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Stung by the sight of 10,000 Cubans jamming the Peruvian embassy in Havana, desperate to escape his regime, Fidel Castro announced that the port of Mariel was open. Miami exiles went with boats to pick up relatives. The Mariel onslaught had begun. On April 12, two fishing boats made Key West with the first 48 refugees. By May 4, the daily flow of refugees surpassed 3,000 and on May 14 President Jimmy Carter ordered a crackdown. Cuba didn't end the boatlift until Sept. 25 and on Sept. 29, 1980, the last boats arrived in Key West. In all, 125,266 Cubans made the journey.
Album ID: 986082
Mariel and other Cuban history posters
Posters created by The Miami Herald recall the Mariel boatlift and other events in Cuban history.
Album ID: 1008973
First stop: Key West
By April 25 300-400 boats had reached Mariel to pick up refugees, despite warnings not to from the Coast Guard and State Department. On May 17 the overloaded boat Olo Yumi sunk north of Mariel, killing 14.
Album ID: 989129
Long wait at Camp Liberty
For many, the Mariel "Freedom Flotilla" quickly led to a cot in Camp Libertad, in Eglin Air Force Base in North Florida, or similar camps at Fort Chafee, Ark., Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. and Fort McCoy, Wis. Long waits to be processed and friction blamed on agitators planted by the Castro government led to minor riots.
Album ID: 989188
Shelter at the Orange Bowl
The Orange Bowl stadium opened as a temporary shelter for Mariel refugees on May 2, 1980. It didn't close until Aug. 10, to make way for football season. Many of the refugees were then relocated to a tent city under I-95, (a possibly deliberate effort to send a message to the rest of the nation that Miami needed help). Eventually, unsponsored refugees were taken to other sites, including Krome detention denter, military bases and prisons.
Album ID: 989244
1980 Mariel special section
Pages from The Miami Herald special section produced in 1980, showing how the Mariel boatlift crisis unfolded that year.
Album ID: 1010831
Mariel on Miami Herald front pages
Beset by riots in black communities and distracted by the Iran hostage crisis, South Florida didn't immediately understand the impact of 100,000 Cubans gaining freedom through the port of Mariel. These front pages from The Miami Herald of the period reflect that time of crisis.
Album ID: 986087
Detainees cleaned up after camp riot
In 1986, 26 Mariel refugees, hoping to win another chance at freedom, helped rebuild the barracks destroyed by fire during an uprising at the Krome Avenue dentention center. The Cubans said they wanted to make up for the destruction caused by 100 other Mariel ex-felons during the May 28, 1986 disturbance.