"I call my daughter every week, even if it's just for her to say, 'Papi, I love you,'" said Perez, a thin man who left the island on a boat in 2008.
Benitez, who fled with her parents shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, doesn't have family in
"They need to go back to
Some 46,662 Cubans left the island legally and permanently last year, the largest migration in a single year since 1994, according to figures from
The influx of new arrivals is evident throughout
Cubans arriving today grew up on the island after the revolution, and their relationship with their homeland is different than the wave of immigrants who arrived immediately after
The clashes surface in a big way when older Cuban Americans protest outside concerts and sporting events featuring Cuban musicians and athletes who draw throngs of fans who grew up listening and watching them. The rifts are also apparent in small exchanges at shops like Benitez's.
Benitez's mother was a Jehovah's Witness and spent three years in jail for preaching before fleeing on one of the Freedom Flights, the twice daily flights that carried more than 265,000 Cubans out of the island between 1965 and 1973.
"My mom said we were refugees," Benitez recalled. "If she could have gone back, I don't think she would have. How can we go back to a country that did not want us?"
By contrast, Cubans fleeing today rarely cite political persecution.
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