Progressives vie for Cuban American voters in Miami

Editor’s note: This story is part of our new series Immigrants in a Divided Country, which explores the current political landscape in the United States from the perspective of immigrants—including voters, and non-voters, citizens, legal residents, and undocumented people. 

Virginia Lora’s story was produced in partnership with The World.

Florida Latinos have a reputation for being more conservative than Latinos in the rest of the U.S. That’s because almost one third of Latinos in the state are Cuban or Cuban-American. They have a particular history escaping Cuba’s Communist authoritarian regime, so they naturally align with the GOP’s hardline stance against

 communism. Now, progressives in Miami are trying to break the grip that Republicans have had on this group of voters by making cultural connections to Cubans in the U.S.

Disenchanted by the disconnect they saw between the liberal political establishment and their own communities, a group of Cuban American progressive organizers who worked for Democratic campaigns in 2016 and 2018, decided to try something different. They formed the Miami Freedom Project, a grassroots organization that promotes civic engagement in cultural spaces in Miami. The group encourages community dialogues around local issues facing the city such as housing costs and rising sea levels. 

Progressive volunteers gather at a domino tournament after a voting registration drive. The tournament was hosted by the Miami Freedom Project at the Museum of Graffiti in Miami. Photo credit: Virginia Lora

Through gatherings such as domino tournaments, art workshops, and community dinners, the group is trying to change the narrative that to be politically involved as a Cuban-American means voting Republican and supporting conservative policies. Instead, they point to connections between resistance against the Cuban communist regime and their own efforts pushing back against what they see as authoritarian impulses coming from the American right.  It’s an uphill battle in South Florida, where the Cuban-American establishment has deep roots and influence in local institutions and the media.

Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio – the country’s highest-ranking Cuban American elected official – are on the ballot this year. A large majority of Cuban-Americans are expected to back their reelection bids on Tuesday. Progressives hope their conversations with voters in 2022 will lay the foundation for changing voter attitudes in future elections.

Feet in 2 Worlds is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, an anonymous donor and readers like you.

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AboutVirginia Lora
Virginia Lora is a multilingual audio producer, writer, and storyteller who works in English and Spanish, and dabbles in French. Born in Peru, she moved to the U.S. at age 13 and grew up in Miami. She stumbled into the audio world while interviewing people in communities all over the country for StoryCorps’ Traveling Oral History Project.