Fifteen years before 1980's Mariel Boatlift, the U.S. Coast Guard faced a humanitarian crisis in the Florida Straits when Fidel Castro allowed Cubans to leave the country, provided civilian boats could come pick them up.
Over the past 60 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has dealt with several mass migrations by sea. Many have involved Cuban refugees, which led one of the service's public affairs writers to note that Fidel Castro and the Coast Guard "are inseparable. You cannot discuss Castro without referring to the other." 1 While many Americans are familiar with the 1980 mass Cuban migration known as the Mariel Boatlift, an incident of perhaps even greater importance took place earlier. The Camarioca Boatlift of 1965 foretold events to come. This humanitarian mission is little remembered, although its effects reverberate to this day.