Artist María Martínez-Cañas Sheds Light on Her Photographic Path in Conversation at CHC

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

Artist María Martínez-Cañas

Artist María Martínez-Cañas.

You may have viewed the Quince Sellos Cubanos exhibition at Richter Library without realizing, at least at first, that you’re actually looking at photography. This is not an uncommon response to the style of artist María Martínez-Cañas, nor an unwelcomed one. In visiting the 15 iconic scenes depicting Cuba’s past, reimagined from the artist’s childhood stamp collection, you’re encouraged to take them apart as a way of understanding how they connect and the complex narrative that they together form.

“Photographs can be more than a way of recording the world. They can also be a tool for understanding who you are,” Martínez-Cañas explained during a November 19 event at the Cuban Heritage Collection, where she provided a closer look at how her unique style has helped her explore history, memory, and identity, among many other themes, during a conversation with professor J. Tomás López.

Martínez-Cañas is well known for pushing the boundaries beyond a traditional photograph, experimenting with a variety of materials and formats—analog and digital, color and black-and-white, camera-less and camera-base—in order to capture the image she intends. “It’s ideas,” she explained, “that drive my use of the medium, rather than the other way around.”

J. Thomás López, University of Miami Professor of Art and Art History.

J. Thomás López, University of Miami Professor of Art and Art History

López, a professor of art and art history who serves as head of Electronic Media and Photography at UM, navigated the discussion with topics spanning the course of Martínez-Cañas’ winding and prolific journey, from her early life and fascination with photography in Puerto Rico to the rise of her career and evolution of her work, which she carries out today in Miami.

“I had a curiosity of wanting to understand how the medium works from an early age, developing my first role of film when I was eight years old. I asked my parents not to park the car in the garage because I wanted to use it as a dark room—and they didn’t!”

Her experimentation with photography in nontraditional forms began while studying at the prestigious Philadelphia College of Art, continuing at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned her MFA. She explained that when a Fulbright-Hays grant then brought her to Seville, Spain, she became interested in using the craft as a way to explore her Cuban identity.

“At the time I was trying to figure out what makes me Cuban. I was born in Cuba, but I never had the opportunity to grow up in the country in which I was born…I developed a project working with the maps that Christopher Columbus used to discover Cuba as a foundation for my photographic project. I thought if I used these maps, I will find my background and where I come from and I will connect more with what makes me Cuban. It changed my life.”

After moving to Miami, Martínez-Cañas embarked on the two-year project resulting in Quince Sellos Cubanos (1992). The first series of 15, comprising the 15 gelatin silver prints currently on display at the library, was donated to the Cuban Heritage Collection by Alan Gordich in 2015 along with the limited-edition portfolio Páginas de Viaje (1996).

Quinces Sellos Cubanos will remain on view through spring 2016.

Photos by Andrew Innerarity.


2016-2017 CHC Goizueta Foundation Graduate Fellowships

The University of Miami Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) is calling for applications for the 2016-2017 Goizueta Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. Doctoral students who wish to use the rare and historical resources available in the CHC for dissertation research, or explore the Collection pre-prospectus, may be eligible for fellowships between one and three months with stipends ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 per month.

Launched in 2010 with a grant from The Goizueta Foundation, the program has grown to support the research of 67 emerging scholars from 35 universities. Now on its fifth year following a $1 million endowment by The Goizueta Foundation, the program aims to engage emerging scholars with the materials available in the CHC, thus contributing to the larger body of scholarship in Cuban, American, Latin@, hemispheric, and international studies. The 2016-2017 award recipients will be the first class of Goizueta Fellows.

The CHC awards Goizueta Graduate Fellowships in two categories:

Graduate Pre-Prospectus Summer Fellowships

Pre-Prospectus Summer Fellowships will allow doctoral students to determine how the Cuban Heritage Collection may serve their research needs as they prepare the dissertation prospectus. These are exploratory fellowships to determine if research resources in the CHC will support a dissertation. Fellowships of $1,500 will be granted for one month in residence between June 1 and August 31 of 2016.

Graduate Research Fellowships

Research Fellowships will support doctoral students who wish to use the Cuban Heritage Collection as a primary resource for a dissertation. Doctoral students applying for these fellowships will have completed their course work and passed their qualifying examinations. Fellowships of $3,000 per month will be granted for periods of one to three months.

