Established in 1762 as a British naval station during the British occupation of Havana, the port of Mariel has become an important city for commerce and industry on Cuba's northern coast.
During the 18th century, Mariel was the site of a British naval station and academy. The town of Mariel was founded by local fishermen somewhat after the British' arrival. Since the 1959 Revolution, the city Mariel has received considerable attention from the Cuban government, which has helped it to earn the important status in commerce and industry that it holds today.
Mariel houses Cuba's largest cement factory, as well as a relatively new thermoelectric plant, textile factories, and a significant array of shipyards. Besides pouring money into industrial development, the government established many new housing, educational, and medical facilities to improve the workers' standards of living.
In recent years, Mariel was the focus of international attention during the famous Mariel Boatlift and resulting US-Cuban tensions. The crisis occurred when a group of Cubans living in Havana discovered a diplomatic loophole that would allow them to flee Cuba be seeking political asylum in the Peruvian Embassy. They were followed by thousands of anti-Castro dissidents, relatives of exiled Cubans, and others seeking refuge in the U.S.
Then-U.S.-President Jimmy Carter welcomed the refugees warmly, lifting normal restrictions and requirements for their entrance into America. While Castro must have been embarrassed that so many people sought to leave his country, he used the situation to his advantage, getting rid not only of his political opponents, but also sending "undesirable" elements - the mentally insane, violent criminals, as well as others. This move caused President Carter a great deal of embarrassment in the U.S. and placed him in a very submissive position.