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Chronological Reasoning and Causation

Cubans in America: Push and Pull Factors of Immigration

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Comprehension

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    Western New York
    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Map of Cuba, 1994 in Main Image Viewer
  2. Load My File Upload - June 8, 2021 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

This question is based on the accompanying documents. It has been created in order to test your ability to work with historical documents. Some of these documents have been edited for the purposes of this question. As you analyze the documents, try to understand the source of the document and any point of view that is presented in the document.

Historical context: One million people of Cuban origin live in the United States. There have been many historical push and pull factors that have affected Cuban immigration to the U.S. Cubans began migrating to the U.S. during the war for Cuban independence from Spain in 1868, and many settled in New York City, Buffalo, and other areas of New York State. It was not until the Castro revolution in 1959, however, that the largest group of Cubans began arriving in the U.S. Most settled in the area of Miami, Florida; but many traveled to New York State to establish their homes and careers. This "first wave" of immigrants consisted of mainly upper-middle and middle class professionals and skilled workers. The "second wave" of immigration occurred in 1965, when Castro allowed Cubans with relatives in the U.S. to leave the island. Half of Cuba's professional class fled to the U.S. during this time. The "third wave" of immigrants became known as the "Marielitos," left Cuba after an incident at the Peruvian Embassy in Cuba. After six Cubans obtained political asylum from the Peruvian Embassy, Castro announced that anyone who wanted to leave the country should go to the embassy grounds. The Mariel Boat Lift began in 1980 when Castro opened the port of Mariel to American boats. The "fourth wave" of immigrants are known as "balseros" because they left the island on boats and rafts in 1994. In a departure from past policy, President Clinton stated that illegal refugees from Cuba would not be allowed to enter the U.S., and he quarantined the refugees at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. The U.S. grants visas to 20,000 Cubans yearly under provisions of an agreement between the two countries.

Task: Using information from the following documents and your own knowledge of history, answer the questions that follow each document in Part A. Your answers to the questions will help you to accomplish the writing assignment given in Part B.

Part B: Using information from at least five of the documents in Part A to support your thinking, and your own knowledge of history, write an essay describing at least three push and three pull factors that have affected Cuban immigration to the United States since 1959. Your essay should be well-organized and include an introduction, at least three paragraphs, and a conclusion.