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3.2 Cuban Americans

3.2.1Cuban migration to the U.S.

Situation in Cuba was rather different from that in Mexico, since Cuban migration has always been motivated politically as well as economically. While earlier migrants were fleeing Cuba for political reasons, more recent migrants were leaving the country because of declining economic conditions. The first significant migration wave of the 20th century arose between 1930 -1950 in order to escape the regime of Fulgencio Batista, but real flow of emigrants came round after 1959 when Fidel Castro took the country over. This wave consists of Batista’s supporters who were later joined by opponents of Castro's socialist government. Later on in the 1970’ another 300,000 people were transported from Cuba, to meet up their relatives residing in the United States. This number was significantly increased in the latest wave, known as the Mariel Boat Lift3, occurred in 1980 when Castro permitted Cubans residing in the United States to visit relatives in Cuba. After growing distemper and declining economical situation in the country, Cuban government finally opened the Peruvian Embassy for emigration and Castro gave a permission to leave any Cubans who were wishing to . Some 125,000 Cubans took advantage of this opportunity.

All these migration waves have brought substantial numbers of Cubans to the United States. Over the years, as the reasons for migration have been changing, the proportion of the migrant population has also changed. While the earliest migrants were drawn from the highly educated and conservative middle and upper classes—those who had the most to lose from a socialist revolution—more recent migrants have been poorer and less educated. According to the 1990 U.S. Census, there are nearly 860,000 persons of Cuban descent in the United States. Of these, 541,000, or almost 63 percent of the total, live in Florida. Most of these live in Dade County, where Miami is located. This area is known among non-Cubans as "Little Havana." Little Havana was originally that area to the west of downtown Miami, bounded by Seventh Street, Eighth Street, and Twelfth Avenue. But the Cuban American population eventually spread beyond those initial boundaries, moving west, south, and north to West Miami, South Miami, Westchester, Sweetwater, and Hialeah.

Due to several migrant waves and their different trigger factors, Cuban Americans are not a monolithic community. Rather, they are quite diverse; all generalizations about Cuban American politics and conservatism or about Cuban American wealth and business success must therefore consider the full complexity of the Cuban American community. According to economic figures, Cuban Americans are considered to be the most successful migrant group within the whole Hispanic community in the United States. Comparing to other ethnic groups of Latino origin, Cuban Americans prove the highest results which might be comparable to Anglo-American major society. The figures shows high level of political concern among Cuban Americans, great importance of education within their community as well as sufficient economic stability. Let’s compare the following data:

  • 67.2 percent of Cuban Americans reported that they voted in the 1988 presidential election, compared to 70.2 percent of Anglo-Americans, 49.3 percent of Mexican Americans

  • Cuban Americans enjoy greater economic security than other Hispanic groups. In 1986, the median family income of Cuban Americans was $6,700 more than the median for all Hispanic American family incomes.

  • Cuban Americans are also highly educated; fully 17 percent of the Cuban American population has completed college or college and some graduate schooling, compared with six percent of Mexican Americans, and 20 percent of the total U.S. population.

  • Cuban Americans have shown a willingness and the ability to pay for private education - 47 percent of Cuban American children have attended private schools.(Buffington, “Cuban Americans”)

These numbers indicate that education is extremely important to Cuban Americans and that they have the resources to pay for additional schooling and private education. The access to education, as well as willingness to assimilate to major society and to participate in public life actively, give us the portrayal of responsible citizens who are predetermined to success in a new land. In the analytical part of this thesis we will be able to compare how these figures correspond with the reality depicted by both writers in their novels.

3.2.2Cuban – American literature

Cuban literature belongs to a larger group of Caribbean literature which refers to the writing of the various territories of the Caribbean region. Themes include the beauty of the islands, the innate wisdom of their people, and aspects of immigration and exile — the breakup of family, culture shock, changed gender roles, and assimilation. Traditionally, Cuban literature was written both in island and the land of the United States. Cuban exile literature - consists of political refugees living in the U.S. as a result of political circumstances on the island since the eighteen century – and Cuban American literature simply by those who live and write in the U.S. Since both categories are mingled together and clear criteria to enlist each writer properly do not exist, authors are usually divided chronologically according to the period of time, ignoring the territory of literary act. For purposes of this theses, however I am going to use general term Cuban American.

4Analysis of literary works

This part of the thesis is based on reading and analysis of particular novels concerning Hispanic culture. The individual aspects of female identity, and the comparison of different ways they are depicted in the fiction, are discussed in this chapter. To accomplish that task, I am going to analyze the works by Sandra Cisneros and Cristina García as outstanding female writers of above mentioned ethnic groups. In this part I am going to examine the way how women are depicted by both authors and find common and distinct features of femininity in their novels. I am going to question how and to which extent these features were influenced by different historical development of each ethnic group. I am going to focus on gender and ethnic identity in the community of Mexican and Cuban American women and will attempt to examine to which extent the external events in outer world shape their perception of self. I argue, that even though both groups belong to the same ethnic, their identity was formed under different circumstances, which has crucial impact on the concept of their self –perception. I further argue that individual factors contributing to identity are of equal importance and that if some of the seemingly essential factors are missing, they are possible to alternate in other way, which I am going to prove in the analysis of Cisneros’ work.

As we know, identity is formed by many aspects, however in this thesis I decided to focus on three areas which, in my opinion, play the crucial role in women’s perception of self: the first one aims women in their private sphere, i.e. their domestic field and how they are treated within the family, particularly by their husbands. Personally, I consider this sphere as the most important for every woman, not only Hispanic, since women are traditionally supposed to be domestic oriented and their confidence in domestic sphere has straight influence on other identity-creation factors. Second area I am going to analyze is public sphere, or in other words how women are treated in a society. It covers their position as citizens, their (un)significance within the society, their role in prosperity of the country or history of the nation. Last but not least I am going to analyze, what touches women’s inner world, their perception of self in terms of their own understanding of femininity. This area results from previous two categories, is the most sensitive one and probably also the most important one from global point of view, as it represents the heritage women are passing from generation to generation and therefore it has the great potential for future society.

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