Rubio's Senate website says his parents came to America following Fidel Castro's 1959 takeover, and he has always publicly identified with the exile community. In turn he has maintained a strong and loyal political following within its Miami hub.
But reports Thursday by the St. Petersburg Times and The Washington Post revealed his parents emigrated to the U.S. in 1956, when Cuban dictator Fulgencia Batista was still in power and Fidel Castro had just been released from prison and exiled in Mexico.
Rubio's father was a security guard at a small store when he and his wife left, according to Rubio's staff, and came for economic reasons.
Rubio responded to the report with a statement saying his parents had tried to return to Cuba in March of 1961 in hopes that things were improving on the island post-revolution but quickly left because they did not want to live under communism.
"My parents are from Cuba. After arriving in the United States, they had always hoped to one day return to Cuba if things improved and traveled there several times," he wrote. "In 1961, my mother and older siblings did in fact return to Cuba while my father stayed behind wrapping up the family's matters in the U.S. After just a few weeks living there, she fully realized the true nature of the direction Castro was taking Cuba and returned to the United States one month later, never to return."
The return date is significant because it means Rubio's family planned to return to the island in March just as more than a thousand Cuban exiles from Miami were preparing for their doomed April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in order to topple Castro's fledgling government.
And as early as January of 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy warned in his State of the Union: "Communist agents seeking to exploit that region's peaceful revolution of hope have established a base on Cuba, only 90 miles from our shores."
Yet even if Rubio's parents were unaware of the politics or still hopeful that things would be better under Fidel Castro, they would have been among a sizeable number of Cubans who supported the revolution through the early 1960s and only later turned against it.
Professor Andy Gomez, a senior fellow University of Miami's Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies, said many Cubans in Miami knew an invasion was coming in 1961, but those who weren't politically active may not have known the details.
"You got to remember over 80 percent of Cubans back then supported the revolution, not Fidel but the revolution. We had another dictatorship, Batista. So everyone thought the revolution was going to bring social change," he said.
"In my own family, we left three days before the Bay of Pigs, with the idea we were going back in six months because this was not going to last very long, particularly because the United States was not going to permit it," he added.