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Mariel Boatlift

From Academic Kids

The Mariel Boatlift was a mass exodus of mentally ill, imprisoned and freedom seeking refugees from Cuba's Mariel Harbour, between April 15 until October 31, 1980, when Fidel Castro eventually closed the harbour to all refugee seeking Cubans. The people who wished to leave the country headed to Florida. The majority of the refugees landed in Miami upon their arrival in the United States.

Approximately 125,000 Cubans arrived in the United States in about 1,700 boats, many of which were unseaworthy. Most of the people came in large waves that overwhelmed the U.S. Coast Guard and many reservists were called to assist the Coast Guard during this time. In terms of casualties a total of 27 migrants died, 14 on an overloaded boat which capsized on May 17, 1980.

Upon arrival, many Cubans were placed in refugee camps, while some were confined to federal prisons to undergo expulsion hearings. Some of the Cubans that came to the United States were violent criminals. However, most of the refugees were very poor and did not have many possessions. Many of them were just looking for a better lifestyle and a way to earn some money. One could say that they came in search of the "American Dream" in order to provide themselves with a better life.

The fictional movie Scarface, which was made in 1983, begins with this event and shows a Cuban refugee named Tony Montana entering the United States in search of his own dream.

Additional information

Larzelere, Alex. The 1980 Cuban Boatlift. (Washington DC: National Defense University Press): 1988.

See: The Camarioca Boatlift of 1965.

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