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

Yolanda Prieto

Publication Year: 2009

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. In The 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 City conveys 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.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

This book is an ethnographic study of Cubans in Union City, New Jersey. It captures the journey of this community from the late 1940s, when the first Cubans moved there. It continues with the growth of this settlement when the 1960s exiles arrived, and finally it explores changes in Union City as many older Cubans moved away and new Cuban immigrants have come into the area. This work proposes that a welcoming reception of Cubans by the U.S. government, especially after ...

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pp. xv

Writing this book has encompassed a long personal and intellectual journey. Because I came to Union City with my parents and my sister in the late 1960s, I felt the need to understand the settlement of the Cuban community there, long before I became a sociologist. I had experienced some years of the Cuban Revolution, and later migration to the United States—with all the human cost that such major upheavals imply. I had also witnessed the changing roles of my par-...

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1. Introduction

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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 fi nal destination. My uncle and his family had lived there since the early 1960s and they had seen ...

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2. Cuban Union City: Origins, Development, and Change

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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, ...

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3. Building Community: Economic Growth and the Rise of Local Organizations

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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. ...

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4. Women Leave Home for the Factory: Gender, Work, and Family

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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 briefly 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 work-force. One was the tobacco industry. Women—both black and white—were employed there supposedly because tobacco production required ...

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5. Saint Augustine Parish and Cuban Adaptation: Religion and Reconciliation

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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, ...

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6. Exile, Ethnic Identity, and Political Culture

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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 fl eeing 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: ...

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7. Union City Cubans and Community Change: Some Theoretical Considerations

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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 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 ...


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pp. 165-166


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pp. 167-182


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pp. 183-194


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pp. 195-204

E-ISBN-13: 9781439903445

Publication Year: 2009