Miami-Dade County has changed. Yes, as quiet as it has been kept, there has been a transformation since the 1980s Mariel Boatlift to the present.
With all the challenges in between has come a change in the horizon. And now it has come to a head.
What changed? Well, it has been well documented that for the last 50 years or so an overwhelming majority of black and white Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade only voted Republican. Now that assumption is dead. President Barack Obama took nearly half of the Cuban-American vote in the recent presidential election.
Not surprisingly, many in Miami's politically powerful Cuban exile community feel betrayed by their own and are expressing bewilderment that their daughters, sons, grandsons and granddaughters would vote for a Democrat. It reminds me of that old Cuban saying that is at times attributed to Fidel Castro: Para atrás, ni para coger impulso. Loosely translated, it means, “Not going back, even to gain momentum.”
Moreover, the Miami-Dade Republican power-brokers and Mitt Romney advisors refused to see that Cuban Americans are no longer a monolithic community. For many of the 2012 Cuban-American voters, the United States is the only patria or country they’ve known and English is their first language.
They’ve learned to read and write it. Many Cubans pursued or are pursuing higher education, leaving the cocoon that is Miami-Dade to venture out and explore the north, the south, the middle and the west of America and, yes, some have even visited Cuba.
They’ve shared experiences with people of different backgrounds, culture and political perspectives. Yes, some even took time to learn about African Americans, their culture, perspective and politics. And you know what? They survived.
Eventually, those Cuban Americans return to the cocoon but with a different frame of reference and, in many cases, a different social consciousness. The preferred politics are no longer just Republican. The concerns are no longer just returning to Cuba. These individuals have seen other faces, experienced other dialogues, listened to other ideas and looked at life through the eyes of other communities with other challenges.
That has led them to participate in the dialogues they’ve heard and share the experiences that they have been part of away from the Miami-Dade cocoon. They want to participate in the outer community and the political process that is more democratic-leaning.
Yes, they are part of the New America, the place everybody wants to come to. There is no going back to the old Cuban politics of the Old Guard.
Today, Miami-Dade, Florida’s ajiaco — stew — is quietly enjoying a political transformation. Some Cubans have come to view the Democratic Party as a friendlier tent, the gazebo that addresses their fears and concerns, and they are embracing it.
Nearly half of Miami-Dade’s Cuban Americans voted for Obama, plus over 45,000 who identify themselves as black Hispanics. And you can be sure that many were black Cubans, including myself, a lifelong Democrat, who saw the opportunity to vote for change.
A vote for Obama also represented black and white Cubans’ expression of solidarity for other minority communities that are also struggling to go forward in America.
It is their way of saying that we are all in this ajiaco together, so let’s finish it and progress.
Henry Crespo is an Afro-Cuban American civic commentator and writer on culture, politics and social Issues. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @hcresposr
Rosa Reed has worked in senior management positions in community-based and governmental organizations throughout a 30-year career. She was born in Cuba, grew up in California and is a graduate of Barry University, with degrees in business administration and marketing.