On April 20, 1980, the Castro regime announced that all Cubans wishing to leave were free to board boats at the port of Mariel. Shortly after, the first wave of 125,000 Cuban refugees reached Florida the next day.
Mariel brought thousands to the US and most of them turned out to be very good additions to Florida. Unfortunately, there were some criminal elements but they were a very small number.
Years later, most of the “Marielitos” have contributed much to Miami and the US. One of them is my friend Marcos Nelson Suarez, who came to Dallas and started a very successful newspaper, “El Hispano.”
For me, Mariel was a turning point in rediscovering my Cuban roots. It reconnected me with the Cuban cause, specially as I saw boats and people leaving the same island that I left as a kid in 1964.