Immigration, especially into the United States, out of the Caribbean has long been dominated by the Spanish-speaking descendants of European imperialists. Immigration out of the Caribbean began to accelerate after the end of the Second World War as the United States began to relax its immigrations laws. Many of these immigrants, which included Haitians, Mariel Cubans, Central Americans, and others, were refugees. Large groups fled the destructive regime changes that had begun taking place in many Latin American and Caribbean countries throughout the 1980s. Thus, one of the first crises of identity that these people came to face upon entering the United States was that they were a displaced people. They were refugees without firm roots. They had little knowledge of the culture and language of the country they were trying to make their new home.
Another element of American life that shaped Caribbean-immigrant identity was their low socio-economic level. An extraordinarily high percentage of immigrant families (21.5 percent from Latin America; 23.5 percent from Central America; 21.7 percent from the Caribbean) fell below the poverty line, according to a Census Bureau survey for the year 2000. Much of this was a result of their low education. In comparison with native-born or naturalized citizens who have lived in the country for at least five years, recent immigrants have faced and continue to face issues integrating into society because of a lack of educational opportunities available to them. These shortcomings, in turn, meant that they had to work longer hours for less pay, effectively trapping them in lower socio-economic brackets. Ultimately, the image of the Caribbean immigrant and impoverishment would go hand-in-hand, leading to a newfound identity crisis among the population.
For women, who overwhelmingly take care of the household and children, this poverty means even further seclusion from their adoptive society. Many (but certainly not all) Caribbean immigrant households are managed by wives who use whatever disposable income they have at hand to care for their family’s needs. Many women have found this to be an easier task if they only trade and communicate with other people that they are familiar with. People of similar backgrounds and communities often understand their plight and will provide them with more assistance. Because very few women from Caribbean immigrant household engage much with the culture outside of their own, they develop a very insular and homogenous understanding of their own identity and place within society. The resulting prejudice that can be levelled against them only serves to reinforce their insularity, making it very difficult for Caribbean immigrants to ever fully integrate into their host society.