All recipients must be in residence during the course of the fellowship and may not hold concurrent teaching positions.

Information about the fellowships and application process is available online at The deadline for applications, which should be submitted electronically on Interfolio, is Monday, February 1, 2016. Questions? Please write to

CHC Hours Update

The CHC will have modified hours during the week of September 7-11. Please note the following holiday and early closure:

  • Monday, September 7: Closed for Labor Day
  • Wednesday, September 9: The CHC Reading Room will be closed all day in preparation for the event Broadcasting Modernity: Cuban Commercial Television, 1950-1960. Researchers will still be able to access and receive assistance from the Conference Room from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m.

For more information, please visit our Hours & Directions page.


Now On View: Natural Cuba

Natural Cuba

An exhibition highlighting the island’s vibrant flora and fauna and their historical depictions, from iconic botanical illustrations to stunning wildlife publications to the beautifully colored specimens of the polymita picta, Cuba’s native tree snail. A series of historical photos, books, and other materials preserved by the Cuban Heritage Collection are now on display through Fall 2015 at the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion at the Otto G. Richter Library.

Now On View: Quince Sellos Cubanos

Quince Sellos Cubanos

An exhibition highlighting iconic scenes and symbols from Cuba’s past, reimagined by internationally renowned Cuban artist María Martínez-Cañas. A limited-edition portfolio of gelatin silver prints is on view alongside the artist’s thirty-year collection of original Cuban stamps which inspired the work. The portfolio was donated to the Cuban Heritage Collection in 2015 by Alan Gordich. It is on display on the second floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.

CHC Research Colloquia August Schedule

The Cuban Heritage Collection’s 2015-2016 Research Colloquia continues in August with several talks by researchers on works in progress. ​Colloquia are scheduled for 3 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

    • Thursday, August 13
      Abel Sierra Madero, New York University (visiting fellow)
      Made in Cuba: Theatre, Nation and the Forging of the Erotic Subject in the Second Republic (1933-1958)
    • Tuesday, August 18
      Elise Arnold-Levene, Columbia University (CHC Graduate Fellow)
      Lydia Cabrera, the Storyteller as Collector
    • Thursday, August 20 * rescheduled for Wednesday, September 2
      José Villar, Florida International University (CHC Graduate Fellow)
      New Men, New Nations, New Selves: Queer Subjects between Assimilation and Practices of Freedom in Contemporary Cuban Cultural Production
    • Tuesday, August 25
      William Kelly, Rutgers University (CHC Graduate Fellow)
      Constancy and Change: An Analysis of Revolutionary-Era Urban Housing Policy in Cuba
    • Thursday, August 27
      Richard Mwakasege-Minaya, University of Michigan (CHC Graduate Fellow)
      Mobilizing the Empire: Cuban Exile Media & Cold War Politics
    • Monday, August 31
      Francisca Aguilo Mora, University of Miami (CHC Graduate Fellow)
      Language Crossing and Multiaccentuality in Women Writers del Gran Caribe: Narrative, Drama and Performance
  • Learn more about the CHC Graduate Fellowships »

2015-2016 CHC Research Colloquia Convenes

As we welcome a new class of graduate fellows to the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion, we open the 2015-2016 CHC Research Colloquia. Join us as fellows and other researchers discuss their work and their research in the Cuban Heritage Collection. Colloquia are open to the public and scheduled for 3 p.m. unless otherwise noted. RSVP to 305-284-4900 or

Thursday, June 25
Rebecca Salois, CUNY (CHC Graduate Fellow)
“Choteo Cubano: Humor as a Critical Tool in 20th Century Cuban Theater”

Tuesday, June 30
Sara Kozameh, New York University (CHC Graduate Fellow)
“The Agrarian Reforms in Revolutionary Cuba: 1959-1965”

Thursday, July 9
Daniel Fernandez, University of Florida (CHC Graduate Fellow)
“Transnational Contributions to Cuban State Formation: the Spanish Republican Exiles in Cuba”

Thursday, July 23
Olivia Ortega, Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, Mexico (visiting researcher)
Influencia de los Estados Unidos en la construcción de la identidad colectiva publicitaria de México y Cuba, 1930-1950
In Spanish

