This building served as the headquarters of the Miami News & Metropolis newspaper from its construction in 1925 until it became a processing center for Cuban immigrants. Some refer to the building as "Miami's Ellis Island" for this reason, along with its rededication as a memorial to Cuban immigrants. The building is now part of Miami Dade College.
Backstory and Context
The Freedom Tower is located in the heart of Miami, Florida. It is known as the Ellis Island of the south. The Freedom Tower is a large yellow building with a bell tower located at the top. Its design was based off of the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. The building is 17 stories high and 82000 square feet. When the building was first constructed, it held as a local newspaper company. It later became a sanctuary for Cubans fleeing Cuba.
The tower was first constructed in the mid 1920s. The tower later officially opened in 1925 to serve as a headquarters of the Miami Daily News and Metropolis. According to Heike Alberts, author of Changes in Ethnic Solidarity in Cuban Miami, in 1957, the Miami Daily News and Metropolis Company had moved to a different building that housed their work and the building sat empty for about five years. The United States Government took over the management of the building and turned it into a refugee center for Cuban immigrants fleeing Cuba. Robert Levine, Author of Cuban Miami, states that during the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, Cubans wanting to flee chose Miami due to its close proximity to Cuba. Many Cubans hoped that one day they would be able to return to Cuba. During this time, president John F Kennedy and his administration put together the Migration and Refugee Act of 1962. This act authorized the assistance to the many Cubans coming into the United States escaping Fidel Castro's dictatorship.
During Fidel Castro's dictatorship, Cubans faced imprisonment, violence, fear, and even death. Leaving everything behind, a mass exodus of Cubans came into the United States when president Kennedy enable the act in 1962. According to Jennifer Ashley Rafferty, by the end of 1960, approximately 40,000 Cuban immigrants had fled to the United States. From 1965 to 1973, thousands more Cubans poured into the United States. Many Cubans began to come in what was called Freedom Flights. These flights would bring Cuban immigrants from Cuba to the U.S for a fair price. These flights brought over 175,000 more Cuban immigrants to the U.S.
The Freedom tower served as a turning point for many Cuban refugees. Refugees began to slowly rebuild their lives from scratch. The Freedom Tower assisted immigrants in doing so by providing the tools and resources necessary. The U.S government spent about 957 million dollars utilizing food programs, medical clinics and financial relief programs for Cuban immigrants. In 1974, the U.S government began phasing out the Cuban Assistance Program and initially ending it later that year.
Freedom Tower Today:
Today the Freedom Tower is owned by Miami Dade College since 2005 after being donated by Pedro Martin and his family after they owned it for many years. The building serves as a museum and gallery open to the public. There is discussion about turning it into a Cuban American Historical Museum in the near future. As a symbol of hope and freedom, the Freedom Tower remains a national symbol of the many Cuban immigrants who immigrated to the United States.
Alberts, Heike. Changes in Ethnic Solidarity in Cuban Miami. American Geographical Society of New York, 2005
Levine, Robert. Cuban Miami. library of congress, 2000
Rafferty, Jennifer Ashley. Building identity: The Miami Freedom Tower and the construction of a Cuban American identity in the post-Mariel era, University of Texas at Austin, 2012.