The Cubans of Union City

The Cubans of Union City: Immigrants and Exiles in a New Jersey Community

Yolanda Prieto
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Cubans of Union City
    Book Description:

    As a result of the conflicts between Cuba and the United States, especially after 1959, Cubans immigrated in great numbers. Most stayed in Miami, but many headed north to Union City, making it second only to Miami in its concentration of Cubans. InThe Cubans of Union City, Yolanda Prieto discusses why Cubans were drawn to this particular city and how the local economy and organizations developed. Central aspects of this story are the roles of women, religion, political culture, and the fact of exile itself.

    As a member of this community and a participant in many of its activities, Prieto speaks with special authority about its demographic uniqueness. Far from being a snapshot of the community,The Cubans of Union Cityconveys an ongoing research agenda extending over more than twenty years, from 1959 to the 1980s. As a long-term observer who was also a resident, Prieto offers a unique and insightful view of the dynamics of this community's evolution.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0344-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    On March 19, 1968, a few days after leaving Cuba, I arrived with my family at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Like many other Cubans, my family had decided to leave their country after the radical changes brought about by the Revolution of 1959. My uncle was waiting for us at the airport, and after a short ride on the New Jersey Turnpike, we reached Union City, our final destination. My uncle and his family had lived there since the early 1960s and they had seen this city change from a community mostly of European extraction into the second largest...

  6. 2 Cuban Union City: Origins, Development, and Change
    (pp. 17-38)

    When the first Cuban families arrived in Union City in the late 1940s, they were following in the footsteps of many other immigrant groups. As in other parts of the Northeast, waves of immigrants contributed to the urbanization of today’s Hudson County, a 46.4 square mile area located within minutes of New York City. The county consists of twelve municipalities: Bayonne, East Newark, Gutenberg, Harrison, Hoboken, Jersey City, Kearney, North Bergen, Secaucus, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York. It has the highest population density level in New Jersey, with 13,000 persons per square mile in 2000.¹

    The first true...

  7. 3 Building Community: Economic Growth and the Rise of Local Organizations
    (pp. 39-62)

    When I arrived in Union City in 1968, I found a predominantly European American community. My first job was as a billing machine operator for a textile company, and at the time I was the only Hispanic in the office. I still remember Janet, a very kind German American woman, who helped me learn the ropes during my fi rst months. I also remember Dawn, a young Armenian woman who, like me, had immigrated to the United States very recently. Another co-worker was Mary, an Italian American who did not feel comfortable with my foreign accent, and who often found...

  8. 4 Women Leave Home for the Factory: Gender, Work, and Family
    (pp. 63-84)

    The first time that I saw my mother go out to work was when she became employed at a coat factory after we arrived in Union City in 1968. In Cuba, before marriage, she had briefl y held a job as a leaf stripper in a tobacco factory. Even before Cuban independence, working-class women were incorporated into certain sectors of the workforce. One was the tobacco industry. Women—both black and white—were employed there supposedly because tobacco production required “delicate hands,” which only females could provide. Once my mother married, she left the factory. Later, she became a very...

  9. 5 Saint Augustine Parish and Cuban Adaptation: Religion and Reconciliation
    (pp. 85-112)

    Before the 1959 Revolution most Cubans identified themselves as Catholic, and the devotion to the virgin of El Cobre, the island’s patron saint, was widespread. However, the Church itself was weak, especially in the rural and poor sectors of society. Many of the clergy were foreigners, particularly from Spain, and popular religiosity was less tied to the institution than it was in other Latin American countries. The urban poor, especially black Cubans, venerated Catholic saints as African gods, in the syncretic practice ofSantería, the Afro-Cuban religion. The social base of the Church was made up of predominantly urban, white,...

  10. 6 Exile, Ethnic Identity, and Political Culture
    (pp. 113-140)

    Politics is at the core of the post-1959 Cuban migration to the United States. Perhaps no other ethnic group in this country is as politically active as Cubans are. Their intensity is mainly related to the desire to overthrow the government they left behind. According to some authors, this is typical of immigrants who are fleeing dictatorial, especially communist, regimes.¹ Yet Cubans are active in U.S. politics as well. Their political participation in the United States thus takes place on two levels: one focused on Cuba, the other focused on politics at the national and local levels, wherever Cubans reside....

  11. 7 Union City Cubans and Community Change: Some Theoretical Considerations
    (pp. 141-164)

    The preceding chapters have underscored a central theoretical claim of this work: the association between a supportive immigration policy and immigrant integration and economic success. This chapter will recap the book’s main arguments in light of the changes in Union City.

    Sociologists have long tried to explain how immigrants become part of the larger society. A number of terms have been used to describe the process through which cultural differences among groups are reduced and a common set of values emerges. Terms such asabsorption, integration, andassimilationhave been used.¹ The assimilation model dominated sociological research on immigration for...

  12. Abbreviations
    (pp. 165-166)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 167-182)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-194)
  15. Index
    (pp. 195-204)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-205)