A New Demographic
Geographic proximity and easy access to Miami’s wholesale markets spurred the flooding in of thousands of Cubans and Latin Americans during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This new demographic greatly altered Miami’s social landscape and influenced the way immigrants are viewed in our society today. No form of border control existed in Florida and it was the nearest U.S. mainland destination from Latin America and Cuba.
drug smuggling throughout Miami quickly expanded until 95% of drugs heading to all parts of the United States passed through the city.
Miami’s homicide doubled in 1980, the year of the Mariel boatlift, which saw the immigration of approximately 125,000 Cubans to South Florida. Some of these individuals came from extreme poverty where life carried little value, so in their desire to succeed they had little regard for any collateral damage, including human life. A 1981 Time Magazine article stated that the wave of illegal immigrants had “pushed up unemployment, taxed social services, irritated racial tensions, and helped send the crime wave to staggering heights,” and that “Marielitos are believed to be responsible for half of violent crime in Miami.”
Some groups, including Cubans, were painted with a broad brush as “criminals” during a period of National drug scare, or “antidrug extremism.” Immigrants were scapegoated and generalized as harmful to society due to their inherent involvement in the cocaine epidemic. Many of today’s oppressive and discriminatory attitudes towards immigrants and other groups are collectively linked to their perceived affiliation with this period and cocaine in general. One article points out that today Miami is a direct reflection of the Cuban immigrants, one wave of which being the ''The Frightening Ones'' of the early 80's.
Glass, Andrew “Castro launches Mariel boatlift, April 20, 1981” May 11, 2016
Corben, Billy. Spellman, Alfred. Cypkin, David. Cocaine Cowboys, rakontur, April 2006.