Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > "Cubans Vote Cuban": Local Politics and Latino Identity in Miami, Florida, 1965 – 1985

Miami as a global city in the South provides an important window into understanding the intersection of immigration, civil rights, and Latino political identity during the demographic and political rise of the Sunbelt in the 1960s and 1970s. Local politics in Miami functioned as a microcosm where Latinos vied for power and recognition and as the first institutional point of contact for Cubans becoming new citizens. Focusing primarily on Cuban and other Latino involvement with local government in this critical period, I argue that both as voters and politicians, Cubans in Miami articulated a unique construction of American citizenship that accommodated their biculturalism. Emboldened by the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allowed them to maintain dual citizenship, Miami Cubans not only demanded language accommodations in county services, but expected local political candidates to be well versed in foreign affairs and sensitive to the geopolitics of the Caribbean. Far from the inevitability of demographic change, this dissertation argues that in Miami, Latino political power on Latino terms evolved through the work of Cuban and Puerto Rican civic leaders, progressive diversity policies at the municipal and county level, and widespread voter mobilization enabled by the Voting Rights Act Amendment of 1975. Cubans became adept at strategic alliance building with white and African American politicians and at successfully lobbying the progressive and internationally oriented county government for services catering to immigrants and Spanish-speakers.