The Cuban Influence

Spanish laws of impressment in 1868 resulted in the first large migration of Cubans to the island of Key West.  This vast number of people immigrating to Key West gave a tremendous boost to the city's economy.  Most of the commerce here felt a lift to some degree, with the cigar manufacturing industry experiencing the greatest boom.

The number of cigar factories seen about the island increased almost as rapidly as the Havana leaves of tobacco matured.  The cigars that the factories produced were exported to all parts of the globe, and considered by most to be the finest in the world.

U.S. trade with Cuba (essential to Key West) was disrupted when the Communist regime of Fidel Castro seized control of the government there, causing Cuban refugees to cross the ninety miles of ocean in small boats, rafts and practically anything that would float, to come to a nation of democracy and opportunity.  Many did not survive this voyage.

Three years after the Cuban missile crisis of the early 1960's, a second wave of refugees came across to the United States.  Once again, there were those who lost their lives in their pursuit of freedom.

As the year of 1979 passed into 1980, another exodus of Cubans landed in Key West.  They came, as before, in small boats with very little food and water, if any.  U.S. forces intercepted most of the Cuban, Mariel refugees, sea-lifting many of them, and escorting others, into Key West.  This constant stream of immigrants placed a great burden upon the island and its economy.  Once they arrived here, poor handling of the situation by the federal government, and negative publicity by the media, led to numerous social problems, along with a massive drop in tourism.

This was one of the contributing factors to the birth of the Conch Republic.  The Conch's ways of dealing with a deplorable situation is symbolized by the existence of this new sovereignty.


Conch Republic, Founded 1982