Tuesday, July 28
Antonio Cardentey Levin, University of Florida (CHC Graduate Fellow)
“Crítica de la pasión caribeña: La dialéctica de los afectos en la novela histórica del Caribe insular hispano”

Tuesday, August 18
Francisca Aguilo Mora, University of Miami (CHC Graduate Fellow)
“Language Crossing and Multiaccentuality in Women Writers del Gran Caribe: Narrative, Drama and Performance”

Thursday, August 20
José Villar, Florida International University (CHC Graduate Fellow)
“New Men, New Nations, New Selves: Queer Subjects between Assimilation and Practices of Freedom in Contemporary Cuban Cultural Production”

Tuesday, August 25
William Kelly, Rutgers University (CHC Graduate Fellow)
“Constancy and Change: An Analysis of Revolutionary-Era Urban Housing Policy in Cuba”

Thursday, August 27
Richard Mwakasege-Miyar, University of Michigan (CHC Graduate Fellow)
“Disseminating Greater Cuba: Cuban Exiles & Cuban-American Media Production”

Cuban Sculptor Roberto Estopiñán (1921-2015) Honored at CHC

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

Click the image above to watch a video of the discussion on May 13. More photos from the event can be viewed on Facebook.

Click the image above to watch a video of the discussion on May 13. More photos from the event can be viewed on Facebook.

Friends, family, and longtime admirers of Cuban sculptor Roberto Estopiñán shed light on the late artist’s vision and the compassion behind his celebrated work during an event held in his memory at the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) and co-presented with the Cuban Museum on May 28. Estopiñán, who died in Miami in January 2015 at age 93, is widely known for his work in sculpture describing the complexities of the human condition, often through interpretations of the female form.

The program included a recognition of Estopiñán’s widow, Carmina Benguría, followed by remarks by nephew George Roberto Pace and art historian Alejandro Anreus on Estopiñán’s work and social activism—often interrelated—prior to his exile in 1961 and throughout his life. “At the heart of his work was always the human figure for he believed in the integral and spiritual value of the human person,” Anreus said. The program also included readings by the poets Alina Galliano and Gastón Álvaro, and a screening of the 1994 documentary Artists in Exile: Roberto Estopiñán by the late Cuban-American television writer and producer Ray Blanco.

Forty-six of Estopiñán’s sketchbooks, a few which were on display during the event, were donated to CHC where they will now be preserved and made available to the public.

Photos by Andrew Innerarity.


Carmina Benguría, widow of Roberto Estopiñán, is honored by CHC Chair Maria Estorino Dooling (left), Ileana Fuentes of the Cuban Museum, and Benguría’s great-nephew Griffin Pace, during the May 28 celebration of Estopiñán’s life and work.

Join Us for a Celebration of Roberto Estopiñán on May 28


Join us in honoring the life and work of Cuban-born sculptor Roberto Estopiñán, who passed away in January at the age of 93. The evening will include readings by the poets Alina Galliano and Gastón Álvaro; remarks by Estopiñán’s nephew Victor Alberto Garrido and the art historian Alejandro Anreus; and a recognition of his widow, Carmina Benguría. The program will be followed by a screening of the documentary Artists in Exile: Roberto Estopiñán (1994, 30 minutes) by the late Cuban-American television writer and producer Ray Blanco.

From the artist’s estate per his wishes, a selection of works on paper by Roberto Estopiñán will be donated to the Cuban Museum. The Cuban Heritage Collection has received 46 of his sketchbooks, some of which will be on display.

RSVP now to or call 305-284-4026.

Reception sponsored by the Amigos of the Cuban Heritage Collection.

UM’s Cuban Heritage Collection Celebrates the Legacy of Maestro Manuel Ochoa

by Rosa Monzon, Cuban Heritage Collection

The exhibit includes a digital component through which viewers can watch videos of performances conducted by Maestro Ochoa.

The exhibition includes a digital component through which viewers can watch videos of Ochoa’s performances.

Maestro Manuel Ochoa, a Cuban exile musician, choral and orchestra conductor, and founder of the Miami Symphony Orchestra, was the focus of a reception at the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC), at the University of Miami’s Otto G. Richter Library. The event served as the official launch of an exhibition that includes Ochoa’s greatest works and documented memories, which are preserved and available for research at the CHC in the Manuel Ochoa Papers.

