For Whom Male Virility Is a Cultural Tradition: Cuban Miami and the Rise of the New Right, 1960–80

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 3:50 PM
Gramercy West (New York Hilton)
Julio Capó Jr., Florida International University
This presentation explores how Miami's Cuban-American communities helped fuel the rise of the New Right in the United States. In revising the narrative of their role in supporting Anita Bryant’s 1977 campaign to overturn an ordinance in Dade County that shielded lesbians, gays, and bisexuals from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, this work argues that the preoccupation with gay issues often paled in comparison to their anxieties over feminism, abortion, and gun ownership. In fact, these issues were intrinsically linked. This work encourages a more nuanced approach to understanding Cuban-American support and opposition to this rising conservatism; it focuses on two points that have largely been ignored by scholars: the conceptualization of Miami as a battleground for the culture wars had significant transnational roots that reflected their former and ongoing anxieties in Cuba and that these characteristics intersected in critical ways with broader shifts in Miami's urban political power following the growing influence of residents in the city’s ethnic enclave.

Like the “gay rights” issue, the question of “gun rights,” which similarly gained steam in Miami by the mid-1970s, was framed in opposition to Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The Cold War linkage of gun control as an unwelcome expansion of state control only increased in the coming years, as in 1987, when Florida’s legislature passed its concealed weapons law that allowed anyone with a permit to legally carry a firearm. These issues that became associated with the rise of the New Right reinforced some of the most significant tenets the city’s Cubans valued, particularly vis-a-vis their disdain for Castro's Cuba: direct democracy and participatory politics, faith-based rhetoric, unflinching nationalism, and child protectionism. Many Cuban-Americans celebrated Bryant's victory as a sign of their arrival in the urban decision-making process, a reality that soon manifest in anti-immigrant and anti-Latina/o/x sentiments.