L i k e t h a t o f m a n y other Mariel Cubans, Hector Nunez’s1 path to Miami was fortuitous. Claiming to be a political prisoner, he left Cuba and arrived on one of the first waves out of the Mariel port in April 1980. Similar to many other young men who crossed into the Florida Keys on overloaded boats, there was little evidence of previous prob­ lems-criminal or otherwise. His local family ties were strong; he was quickly processed by the INS and immediately released to a sister who had left Cuba in the early 1970s and who had a stable work history in the Miami area. Everything fell into place right away. Finding work quickly at a local restaurant in Little Havana, Hector was soon able to move out of his sister’s house into his own modest apartment, which he shared with a couple of roommates. All seemed to be going well for Hector, whose immigrant story, like those of others before him, began as one of humble beginnings.