Profile America — Sunday, April 21st. Immigration and assimilation are matters of much current debate, but in 1980, those issues came floating in on the tide. It was on this date that what's known as the Mariel boatlift began. When Cuban ruler Fidel Castro announced that any countrymen wishing to leave the island could, the voluntary exiles made their way to the port town of Mariel, just west of Havana. During the exodus, some 125,000 Cubans crossed the Florida straits in about 5,000 small boats, mostly coming ashore in Key West. The boatlift lasted until late September, when Castro closed the port to any more emigrants. Of the 50.5 million Hispanics counted in the 2010 Census, 3½ percent — or some 1.75 million — are of Cuban heritage. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau, online at
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Facts for Features, CB12-FF.19
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