing following among millenials and Generation Z. These voters are supposed to make up 37% of the 2020 electorate in the United States. 

While the majority of Americans still reject socialism, studies have shown that 43% of the surveyed would be in favour for some socialist parts in American politics. The political sociologist Edwin Amenta from the University of California-Irvine concedes: “Younger Americans are less threatened by socialism than older generations, who might associate it with Soviet or Chinese rule… Today’s socialism for younger people means the Canadian health system and the Swedish welfare state.

New generations are already showing their shift to the Democratic party, but a permanent change has yet to be reached. Cuban Americans remain Republican supporters and voters. Future elections and polls will indicate what is going to happen. As often wisely said, time will tell.

by Elena Wasserzier

Photo Credits

America, Thomas_H_foto, CC BY-ND 2.0

Miami – Little Havana, simplethrill, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ronald Reagan Library, Thomas Hawk, CC BY-NC 2.0