After the historic migrations of Cuban refugees in the 1960’s and 70s, the United States – speciﬁcally Miami, Florida – was bracing itself for a third signiﬁcant wave. The Mariel Boatlift was a mass emigration of Cubans, traveling to the US via the Mariel Harbor, sparked by events of spring 1980. In January of that year several groups of asylum-seekers took refuge in Peruvian, Venezuelan and other South American embassies. The Peruvian was the most supportive, as their oﬃcials announced they would not hand over the Cubans to State Police. In April, over 2,000 Cuban asylum-seekers, including entire families, entered the grounds of the Peruvian embassy.
The number continued to grow in just that month to over 10,000. This led dictator Fidel Castro to make an unexpected announcement on April 20th: the port of Mariel would be opened to anyone wishing to leave the island, as long as someone would pick them up. Word of the announcement rapidly spread amongst the Cuban exile in Miami and boats and other forms of watercraft started arriving daily at the port. From the 21st of April to September a total of 124,779 Cubans arrived at South Florida, receiving automatic refugee status. The majority of the asylum-seekers, which were dubbed Marielitos, decided to remain in Miami, resulting in a 7 percent increase in the local labor market.