HIALEAH, Fla. –– The city of Hialeah, outside Miami, is known for its Cuban American community of working families, tight incomes and friendships among neighbors -- and as the election nears, many say they're leaning strongly toward voting for President Trump.
“Hard-working people, blue-collar workers, Cubans from different generations... come to live here. The grandmas, the fathers, the sons and daughters,” said Lucy Pereda, who has made Hialeah her longtime home.
“When I go to a place here and my car breaks down, I know where to go. I have many, many opportunities to go out of the city. Even if it costs me more, I am going to stay in Hialeah and that's what most Hialeans do, they stay in the city. We are very, very well populated and we have just about everything you need, right in Hialeah. We don't even have to leave Hialeah to get anything done,” Julio Martinez added.
Hialeah is home to a greater percentage of Cubans than any other city in the country, according to census data. People like Pereda and Martinez made Hialeah their home after escaping communist regimes and dictatorship. They shaped what has become a reliably Republican city of over 230,000 that is over 96% Hispanic.
“Everyone that flees communism comes to Hialeah. Hialeah is totally Republican as far as voting, and we are... one of the strongest Trump cities in the whole United States,” Martinez said.
Hialeah usually has voted Republican in each presidential election. In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney won the city by 9 percentage points. But, in 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were practically tied in the city, with Trump getting 33,718 votes compared to 33,625 for Clinton.
Current Democrat nominee Joe Biden’s campaign has sought to court Hispanic voters by beefing up Latino staff and launching more Spanish-language ads in Florida. He also has visited several cities in the state, including Kissimmee and Tampa. Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., have both visited Miami.
Trump has leaned on a message that the Democratic Party was running on a socialist platform. University of Miami professor Michael Touchton acknowledged that socialism has been a turnoff for many Hispanic voters and a label the Democratic Party can’t shake within the community.
“Republicans have successfully labeled Democrats as leaning towards socialism,” Touchton said. “This reminds Cuban Americans and Venezuelan Americans of their exile and of their need to stand up to communist regimes in Latin America, which they don't think a Biden administration will do because he's a Democrat.”
“I came from Cuba about 14 years ago and I have lived in Hialeah for the last seven years. Hialeah is Trump Town,” said Fernando Godo. “It's not Trump versus Biden. It is socialism versus capitalism, government control versus liberty. These are the kinds of things we are looking at.”
“I am an ex-political prisoner. I'm a Cuban exile,” said independent voter Emilio Izquierdo Jr. He said he came to America in 1980 on the Mariel boatlift, which brought thousands of Cubans to the U.S. “Democrats are going more to the left, and every time, the Republican was going more to the right.”
He said that while he viewed both parties as too partisan, he would rather wear the Trump 2020 hat. “Specifically, in this area. The Cuban Americans [who support] Democrats, they are confused, they like socialists. They were people recycled from Cuban communists. I don't want socialist and communist. I got a bad, bad experience.
“Joe Biden, in my area, doesn't have too many votes. He's done even before the elections.”
Touchton added, “Biden has not spent much time campaigning in South Florida or campaigning in Spanish to try to appeal to Spanish-speaking voters. He will have to catch up, especially amongst the Cuban American and Venezuelan American population.”