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People of Cuban Heritage: Hispanic Americans v. Cuban Americans

A Brief History

The first Hispanic people came to the territory of the USA at the beginning of the 16th century (Schmid, 2013). First Cuban Americans came to the territory of the USA at the end of the 16th century (Osorio, 2013). Families moved from islands to the continent. Clearly, people had different reasons to leave their homes. Hispanic people often left for economic reasons and military conflicts. One of the major reasons for the immigration of Cuban Americans was economic instability. As for the 20th century, political issues associated with the Cuban revolution made people go to the USA. The highest proportion of Hispanic Americans is in New Mexico, California, and Texas. The largest proportion of Cuban Americans is in Florida, New Jersey, California.

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Demographic Data

Hispanic Americans comprise quite diverse groups, and the median age is 27.5 (CDC, 2012). Cuban Americans are older as compared to the Hispanic population as the median age of this group is 41.4. Hispanic Americans often face various economic and social issues with the median family income of $43,347. Hispanic Americans often live in poverty. Cuban American immigrants of the first and second waves were mainly elites, so this population had the necessary resources to settle in the USA and become a part of the American middle class (Osorio, 2013).


Cuban Americans have the same values as the rest of the Hispanic population in the USA. These people put the family in the first place and pursue familial goals even if they are in contrast to their needs or desires (CDC, 2012). The Hispanic population is characterized by such concepts as machismo and marianismo that reveal the existing gender roles and characteristics. Males are supposed to be strong, assertive, decisive, and so on. Females should be beautiful, submissive, active, caring, etc. Hispanic Americans are group-oriented and place a significant value on other people’s opinion. The vast majority of Hispanic Americans are Catholics, and they are very religious and share all the Catholic values.


Cuban Americans also have a similar worldview with the overall Hispanic population. This group can be characterized by a significant level of indulgence as being happy and living a pleasant life are seen as very important elements (Purnell, 2014). This can be a reason for these people’s politeness, which is regarded as an important feature of communication. Finally, Hispanic Americans have a strong sense of authority. They respect rules and conventions as well as norms and traditions. They follow the rules and practices promulgated by such institutions as the church, family, and state. They also accept hierarchies in different spheres of their lives (professional, personal, political, and social). Finally, it is necessary to note that Hispanic Americans share patriarchal views.

Language and Communication Patterns

Language and communication patterns are similar among Hispanic and Cuban Americans. The first language is Spanish. Notably, many Hispanics are not fluent in English. For instance, 37.7% of Hispanic Americans do not speak English “very well” (as cited in CDC, 2012, p. 13). As for Cuban Americans, 41.7% people have difficulties with English. The rest of linguistic and communication patterns are the same for both groups. Hispanic and Cuban Americans use expressive linguistic forms as well as expressive body language. Exaggeration is an accepted norm. Hispanics and Americans of Cuban heritage also accept a close physical contact when close people communicate. It is necessary to note that Hispanic people always mind the opinion of other people, so they usually follow the accepted norms of communication.

Art and Other Expressive Forms

Art and other expressive forms of various Hispanic groups share many features in common. Latino music is very popular. TV and radio are also very popular among these populations. Many Hispanic Americans prefer watching programs and films in Spanish (CDC, 2012). Younger populations enjoy popular culture and Hollywood products. One of the distinctive features of Cuban Americans is that their art and other expressive forms are affected by a political agenda. Thus, murals, poetry, paintings, and so on may contain political themes or be a direct reflection of political views.

Norms and Rules

As has been mentioned above, Hispanic people value patriarchal views and norms. Hispanic Americans, as well as Cuban Americans, respect their parents whose opinions or choices are often regarded as the final decision (Purnell, 2014). Hispanics believe that children should be respectful, study hard, and try to achieve success in their life. In their professional life, Hispanics prefer companies with well-established hierarchies, which is consistent with their views concerning authority. Finally, these populations tend to comply with cultural norms, which often makes it difficult for some people to assimilate. Schmid (2013) notes that Hispanic Americans are unlikely to assimilate, but they can acculturate, at least, partially. Group orientation also contributes to this trend as Hispanic Americans are concerned about the views and appraisal of the members of their community.

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Political Aspects

The Hispanic population is characterized by people’s attention to the political aspects as the countries of Latin America endured various revolts, revolutions, social unrest, etc. However, Cuban Americans are the most politically active among the rest of groups. The Cuban Revolution that took place in 1959 led to the change of the political system, which made many people flee. During the first wave of immigration, people who supported Batista and those who could not live in a Communist society fled to the United States. High-profile professionals moved to the USA during the next wave of immigration. In the 1990s, people with significantly smaller incomes. Adult Cuban Americans and older adults still believe that Cuba is unlikely to become the state it had been before the revolution (Krueger, 2016). At the same time, younger adults are more optimistic and believe that there is some future for Cuban-American relationships (Marsh, 2016). However, this difference in views is causing certain tensions between different age and social groups within the Cuban American population.

