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Did Cuban ‘rabblerousers’ cost Miami the 1960 Democratic National Convention?

It was a time that transformed the social and cultural fabric of Miami and helped reshape Florida politics for decades to come.

As Fidel Castro rose to power, thousands of Cubans fled to South Florida. The population of Cuban immigrants in the United States more than doubled just between 1950 and 1960, rising from 71,000 to 163,000, according to the Migration Policy Institute. And they continued to come. The majority settled in Florida and particularly Miami-Dade County.

The Florida Governor, Leroy Collins, was lobbying for Miami to host the 1960 Democratic National Convention. John F. Kennedy would be nominated and later become elected. But according to newly released FBI files, Miami was denied the opportunity because of concerns about Cuban “rabblerousers” who might incite riots and cause murders, kidnappings or bombings.

According to a Jan. 24, 1959 FBI memo for then-assistant FBI director A.H. Belmont, Collins raised concerns about a Cuban military plane filled with .50 caliber machine guns being allowed to fly across Florida, including over Cape Canaveral and landing in Daytona Beach. It was one of several examples he cited as he recounted some of his concerns.

Several persons present made the point that Florida was full of ‘rabblerousers.’ FBI agent

Collins also said he was at a recent meeting with the decisions makers who picked the site of the convention when concerns about the newcomers came up.

“Several persons present made the point that Florida was full of ‘rabblerousers’ and Latin refugees and, because of this issue, the 1960 Democratic National Convention will not be held in Miami,” the agent wrote.

The convention was held in Los Angeles. Kennedy would win the election, but Florida voters picked Richard Nixon.

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