One of the most contentious events in mass migration started on April 1, 1980 when several Cubans took control of a bus and drove it through a fence of the Peruvian embassy in Havana; they requested – and were granted — political asylum. After Fidel Castro retaliated by having the Cuban guards protecting the embassy removed, over 10,000 people crammed into the tiny Peruvian embassy grounds. Castro ultimately stated that the port of Mariel, just outside of Havana, would be opened to anyone wishing to leave Cuba, as long as they had someone to pick them up. Cuban exiles in the United States rushed to Key West and to docks in Miami to hire boats to transport people to the United States.
That set in motion a six-month drama in which more than 125,000 Cubans fled their country and overwhelmed the shores of the U.S. Castro, whose façade of popularity and support was badly shaken, then upped the ante by allowing thousands of criminals and mental patients to leave as well. Read more