Why the older Miami Cubans are sticking with Trump
© Getty Images

Despite recent polls showing that Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights Hillary Clinton: Biden less 'constrained' than Clinton and Obama due to prior administration Biden's unavoidable foreign policy crisis MORE is pulling ahead of GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner on Hannity touts Trump: 'He was a disruptor' Ivanka Trump doubles down on vaccine push with post celebrating second shot Conservative Club for Growth PAC comes out against Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE in Florida, Democrats shouldn't sleep easy. Ask President Gore.


Trump needs to win its 27 electoral votes, bigly. According to conventional wisdom, he's lost Latinos, who comprise 18 percent of eligible voters in Florida, and 24 percent of the total population. But nothing about the Sunshine State is conventional, and there's precious little wisdom going around in this campaign.

A recent trip to Miami revealed tenacious support for Trump among older Cubans. They fled Fidel Castro's revolution in the '60s and are now in their 70s, living not in trendy Coral Gables but conservative Key Biscayne. Many are well-heeled and still wield considerable political power. They watch Fox News religiously and are Facebook-savvy, perhaps from communicating with grandkids.

Trump's anti-immigrant rants don't bother these Cubanos, who had their own path to citizenship via the Cuban Adjustment Act and the "wet foot, dry foot" policy. Even now, Cuban refugees are all but guaranteed a green card once they make it to the U.S., whether coming across the Florida Straits or the Rio Grande, as many arrive these days.

They've been staunchly Republican since President Kennedy's betrayal in the Bay of Pigs, counted President Nixon as a neighbor, and were wooed by President Reagan, who sported a guayabera and promised to put the hammer down on Castro.

But tempers have cooled. For younger Cubans born in the U.S., the wounds are not so raw. They're eager to visit the island via JetBlue, which begins weekly flights next month.

And demographics are changing. Cubans are only 31 percent of Latino voters in Florida, as compared with 27 percent from Puerto Rico and only 9 percent from Mexico. Nor do Republicans have a lock on them — 38 percent are Democrats, and 27 percent are Republicans.

Obama won Florida by barely 1 percentage point in 2012. Romney lost even with 39 percent of the Latino vote, as opposed to 27 percent nationally. Trump will have to do much, much better, and Cubans are the key.

Much is puzzling about this infatuation with El Donaldo. The Cuban political establishment, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), has soundly denounced him. During the Republican primaries, Trump savaged native son Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  Crist launches bid for Florida governor, seeking to recapture his old job The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Trump, Cheney trade jabs MORE, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, long considered aplatanado (an honorary Cuban.) Then he went full birther on Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Memo: The GOP's war is already over — Trump won Hawley says Cheney 'spiraling,' 'out-of-step' amid Trump backlash MORE (Texas), implying his father Rafael played a role in the Kennedy assassination.

One would think Trump's bizarro bromance with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his alleged financial dealings with Russia, would be disqualifying. The Russians were Castro's Cold War amigos, but even that doesn't faze them.

So far, Trump has not taken advantage of this. Several efforts to meet with Cuban leaders in Miami have fizzled. Channel 41 personality Ileana Garcia, who founded "Latinas for Trump," was dissed by the campaign, according to Buzzfeed bro Adrian Carrasquillo.

Adding insult to injury, Latino operative Wadi Gaitan, communications director of the Florida Republican Party, just resigned "because he cannot defend Trump's racism," as reported by The Huffington Post. He'll be working for the Koch brothers-funded LIBRE Insitute, which has also been sharply critical.

Then why do these Cubanos plan to vote for Trump, other than to exasperate their politically correct Gen-X offspring?

Looking for answers, I went to Versailles. The vast, gaudy diner on SW 8th St. (known as the "Saguesera") is packed all day long and serves heaping portions of Cuban grub like ropa vieja and arroz con pollo.

Between bites of a Cuban sandwich, one hungry pundit noted that Cubans once picked Castro, so their choice of Trump shouldn't be surprising.

Another commented that Trump told off Pope Francis, who caught shade for cozying up to the Castros. While in Cuba, the pope showed little interest in dissidents, and visited Fidel en famille to receive an autographed copy of the Maximo Lider's speeches.

Many despise President Obama for kowtowing to Cuba, and rightly fear Clinton will continue that policy. But Trump himself is reportedly eager to build golf courses there. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, he's explored developing the old Dupont estate in Varadero.

When I asked how they could support Trump despite this, one journalist replied with the quintessentially Cuban gesture of pursing his lips and shrugging his shoulders.

"Pa' joder," he said.

The Cuban word joder is untranslateable. One meaning is to screw someone, and the Hemingwayesque expression, "to be well and truly f-----," is a literal translation of the Cuban lament "de verdad estar bien jodido."

It also means to play a trick on someone, to fool him. A jodedor is a trickster, a joker. Yet he can be admired for his cleverness, for his targets are often pretentious or naive (two qualities Cubans despise) and deserve what they get. Perhaps Cubanos see Trump as a kindred spirit, a jodedor who is having a laugh at the Democrats' expense.

Clinton's campaign headquarters are in Tampa, hundreds of miles north and worlds away from the Saguesera. Many in Miami wonder, does she get it? If Trump carries Florida, he'll have the last laugh.

Estrada is the editor of LATINO Magazine.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.