Florida Metro Map

Other groups fared differently. Central Americans, especially from Honduras and El Salvador, as well as large numbers of Mexicans, have come to Florida since Mariel, largely in pursuit of a better life and job opportunities. Whereas Cubans came with the support of the U.S. government, migrants from Central America and Mexico have tended to arrive in Florida without documentation, with shaky migration status, or as members of extended families. They have

often found work in the service sector, semi-skilled labor, domestic work, construction, and agriculture. Mexicans, for example, are the third-largest Latino group in Florida (over half a million) but are concentrated heavily in rural areas of south Florida. Many Salvadorans and Hondurans work in service sectors. Nicaraguans see the political and migration situation in Florida as especially bitter. Many were educated members of the middle and upper classes who left Nicaragua after the Sandinista takeover and assumed (wrongly) that they would receive the same welcome Cubans did. But the dynamics of the Cold War had changed, and many Nicaraguans who came to Miami in the 1980s remained in a kind of limbo, seeking out jobs well below their educational and career levels.

One final group that has made for an interesting phenomenon is Venezuelans. Like many South Americans who have come to south Florida for career opportunities, many Venezuelans have left their home country for both economic and political reasons. Hugo Chavez, a firebrand socialist, has increasingly imposed his own version of economic reform on Venezuela since his election in 1998 and his subsequent reelections in 2000 and 2006. Thousands of wealthy and professional middle- and upper-middle-class Venezuelans, seeing correctly that their vast fortunes are in peril, have left Venezuela for the more favorable tax and political climes of Florida. The 2006 election in Venezuela is instructive. Chavez won the election in a landslide, with over 60 percent of the vote. Miami set up the Orange Bowl stadium as a polling station for the election early in December 2006. When the results were tallied, Manuel Rosales who opposed Chavez received 10,679 votes, and Chavez, 242. Thus Rosales received nearly 98 percent of the U.S.-based Venezuelan vote a fairly stark contrast from his paltry 30-some percent in Venezuela.18 The election shows how closely Florida’s Venezuelans have followed the rightward tilt of Cubans in south Florida.

After the multilayered migrations from every nation in Latin America to Florida over the last four decades, the state is home to one of the nation’s most diverse Latino populations. Nearly 3.5 million Latinos now reside in Florida, surpassing New York as the state with the third-largest Latino population in the United States (California, with 12.5 million Latinos, is first; Texas, with 7.9 million, is second).19 Unlike the U.S. Southwest, where Mexicans are by far the single largest Latino group, Florida’s Latino population is more wide-ranging. Cubans still compose the lion’s share of the state’s Latino population, composing 29 percent of the total Latino population of Florida and nearly 6 percent of the total state population. But as noted, sizable Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Colombian populations form part of this mosaic, which literally includes every single country in the Hispanic Americas Paraguayans represent the smallest single national group, with just over 1,400.

The diversity of Latino populations in Florida is geographically determined that is, there are clear patterns to the migrations. There is no county north of Seminole (near Orlando) where Latinos compose more than 10 percent of the population, and the counties with the highest concentration of Latinos (Miami-Dade at 60 percent; Orange and Broward each near 20 percent) are in south Florida or around Orlando, Tampa, and inland south Florida. This is the result of the multiple migration patterns Cubans and South Americans into Miami; Puerto Ricans into Tampa, Orlando, and Miami; and Mexicans into rural areas.

Cubans, as can be expected, are most heavily concentrated in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. They are the single largest ethnic group in Miami-Dade County, representing about 32 percent of the county’s population, with about

740.000. Whites who would likely identify as non-Hispanics probably represent about 450,000-600,000 people, making it, along with African Americans/non-Hispanic blacks, the dual second-largest ethnic group in Miami-Dade.20 As of 2005 in Miami-Dade, Cubans represent over half (about 52 percent) of all Latinos, whereas no other single Latino group represents more than 7 percent of the total Latino population of Miami-Dade about 96,000 Nicaraguans live in Miami-Dade, making them the second-largest single Latino group in the county, far behind the some 740,000 Cubans. The highest concentration of Cubans is in Hialeah, where Cubans represent at least 71 percent of the total population (145,444 out of 203,575).

Other Latino populations in Florida, such as Puerto Ricans, the next largest Latino group in Florida (at over 600,000 total in all Florida), are more spread out. Puerto Ricans are the single largest Latino group in Orange County of the

236.000 Latinos (out of a total population of 1 million) in Orange County, 115.000, are Puerto Rican. Likewise, Puerto Ricans make up the majority of Latinos in Osceola County 50,000 out of 87,000 Latinos. They compose a sizable portion of the Latino population in Broward County, which is home to the most diverse, in terms of percentages, of Latino populations in Florida. A sizeable Puerto Rican population also resides in Hillsborough County (65,000 out of

238.000 Latinos and a total population of 1.1 million). Approximately 81,000 Puerto Ricans also live in Miami-Dade.

Close to 390,000 Latinos live in Broward out of a total population of about 1.8 million. Of this Latino population, no single group composes more than 20 percent of the Latino population. Approximately 78,000 Puerto Ricans (about 20 percent), 69,000 Cubans (about 18 percent), 57,000 Colombians (about 15 percent), 34,000 Mexican (about 9 percent), 19,000 each of Dominicans, Peruvians, and Venezuelans (each about 5 percent), and 9,000 Ecuadorians (about 2 percent) and an undetermined number of Brazilians (mostly in Pompano Beach) live in Broward County, making it a very evenly divided county in terms of Latinos.

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