Governor Ron DeSantis ordered the National Guard to deal with all the Cuban migrants landing in the Florida Keys. More than 300 migrants were picked up over New Year’s weekend.
After days at sea, landing ashore on US soil is a sigh of relief for Cuban migrants. Arriving in Key West since the 1800s, they’re part of the local culture we see today through cigar factories and coffee shops.
“I don’t think it’s going to ever stop or diminish, you know, the ties that we have here. I mean, that’s just, we’re too close,” said Corey Malcom, the lead historian at the Florida Keys History Center.
Cuba is so close that the federal government says at least 50 Cuban migrants arrive each day. Since the start of 2023, hundreds have arrived by boat on Florida’s coastlines.
Overwhelmed by the influx, local authorities had to shut down Dry Tortugas National Park on New Year’s Day.
Kinsey Beck is a dive captain who said you can’t miss the new arrivals. “It’s almost at least three times a week minimum, we’ll see a new boat pull up on the beach or be left on the beach from the night before.”
Migrants are still using homemade vessels; a prime example of how history isn’t going away in south Florida.
“We’ve had people coming in, refugees essentially, coming since the 1860s, and now, you know, you meet native Key Westerners, half of them have, you know, Hispanic surname because of that huge influx,” said Malcom.
Malcom has lived in Key West for 40 years. He said the recent influx doesn’t come close to the 1980 Mariel boatlift.
He just hopes officials will use that event to create a safer pathway for Cubans coming to the United States.
“If something can be done to stop people from taking that risk, that’s good. You certainly want to see people find freedom and find a way that their lives can be better,” Malcom said.