Tocqueville in Miami: Political culture and political organizing in Miami's Cuban community

Robert Ceresa, Florida International University


This study examines the effectiveness of civic organizations focusing on leadership and the role of culture in politics. The study is based on a quasi-experimental research design and relies primarily on qualitative data. The study focuses on Miami's Cuban community in order to examine the role of public initiative in grassroots civic and community organizations. The Miami Cuban community is a large, institutionally complex and cohesive ethnic community with dense networks of community organizations. The political and economic success of the community makes it an opportune setting for a study of civic organizing. The sheer number of civic organizations to be found in Miami's Cuban community suggests that the community's civic organizations have something to do with the considerable vibrancy and civic capacity of the community. How have the organizations managed to be so successful over so many years and what can be learned about successful civic organizing from their experience? Civic organizations in Miami's Cuban community are overwhelmingly ethnic-based organizations. The organizations recreate collective symbols that come from community members' memories of and attachments to the place of origin they hold dear as ethnic Cubans. They recreate a collective Cuban past that community members remember and that is the very basis of the community to which they belong. Cuban Miami's ethnically based civic organizations have generally performed better than the literature on civic organizations says they should. They gained greater access to community ties and social capital, and they exhibited greater organizational longevity. The fit between the political culture of civic organizations and that of the broader political community helps to explain this success. Yet they do not perform in the same way or in support of the same social purposes. Some stress individual agency rather than community agency, and some pursue an externally-oriented social purpose, whereas others focus on building an internal community.

Subject Area

Political science|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Ceresa, Robert, "Tocqueville in Miami: Political culture and political organizing in Miami's Cuban community" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3393407.