Lifestyle Characteristics

Lifestyles do not differ significantly among Hispanic groups. As has been mentioned above, Latino people are characterized by a considerable level of indulgence. Hence, they prefer something pleasant while they can make certain effort to achieve various goals if necessary. However, these people still tend to have quite passive lifestyles (CDC, 2012). Their indulgence also affects their diets that are not quite healthy. The collectivist nature of Hispanic groups can explain the popularity of Spanish-speaking programs and other media products. At that, younger adults and adolescents prefer social media and English-speaking films, programs, and so on.

Relationship Patterns

Familismo is a characteristic feature of Hispanic Americans. Cuban Americans, as well as other Hispanic groups, regard their family ties as the most important bonds in their life. Although young adult and adult Hispanic Americans tend to live in core families, they maintain close relationships with their family members (CDC, 2012). Notably, Latino households are larger as compared to other ethnic groups with an average family of 3.92 people. Marriage is also seen as the core of any community. Pre-marital sexual relationships are quite common among young adults although they are kept private as these relationships are still disapproved in the society. As has been mentioned above, views of others, as well as the approval of the community, are very important for Hispanics. As for professional relationships, authority is highly valued, so the hierarchy is thought to be the foundation of effective collaboration in the working environment.

Common Rituals

All Hispanic Americans, irrespective of their cultural heritage, celebrate all Catholic holidays including but not confined to Christmas and Easter (Purnell, 2014). Holidays that differ from the mainstream population include Day of the Dead (Día De los Muertos), Three King’s Day, (El Dia De Los Tres Magos), nine days before Christmas (Las Posadas) (CDC, 2012). Hispanics also celebrate days of various saints. Childbirth is one of the most important celebrations as well. Baptizing is an important event in the life of every Hispanic American, and it is celebrated with family and close friends. Quinceneras is a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday. This is one of the major celebrations for Mexican Americans, but it is quite common and popular among other groups. Since Hispanics are very religious, they also practice prayers when appropriate.

Degree of Assimilation/Marginalization

There is little difference between the degree of assimilation with the mainstream population. The cultural heritage is not the most influential factor affecting the way Hispanics are assimilated. Socioeconomic status is one of the significant factors as people having resources have access to high-quality education, better employment opportunities, etc. Notably, Cuban American families who immigrated during the first two waves of immigration are more well-off and, therefore, are more assimilated. Age is another influential aspect to consider. Younger Hispanic Americans tend to be more integrated into the mainstream culture. Clearly, people facing linguistic issues have more difficulties with their assimilation.

Health Behaviors and Practices

The Hispanic population is characterized by a longer life expectancy, which is 75.1 years old (for males) and 82.6 years old (for females) (CDC, 2012). A considerable number of Hispanic Americans are uninsured (32%). At that, Cuban Americans have one of the lowest percentages of uninsured people (22.7%). The most common causes of death of Hispanics irrespective of the cultural heritage include heart disease, cancer, accidents, HIV, homicide, and so on (CDC, 2012). The level of smoking and the use of illicit drugs is quite low among all groups within the Hispanic community. However, according to CDC (2012), the longer they live in the country, the higher levels of substance use and abuse they display. The combination of traditional and Western medicine is typical of the target population (CDC, 2012). Hispanic Americans do not address healthcare professions if their health condition is (or seems to be) manageable. In life-threatening situations, Hispanics resort to Western medicine. Clearly, uninsured people and those having financial issues cannot afford using the US healthcare system and address traditional healers, santeros. Although patriarchal values dominate, Hispanic females (mothers) are mainly involved in family members’ care, but a male (father) decides whether a doctor should be addressed (CDC, 2012). Hispanic often use prayers and communication with priests as a way to retain emotional balance during the healing process.

Implications for Healthcare Professionals

Aspects to consider when treating representatives of the Hispanic population include linguistic issues, Spirituality, omitting controversial topics, and major features of traditional medicine. Healthcare professionals should remember that the Hispanic population pays a lot of attention to the spiritual component of the healing process. Decisions are often made by older members of the family. People often try to comply with the norms and rules accepted in their community. US healthcare professionals should also understand that Hispanic patients may resort to certain traditional health practices, and it is crucial to make sure that they are compatible with the developed care plan. Finally, when treating Cuban Americans, it is especially important not to touch upon some political or historical issues related to Cuba.

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Cuban Americans share the major aspects of culture in common with the rest of the Hispanic population. The major difference is this group’s attitude towards or rather focus on the political aspect of life. Notably, different age groups within the Cuban American community have different opinions concerning certain political and social issues, which contributes to the increase in tension within the group. The central characteristic features of both groups include familismo, machismo, religiousness, and traditional values.


CDC. (2012). Building our understanding: Culture insights communicating with Hispanic/Latinos.

Krueger, A. (2016). The Cuban-American generation gap. The New York Times.

Marsh, S. (2016). ‘The dark era is over. I can see the light’: Cuban Americans on Fidel Castro’s death. The Guardian.

Osorio, J. (2013). Cubans and Cuban Americans, 1940-Present. In E. R, Barkan (Ed.), Immigrants in American history: Arrival, Adaptation, and Integration (pp. 849-860). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Schmid, C. L. (2013). Spanish and Spanish Americans, 1940-Present. In E. R, Barkan (Ed.), Immigrants in American history: Arrival, Adaptation, and Integration (pp. 1315-1320). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Purnell, L. (2014). Guide to culturally competent health care (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

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