National Geographic : 1973 Jul
No one is sure how many Cubans now live in the greater Miami area; they can be found almost everywhere in the 27 municipalities including glittering Miami Beach-that com prise metropolitan Dade County. The latest census, in 1970, counted nearly 218,000. Stephen P. Clark, who was mayor of Dade County when I met him last year, thought the figure was closer to 300,000-more than a fifth of the county's population. "For a time we had as many as a thousand refugees a week pouring in here," Mayor Clark told me in his office in the towering Metropolitan Dade County Courthouse. "About 20 percent settled here immediately. But some of those who went elsewhere soon drifted back to Miami; Cubans were born in a tropical climate, and they like it here." If Cubans find Miami's climate to their liking, Miami has found the Cuban influx equally salubrious. Mr. Clark chose his words carefully. "Now I'm not saying that Dade wouldn't be the best county in the world even if we didn't have the Cubans," he said. "But look at the eco nomics alone. Cubans contribute about 800 million dollars to the gross product of this community annually-a sizable contribution, let me tell you." By any indicator, their impact has been, to say the least, profound. Cubans now own and operate more than 7,000 business estab lishments in Dade County. They range from the Suave Shoe Corporation-a computer ized plant worth 55 million dollars, employ ing 3,000 people-to a one-man art gallery on Southwest 8th Street. It measures 19 feet long by 46 inches wide.