There are about one million people who were born in Cuba now living in the United States. Fewer than 50,000 are estimated to have arrived before 1959 -- the year Fidel Castro overthrew the regime of Fulgencio Batista.
The first wave of exiles -- about 500,000 largely affluent, conservative professionals -- created Miami's Little Havana in the early 1960s. Tense U.S.-Cuba relations led to a suspension in refugee airlifts from 1962 through 1965, when the Johnson administration and Castro agreed to establish an airlift that brought in 257,000 more Cubans. Castro closed the doors of emigration in 1973.
A spontaneous flood of would-be exiles, crowding the courtyard of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana in April 1980, led to the Mariel boatlift of about 125,000.
U.S. Immigration officials have estimated that if emigration from Cuba had continued at its average yearly flow from 1973 to 1980, 140,000 people would have left the island -- slightly more than the number who left through Mariel.
Refugee relief workers and immigration officials say the Marielitos are distinctly poorer, less educated and less adaptable socially than their predecessors.
Cuban interest groups feel strongly that relief aid for them has been misdirected, providing welfare checks instead of language and job-training programs. The aid given has proved costly. A widely quoted government figure -- generally held to be on the low side -- puts the federal outlay for aid to the Marielitos over the past two years at $750 million.