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Book Review: “Yearning to Breathe Free”

Updated: Aug 6, 2023


Photo: Mindy Lawrence


Yearning to Breathe Free: A Judicial History of the Cuban Relocation Project, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas 1980-82

Judge Jim Spears


When the boat people came to America from Cuba in the early 80s, they didn’t just go to Florida. They were sent around the country to other areas. One of those was Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. After deep research, Judge Jim Spears uses information from primary sources to cover the relocation of Cubans discussed In this book.


Spears covers the story of Castro’s boatlift of unwanted Cubans, his detractors, to Florida. Spears tells about many families sent to Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas and the set up of camps for them in old military barracks. Eventually, he discusses the impact of the boat people and other Cuban immigrants to Arkansas. He brings in the area’s dislike of the Cubans and acts of the KKK. He also describes their impact on the presidential election between then President Jimmy Carter and former actor Ronald Reagan.


The book is interesting. It fills out the actions on many fronts that went on during the resettlement.











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