Ochoa is recognized internationally not only for his numerous contributions to classical Cuban music in the island but also his work in Spain, Austria, and the United States.

Curated by Meiyolet Mendez, librarian at the CHC, the exhibition displays photographs, letters, publications, music scores, and concert programs of Ochoa’s personal life and career. Included is a photograph from the beginning of Ochoa’s career, at the age of 17, conducting members of the Holguin Choral Society, which he created in 1942, even before he had any formal training. Another photograph shows Ochoa leading the Belen Jesuit Choir in Havana years later. Ochoa’s lesson plans and notes on working with child choir singers also are on display.

“One of the most exciting parts of working on this exhibit was the opportunity to bring to life Maestro Ochoa’s entire career,” said Mendez. “I discovered a person who was passionate about music and music education, and who loved sharing that passion with others.”

Also on display is a paper program of the Concierto Sacro, sponsored by the Cuban Catholic Artists Guild, featuring Ochoa’s Coro de Madrigalistas (Madrigal Choir), popularly noted as the best choir in Cuba, in 1956, Havana.

A driving force and inspiration in Ochoa’s life was always his family. One of the highlights of the exhibition is a photograph of his mother, Caridad Ochoa, who was a trained opera singer, plus a tear sheet from The Miami Herald with an article by David Lawrence Jr. celebrating Ochoa as well as his wife and biggest supporter, Sofia Ochoa.

“She was at his side every step of the way,” said their son, Manuel Ochoa Jr. “My father always said she made it easy for him to just stand at a podium and conduct.”

CHC recognized Sofia Ochoa (right) during the event.

Esperanza Bravo de Varona (left), former chair of the CHC, and current chair Maria Estorino recognized Sofia Ochoa (right) during the event.

Sofia’s unwavering support for her husband continued after his death, in 2006. She not only donated his collection but also contributed countless hours as a volunteer in the processing of these records.

“When my mother and I thought about how we would remember and commemorate my father, we wanted a living memorial,” said Ochoa Jr. “We wanted to share his life story so that others, especially young Cubans and Cuban-Americans would be inspired to continue his musical legacy.”

After studying and working in Cuba, Vienna, Spain, and Rome, Ochoa settled in Miami following the Cuban Revolution. On display are photographs of Ochoa’s performances in Miami, such as the first Festiva Symphony Concert at the Colonel Hotel in 1989. There is also a photograph of acclaimed Cuban pianist Zenaida Manfugás, from the same concert.

In Miami Ochoa also created the Society of Arts and Culture of Americas, but his greatest contribution to the city’s cultural development was the creation and leadership of the Miami Symphony Orchestra for more than 25 years. Multiple playbills from its concerts are displayed in the CHC’s Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion, as well as audio and videos of performances.

Guests at the reption.

The celebration of Ochoa’s life and legacy took place at CHC’s Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion, where the Manuel Ochoa Papers are now permanently housed and available for research.

Considered “the highlight of his tenure with the orchestra,” said Ochoa Jr., was a concert in Carnegie Hall in June of 2000, also represented in the exhibition.

“Maestro Ochoa’s legacy lives on in the Miami Symphony Orchestra he founded and in the lives that he touched through his various cultural activities,” said Maria Estorino, chair of the CHC. “But it also lives on here, in the library, where through his own papers, his life, his work, and his passion can be discovered.”

The CHC is home to thousands of books, manuscripts, photographs, and other materials that document the rich history and culture of Cuba and its diaspora. The legacy of Maestro Manuel Ochoa, as well as countless other Cubans and Cuban-Americans, “will not only be preserved here, but it will be shared with our students and with the community,” said Estorino.

“I hope the Maestro Manuel Ochoa Collection continues to inspire and educate future generations to become musicians and conductors, and keep alive the rich tradition of classical music,” Ochoa Jr. said.

The exhibition is available for viewing through the end of summer. For more information about the Cuban Heritage Collection and its events, please visit

View more photos from the event here.

Photos by Andrew Innerarity.

The exhibit will be available at the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion through summer 2015.

The exhibition is on view at the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion through the end of the summer.