Mariel Boatlift Case

World economic trends have a huge impact on the social and political landscape of a people. Economic growth spurs development and assures people of decent standards of living. On the other hand, a meltdown can lead to civil unrest or severe relations between the government and the governed, as people feel that it is the sole mandate of the government to stabilize economic conditions. In history, major incidents have arisen out of a poor economic situation. In the Mariel Boatlift Case, an economic hardship in Cuba led to a mass emigration of Cubans into the United States of America. Departing from the Mariel Port in Cuba, the mass movement completely altered the economic, social, and political landscape in both Cuba and the United States (Larzelere 23). In addition, the incident forged the way forward on the interaction between the two countries, an issue that has been entrenched in the cross-border politics of the two nations to date. The Mariel Boatlift heralded a new dawn in both the economic, political, and diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States of America.


In the late 1979, the Cuban economy was in turmoil. The failure of the key sectors of the economy placed the livelihoods of the Cubans at stake. When the people could no longer afford basic commodities, they resorted to employment opportunities abroad. The United States presented a good opportunity due to its close proximity to Cuba. The pioneer migrants started by camping at the Peruvian Embassy. At first, the emigrations were limited and uncoordinated. When it was discovered that the influx brought along convicted offenders, jail birds, and generally people of bad repute, the United States government sought the aid of the military to ward off the entrants or vet them. This continued for some time. However, the military was mostly cruel and some of the immigrants were assaulted.

Due to improving political relations between the two countries, it became easier for people to move across the border. However, the Fidel Castro government showed reluctance in allowing native Cubans to emigrate. Over time, the two nations struck an agreement that provided for the modalities of moving into or out of either countries. Relatives resident in America were permitted to send money to Cuba to facilitate the moving of their kin abroad. In total, over 125,000 Cubans moved and settled in the United States of America (Larzelere 13). At first, the Cuban-Americans settled in Miami, being the nearest port for Cuba. From this point, they dispersed to various areas of the country.

The Effects of the Mariel Boatlift

The Mariel Boatlift brought many changes to the social, economic, and political landscape of Cuba and the United States. These changes were mostly occasioned by the influx of immigrants in the Miami state, the exit of Cubans from Cuba, the encroaching of the Peruvian Embassy, and the general reaction of the native occupants of Miami.

Political Alienation

The encroachment of the Peruvian Embassy preceded the permission of willing Cubans to emigrate. However, those who had forcefully entered the embassy grounds, political prisoners, and native Cubans were not readily granted leeway to move out of the country. Following the declarations, thousands of willing Cubans thronged the Mariel Harbor for a boat ride to the United States. Towards the end of the year, about 125,000 Cubans had settled in Miami. The American government was getting worried by the huge numbers flocking the area. A remedial action had to be taken to avoid a possible crisis. The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, in a bid to discourage more people from immigrating (Card 246). The severed relations persisted for long, leading to the closure of Embassies. For long, both governments had frosty relations. It is only after President Obama toured the nation, after over 50 years of injured diplomatic ties, that the relationship was revived. Up to the present moment, the two countries do not share much, and a number of embargos are still placed on Cuba.   

Cheap Labor in Miami

The immigrants were attracted to the numerous opportunities available in America. In America, most of the immigrants ended in Miami. Most of the Cubans were within the active age bracket. The huge influx of active workers provided cheap labor to the American economy. There was a huge demand for jobs and insufficient opportunities. Cubans clamored for the little vacancies available, leading to lower remunerations. Driven by the desire to gain salaries and wages for self-sustenance, the new entrants were willing to even work at a quarter of the normal wages (Larzelere 63).

Cheap and readily available labor affected the employability of the Native Americans. At a time when the world was undergoing an economic meltdown, employers were keen on making cost savings. It was preferable to employ the Cuban Immigrants who demanded less pay and were more loyal. The constant fear of rejection drove the immigrants to show more loyalty to enhance their chances of securing a job. With time, they gained more acceptability in the job market as compared to the Native Americans. Racism was not a determinant so long as the employers gained better value for less pay.

Social Pressure

Miami was ordinarily designed to carry a given population without exerting pressure on the social amenities. The coming in of Cubans worsened the situation as they had to clamor for the available services. Hospitals, churches, schools, and recreational facilities became crowded. At some point, there was a humanitarian crisis as the immigrants had not gained acceptability and they had no means to fend for themselves (Card 251). To some extent, the issue reawakened favoritism ad racism. When it came to granting certain favors, the Native Americans were favored. At schools, the young Cubans of school-going age were subjected to rigorous tests before they could be allowed to start lessons. A system of social discrimination developed where the Cuban immigrants were treated as second-rate citizens.


History is replete with many examples of people emigrating from their original homelands to new locations in the search for better opportunities. In some cases, this movement may be fueled by political instabilities as witnessed in the present day case of Syrian refugees. Immigrations alter the political, social, and economic landscape of the region they move to. In the case of Cuban emigrants in the year 1980, they were forced out of the country due to a dire economic situation. Their movement to the United States was met with a number of challenges, a fact that build the diplomatic row existing to date. In America, they provided cheap labor and contributed to a social crisis.

Works Cited

Card, David. The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market. Industrial and Labor Relations review, 43 (2): 245-257, 1990. Print.

Larzelere, Alex. The 1980 Cuban Boatlift. Washington, DC: National defense University Press, 1988. Print.