The Cuban Experience in Florida

The Plight of Pepito: Cuba's Lost Generation
Lesson Plan for Grades 9-12

CPALMS Reviewed and Approved

This lesson has been reviewed and approved by CPALMS.


Since 1959, over one million refugees have fled Cuba for the United States, particularly South Florida. President John F. Kennedy authorized the Cuban Refugee Assistance Program (CRA) in the early 1960s to help alleviate the plight of Cuban refugees and ease the financial burden on the state of Florida created by the influx of refugees.

This film follows the experience of a fictional Cuban refugee named Pepito and his family. It portrays the family’s arrival in the United States, their processing at the Cuban refugee assistance center, and the types of aid provided by the CRA. The film illustrates the experience of Cuban refugees in the United States (especially children) and the activities of the Cuban Refugee Assistance Program. It also serves as an example of the perspective of the American media on the Cuban refugee crisis.

In this lesson, students will analyze the film in order to understand the experience of Cuban refugees. Students will strengthen their skills in analyzing primary sources and learn how events in Florida history relate to United States history.



Students will:

  • Analyze a primary source (film).
  • Write about history using a primary source.
  • Learn about the Cuban refugee experience.
  • Understand 1960s Cuban immigration in the context of the Cold War, Florida history, and United States history.

Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

  • SS.912.A.6.15: Examine key events and peoples in Florida history as they relate to United States history.
    Examples are Mosquito Fleet, “Double V Campaign,” construction of military bases and WWII training centers, 1959 Cuban coup and its impact on Florida, development of the space program and NASA.

Florida Standards

  • LAFS.910.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Materials Needed

  1. Motion Picture Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives and Records Administration
  2. The Plight of Pepito: Cuba's Lost Generation (film/28 minutes)


Part I: Introducing Content

  1. Teachers should review previously covered material dealing with immigration in United States history in order to prepare students to think about Cuban immigration in the 1960s.
    • What are the major periods of immigration in United States history?
    • What themes or experiences are common to all immigrants?
    • What might account for differences in the experience of immigrants from different countries or during different time periods?

  2. Conduct an in-class discussion/survey of students’ prior knowledge of Cuban immigration and the Cold War:
    • How many are Cuban or know Cubans/Cuban-Americans?
    • What brought Cubans to Florida?
    • What was the experience of Cuban refugees like?
    • What was the relationship between Cuban immigration and the Cold War?
  3. Discuss some of the historical connections between Cuba and Florida (see "A Brief History" included with this unit). Explain to students that Cuban immigration to Florida occurred in the context of the Cold War and that they will learn about the experiences of ordinary people during an international crisis. Teachers should explain that Cuban immigration serves as an example that connects Florida history with major events in United States history, in this case immigration the Cold War and U.S.-Cuban foreign relations.
  4. Introduce the problems faced by South Florida from the influx of Cuban refugees in the early 1960s. Students should understand that several waves of Cuban immigration created social and health issues in southern Florida, particularly how to feed, house, clothe and find jobs for hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Part II: Film Analysis

  1. The teacher should briefly introduce the film, which was made by a Miami-based television station, in order to highlight the plight of Cuban refugees. Teachers should instruct students to be aware of the context in which the film was created as well as the intended audience.
  2. Students will watch the film "FYI-The Plight of Peptio Cuba’ s Lost Generation." Students should record their reactions to the film using the Motion Picture Analysis Worksheet, paying special attention to the refugee experience and the response of the government to Cuban refugees.

Part III: Writing about the Refugee Experience

Based on the information contained in the film, students will write a brief journal entry on their thoughts about Pepito and how his story relates to the larger context of the Cuban immigrant experience in Florida.