Miami by Joan Didion

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Miami is a book by Joan Didion that was first published in 1987. Itnarrates about the lives of Cubans who found refuge in Miami afterPresident Batista was overthrown on January 1, 1959. The bookprovides a social-political report of how Cubans in the townconnected with America and her politics, their interactions withother races, and the intra-community wrangles.

. In the book, Joan Didion criticizes the mishandling of the CubanMissile Crisis as well as the Bay of Pigs invasion by PresidentKennedy’s administration. The way President Kennedy’sadministration handled these two crucial incidents resulted in theCubans living in Miami to perceive all United States presidents astraitors. Mainly, the supporters of the overthrown Cuban PresidentFulgencio Batista viewed the handling of the two incidents as the endof their dream for a Castro-free Cuba. According to Didion, since the1962 Cuban Missile Crisis the United States government had been tornbetween supporting the exiles in their quest to overthrow theCastro`s government and containing them. On the other hand, theexiled Cubans were confused on whether to trust the Americangovernment because they felt that they were being used. Didionnarrates how John Kennedy failed to provide the agreed air cover thatresulted in the death of many 2506th brigades in 1961 atPlaya Giron. The coming to power of President Reagan gave the exilesa glimpse of hope. During this period, the refugees were hopeful ofhelp coming from the United States government however, the optimismdwindled as time went by.

In the book, Joan Didion also depicts the close relationship theAmerican government forged with the exiled Cubans. For example, theaudience learns that Miami acted as the CIA recruiting andoperational-staging center in the 1960s. The United States governmentdeemed some Cubans as useful in its secret foreign missions.Consequently, Joan Didion reports that many Cubans were recruitedinto the agency. Examples of places where the Cubans helped theAmerican governments to gather intelligence include Angola, Chile,and Nicaragua. On the other hand, the Cubans relied on the Americangovernment to maintain their struggle for the ouster of Castro.Despite the close relationship shared between Cubans in Miami andUnited States government, these two entities mistrusted each othercompletely. For example, the Cubans blamed the U.S government forwhat they felt was leniency towards the Castro’s regime.Additionally, some Cubans ended up becoming terrorists where theywere involved in the assassination of foreign diplomats, the murderof American citizens, and the blowing up of banks.

Didion says that although Spanish was spoken much in other citiessuch as New York and Los Angeles, it is only in Miami that thelanguage was heard. She explains that the Spanish language was spokenin most of the affluent places such as bank penthouses and the bestrestaurants in Miami. What she is insinuating is that Spanish was alanguage of power. Besides, Joana Didion depicts the animositybetween the Non-Hispanics Americans and the Cubans refugees with theformer thinking that the latter was eyeing for full Americanization.Cubans in Miami seemed to have had only one goal, and that was to seetheir country freed from dictatorial governments. To a large degree,the Cubans in Miami loathed assimilation. Their level of patriotismto their motherland even surpassed that of their fellow citizens inCuba. Didion describes Miami as the stage for making declamatoryexists as well as side deals. For example, it is in Miami that FidelCastro mobilized resources to overthrow Batista. It is in the sameplace where for two generations, individuals opposed to Castro hadplanned on ways to remove him from power although without success.While the Cubans faced threats from other inhabitants of Miami, thereexisted animosity within the community. The intra-community conflictwere emanating from the reprisals perpetrated against thesympathizers of Castro. Additionally, there existed animosity betweenthose who emphasized on the political over military struggle as a wayof overthrowing the Castro`s regime.

The book captures the different aspects of the Cubans in Miami.First, it shows the racism and rejection this group went throughafter landing in the country. In the book, Didion narrates how thetown’s life structures assimilated the upper levels of the Cubancommunity. After much struggle, some of the immigrants becamesuccessful business persons, expert propagandists, philanthropists,and power brokers. This also happened to the survivors of the Bay ofPigs expedition. While some of the veterans went back to spendingmost of their time at gun shops, others found positions inair-conditioned offices. However, some of the Cubans become renownedterrorist and drug runners.

In conclusion, Joana Didion in her book, Miami,explores the political situation in the town. The book reviews theconspiracies following the successful and failed attempts to changethe Cuban governments. Besides, the close relationship and themistrust between the Cubans living in Miami and the Americangovernment take the center stage in the book. The United Statesgovernment sought to use the exiled Cubans to gather intelligence inplaces such as Angola and Chile, in the disguise of helping them tooverthrow the oppressive dictatorial regimes in their motherland. TheCubans were grateful to the United States for providing them with anavenue to regroup and plan on how to overthrow the variousdictatorial governments in Cuba. However, the Cubans in Miami had theidea that the U.S government was only using them and had no intentionof bringing to fruition their dreams of seeing a Castro-free Cuba.Some of the incidence that caused such sentiments is PresidentKennedy`s administration role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bayof Pigs invasion.


Didion, J. (1987). Miami. Simon &amp Schuster Publishing Company.

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