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.
In 1959 Fidel Castro successfully overthrew the Cuban government of Fulgencio Batista. By 1965, however, Castro faced growing unrest from the island's population. Many Cubans, especially members of the middle class, had become disillusioned with the economy and the government's turn to communism. Needing a way to defuse any potential internal problems, Castro announced his solution during a speech in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion on 28 September 1965.