A Refugee Cookbook

By María R. Estorino Dooling, CHC Chair

Recipes such as this one for croquettes indicated with an (R) the products distributed by the Cuban Refugee Program. Click to enlarge.

Recipes such as this one for croquettes indicated with an (R) the products distributed by the Cuban Refugee Program. Click to enlarge.

The Cuban Refugee Program, established by the U.S. government in 1961 and operated from Miami’s Freedom Tower, trained and employed exiled Cubans as social workers to connect refugees to services such as job training, resettlement, and food distribution. One of those social workers was Evangelina Aristigueta Vidaña, who in Cuba had been a high school physics and chemistry teacher.

As a social worker, Mrs. Vidaña found that many Cuban women were having a hard time cooking with the non-perishable foods distributed by the Cuban Refugee Program, such as powdered eggs, canned meat, and peanut butter. She started compiling and transcribing recipes that her clients were creating using the food received from el refugio (the refuge), as the program became known. With more than thirty recipes, Mrs. Vidaña distributed her “refugee” cookbook to clients and, in so doing, helped hundreds of Cuban families ease into their new lives in the United States.

Pictured is an empty can of chopped meat distributed by el refugio. This item was donated by Carmen Vega. After the can was emptied of its contents, Ms. Vega used it as a hair roller. Click to enlarge.

Pictured is an empty can of chopped meat distributed by el refugio. This item was donated by Carmen Vega. After the can was emptied of its contents, Ms. Vega used it as a hair roller. Click to enlarge.

Mrs. Vidaña worked as a social worker with the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services for thirty years. Her daughter María Eugenia Vidaña Soler-Baillo donated to the Cuban Heritage Collection a copy of her “Recetas de cocina usando los productos alimenticios donados por el Centro de Distribuición de Víveres del Programa de Asistencia de los Refugiados Cubanos” (“Recipes using the food products donated by the Food Distribution Center of the Cuban Refugee Assistance Program”).

The Cuban Heritage Collection houses the records of the Cuban Refugee Program. A small selection of materials from that collection are available online and were used in the digital exhibition, “In Search of Freedom: Cuban Exiles and the U.S. Cuban Refugee Program.”

 

 

 



Twentieth Anniversary of the Cuban Rafter Crisis

by Maria R. Estorino Dooling, Cuban Heritage Collection

raft

Cuban rafters rescued at sea. Courtesy of the Seventh Coast Guard District


In all of 1993, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued 3,656 Cubans at sea. By July 1994, over 4,700 Cubans had risked their lives to escape the island. Between June 4 and August 4 of that same year, Cubans trying to flee the island had made seven attempts to hijack ferries and other vessels in the Bay of Havana. On Friday, August 5, 1994, thousands of Cubans gathered along Havana’s Malecon after rumors raged through the city that a fleet of boats was coming from Miami to pick up any Cuban who wanted to leave the island. By the end of the month, over 21,000 Cubans of all ages had set out to sea in rafts and boats headed for the United States in what became the largest exodus from Cuba since the Mariel boatlift of 1980. During the Cuban rafter crisis, over 32,000 Cubans left from all parts of the island. The impact of the exodus can be seen in everything from the United States’ “wet foot, dry foot” policy for Cuban migrants, to the Elian Gonzalez affair, to the changing social and cultural fabric of the Cuban community in South Florida.

This August marks twenty years since the Cuban rafter crisis. The Cuban Heritage Collection is commemorating this anniversary with several programs and collaborations between August and October 2014, including:

  • Debut of the online exhibition, “Between Despair and Hope: Cuban Rafters at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, 1994-1996”
  • Re-launch of the website “The Cuban Rafter Phenomenon: A Unique Sea Exodus” (you can currently still view the original version here)
  • Presentation of the Guantanamo Public Memory Project exhibition at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Gallery in partnership with the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, September to October 2014
  • Collaboration on “Exodus: Alternate Documents” exhibition by Aluna Curatorial Collective at the Centro Cultural Español de Miami, September 11 to October 30, 2014

 

We will be sharing additional information about these programs and related events in the coming weeks. For research materials on the Cuban rafter crisis or to schedule a class visit to the Cuban Heritage Collection focusing on this topic, please contact us at chc@miami.edu.



Cuban memories: Remembering Cuban comedian Guillermo Alvarez Guedes

Guest post by Amanda Moreno, CHC Processing Assistant

Portrait of Guillermo Alvarez Guedes. From the Cuban Photograph Collection.

Cuban comedian Guillermo Alvarez Guedes, 86, died Tuesday at his home in Miami. Renowned and loved throughout the Spanish-speaking world, he will be remembered for his decidedly Cuban humor that will continue to bring laughter to his fans.

In a 2010 interview with El Nuevo Herald, Alvarez Guedes touched upon the universality of his comedic style: “I always try to make all Spanish-speaking people laugh. Some laugh more than others, but what’s most important to me is that people get enough ‘material’ to improve their health.”

Alvarez Guedes began his artistic career at the age of 5 in his hometown, Unión de Reyes, in Matanzas province. By the 1940s, the comedian was a popular radio and television personality, performing in skits, “musical comedy” and cabaret shows. His career continued in exile, where he produced music through his label, Gema Records, and continued to perform and write comedy books. Later in his career, he went back to his radio roots, performing on his daily comedy show, “Aquí está Alvarez Guedes,” on Clásica 92.3 from 1996 to 2011.

In the same article from El Nuevo Herald, Alvarez Guedes emphasized the importance not of coming up with new jokes, but in making sure that he left the audience laughing. The laughter will surely continue.

A 1960s photo of Guillermo Alvarez Guedes (far right) in New York with friends, including Celia Cruz, Lucho Gatica, Rosendo Rosell, Gisela La Serie, and Rolando Laserie. Image rom the Rolando Laserie Papers.