Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Jorge Duany

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kevin Grove

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Guillermo Grenier

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Michael Bustamante

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Immigration, Cuban Diaspora, Cultural Identity, Anthropology, Cuban Studies, Migration Studies, Latin American Studies, Cuba, Social and Cultural Anthropology

Date of Defense



Cuban émigrés are among the myriad of immigrants who arrive in the United States hoping to achieve the American Dream—defined as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement” (Adams 1931, 404). However, powerful tropes of the American Dream­ obscure the economic and social barriers that impede economic mobility and the sacrifices that individuals make in its pursuit. Unlike Cuban émigrés of the 1960s-70s, émigrés of the “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” wave (1995-2017) arrived in Miami during more precarious economic times and received fewer financial resources from the US government. Propelled by the scathing economic conditions that ensued following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, their motivations for leaving Cuba are perceived as more economically driven and apolitical. To contribute to the fields of Cuban Studies and Migration Studies, I employed a narrative inquiry approach to examine how Cuban émigrés of the “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” wave conceptualized the idea of the American Dream prior to migration, how the realities of living in the US validate or invalidate their expectations, the challenges they face while attempting to adapt to American society, and how those experiences influence their cultural identities.

Drawing from the narratives of thirty-five participants, this dissertation uncovers how émigrés from post-Soviet Cuba negotiate the challenges of living in the US, a more diverse and market-driven economy. Significant findings of this research include: (1) immigrants’ attitudes, adaptation experiences, and sense of belonging to the US are influenced by their context of reception; (2) “feeling” Cuban or Cuban American, or one’s sense of belonging to US society, is not determined by length of time living in the US, feelings of adaptation, or one’s citizenship status, and (3) adaptation does not occur through a progression of stages, or require that one become “Americanized,” since “feeling American” will differ according to each person’s feelings and experiences.





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