Recent projections show Cubans being overtaken by other groups
By Mindy Hagen
While Miami-Dade County has been the primary destination for Cubans since the 1960s, the number immigrants from other Latin countries combined are close to equaling their numbers, according to local demographers citing the 2000 US Census.
Hispanics, a group which totaled 49.3% of Miami-Dade's population in 1990, now make up more than half of the county's residents at 57.3%, or 1.3 million of 2.3 million people.
Although Cubans in Miami-Dade total 650,601, a figure that represents more than half of the national Cuban-American population at 1.2 million, Hispanics from Puerto Rico and countries such as Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia and other Central and South American nations now total 649,310, a difference of only 1,291 people.
Charles Blowers, chief of the Metro-Dade Planning Department's research division, said he expects the total of other Hispanics to soon pass Cuban-Americans.
"The census results didn't surprise us," Mr. Blowers said. "We saw in the last 10 years the influx of other Hispanics than Cubans. We expected the Cuban percentage to fall and it did."
Mr. Blowers said Miami has become a popular destination for other Central and South Americans because of language and proximity.
The exact numbers of other groups won't be known until the Census Bureau releases its report on foreign-born residents in 2002, Mr. Blowers said, but most of the figures will increase in line with expected projections.
"We expect the numbers to increase further over time," he said. "The only projections so far that has caught our eye is that the Nicaraguan number seems to be slightly down."
Because Cuban-Americans have infiltrated Miami's culture, Mr. Blowers said, it is easier for other Latin American groups to move to the area.
"People go where those like themselves went before," Mr. Blowers said. "There is a huge base of Hispanics here now and the area is continuing to become an attractive place for even more Hispanic groups."
Although the cities of Miami and Hialeah remain strong enclaves, other parts of the county are also drawing large numbers of Hispanics, he said.
Mr. Blowers also said more Hispanics are being born in Miami as children of immigrants who came during the past 40 years, making it harder to determine whether the Hispanic figures on the census are counting recent arrivals from Latin America or families who have been in Miami for almost two generations.
Using the Hispanic category as the way to determine the immigrant total is beginning to be unrealistic, he said.
"More and more people being counted are native born here. We expect this to continue, as well as high levels of immigration."
Although he projects immigration from Latin America to grow in the coming years, Mr. Blowers declined to predict which nationalities will increase the most. Changing political situations in countries, often a strong indicator of future immigration trends, are hard to predict, he said.
"Our population projections are made mid- to long-term," he said. "It would be foolish and irresponsible to forecast what will happen in individual countries. Obviously migration, especially from Cuba, depends on what happens over the next few years. Unless there is a major change in some country similar to what took place in Cuba in the 1960s, I expect a continuation of the same patterns."
As for population totals from other groups in Miami-Dade, the 2000 census counted 457,214 African-Americans, making up 20.3% of the county's population, and 31,753 Asian-Americans at 1.4%.
Mr. Blowers said he expects the African-American percentage to stay constant because other groups are "growing just as fast or faster than them." He also said the overall Asian increase, about 7,000 people from 1990 to 2000, was not surprising.
"I wouldn't expect the Asian growth to be much larger," he said. "This is not a popular destination for Asians yet."
Mohammad Shakir, executive director of Miami-Dade's Asian-American Advisory Board, said the census figures show "impressive growth." While Asians of Chinese descent still account for the largest total, Mr. Shakir said the census shows a new trend of Asians from southern countries, such as India and Pakistan, moving to Miami-Dade.
"A large portion of the people coming are from a tropical climate which matches the weather in Miami," Mr. Shakir said. "Miami's growth in insurance, banking and information technology, all industries with a number of Asian workers, have also contributed to the increase."
Mr. Shakir also said a large concentration of Asian-Americans is found in Kendall and South Miami to take advantage of better schools.
"Education is their No. 1 priority," he said. "Many Asian-Americans who are coming to Miami have seen depressed economic conditions in their own countries and believe the fruit of the American dream can be achieved by educating their children."