In contrast to the 72,226 Cuban refugees arriving in Florida over the decade of the 1950s, approximately 215,000 Cubans made their way to the United States between the latter part of 1958 and the early part of 1963. Of these, almost 77 percent registered with the Refugee Center in Miami, Florida. According to Masud-Piloto
Those who did not register tend to be the most affluent and well-connected Cubans; the Center was established . . . to help those who came with neither accumulated wealth nor immediate occupational plans. Also, those who did not register tend to come from among the refugees who arrived during the early months of the Castro regime . . . .
In their 1968 book (Cubans in Exile: Disaffection and the Revolution) Fagan, Brody, and O’Leary go on to say:
Also, it is important to note that for many refugees the United States in general and Miami in particular were not terra incognita. Not only were there historic patterns of exile, emigration, and travel from Cuba to Florida, but as the refugee community mushroomed and as an atmosphere of “little Havana” grew in certain sections of Miami, a self-sustaining dynamic of refugee inflow was established.
Even though there was substantial diversity in the refugee population, a ‘great preponderance of the refugees [were] drawn from the wealthier, the better educated, the more urban, and the higher occupational sectors’ of Cuban society.
In the United States, professional, managerial, clerical, and skilled workers were represented well out of proportion to their distribution in the Cuban population as a whole.
Of course the Cuban government gained when opponents of the regime left the island. But the political advantage gained by the revolutionaries came at a much greater economic cost than with the outward migration of the past.
The departure of professionals, technicians, administrators, and managers in vast numbers created a desperate shortage of skilled personnel for which there was no easy or immediate remedy.
Eventually many workers were replaced by Soviet advisers and technicians.
Since 68 percent of the refugees who were considered employable had white collar occupations, it is not surprising that they also had relatively high levels of education.
For example, while 52 percent of the Cuban population had less than a fourth grade education, only four percent of the refugees fell into this category.
In contrast, 12.5 percent of the refugees had four years of college or more. Only one percent of the Cuban population as a whole met this criteria.
Because individuals matching these demographics had been more likely to live in Havana before exile, a disproportionate number of refugees came from the capital.
The impact of this population outflow on Cuban society was definitive.
- Of the 300 agronomists working in Cuba in 1959, 270 departed.
- Of an estimated 85,000 professionals and technicians in Cuba, approximately 20,000 emigrated.
- More than 3,000 physicians out of a total of 6,000 and 700 dentists out of almost 2,000 departed.
- The senior medical facility at the University of Havana was reduced from 200 to 17.
No less important was the flight of almost all of the 6,500 North American residents, many of whom worked in important technical and managerial capacities in both US and Cuban enterprises.
Foreigners directed the oil refineries, operated the Nicaro nickel plant and the Matahambre copper mine, supervised the sugar mills, serviced the airline industry, and otherwise occupied an assortment of strategic positions in manufacturing, industry, agriculture, transportation, and communications. Not surprisingly, they were sorely missed.