Florida 21st District
Miami’s Cuban-American community has been one of America’s most dynamic immigrant groups over the past 40 years, growing from 50,000 in 1960, the year after Fidel Castro took over Cuba, to well over 1 million today. Over time, the Cuban-American neighborhoods centered along S.W. 8th Street—Calle Ocho—expanded west to the Florida Turnpike Extension in Weston and Sweetwater, southwest to Kendall and northwest to Hialeah. Starting in the 1980s, there was an influx of other Latinos, from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela, and Colombia. In the process, new communities were built and old ones transformed. Built on swampland, Sweetwater is now probably more Cuban than the old Little Havana on Calle Ocho. Kendall, where the last strawberry field was torn up 30 years ago, is the site of the upscale Dadeland Mall, where Spanish is heard more often than English. Hialeah, famous for its racetrack first opened in 1925, was transformed, as one writer put it, “from redneck to Latino” in just a few years. The racetrack closed in 2001, and Hialeah, always downscale and with a colorful municipal politics, is now 94% Hispanic, the highest percentage in the Miami area.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 21st Congressional District of Florida is an irregular rectangle about 20 miles long and two to six miles wide in Miami-Dade County and southern Broward County. In Miami-Dade, it includes Kendall, Cutler, Westwood Lakes and Sweetwater. It includes raffish Hialeah and nearby Miami Lakes, a planned town developed in the 1960s by future Democratic Sen. Bob Graham and his brothers. In Broward County, the district includes much of Miramar and Pembroke Pines. It includes Florida International University and Miami International Airport, which ranks third in the nation for international travel and first for overseas freight. The population of the district is 73% Hispanic, the highest of any Florida district, and just under 44% of residents are of Cuban origin. Cuban voters continue to be heavily Republican. Other Latino voters are less so, but by no means overwhelmingly Democratic. Many here do not vote at all: The 21st has the lowest number of registered voters of any Florida district. With relatively few Hispanics, the Broward County portion of the district tends to vote Democratic. Overall, this is a Republican district, but one that sometimes votes for Democrats who support the Cuban community’s issues. Some Cuban-Americans—typically, the more recent arrivals—were unhappy with the Bush administration’s tightened restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, but others supported any steps that kept American dollars from Castro. George W. Bush carried the district twice, but Barack Obama came close to winning it in 2008. He got 48.8% of the vote to John McCains 50.9%.