The Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami collects, preserves, and provides access to primary and secondary sources of enduring historical, research, and artifactual value which relate to Cuba and the Cuban diaspora from colonial times to the present. The Collection supports the teaching, learning, and research needs of the University of Miami and the broader scholarly community.
The work of the Collection focuses on five programmatic areas:
- Collection Development: bringing together a collection of research resources of books, periodicals, archival and manuscript materials, and digital resources.
- Preservation and Access: safeguarding research resources and making them available for use.
- Teaching and Learning: supporting the needs of our students and faculty through course-based instruction.
- Research: providing quality research services and engaging emerging scholars with graduate fellowships and opportunities for independent undergraduate research.
- Outreach: coordinating events and exhibitions that engage the broader community in a dialogue about Cuban cultural heritage.
History of the Cuban Heritage Collection
The motto of the University of Miami in the early years – “North American culture for the Latin Americans and Latin American culture for the North Americans” – exemplifies the relationship the University of Miami would sustain in the coming years with its neighbors to the south. As early as 1926, faculty from the University of Havana came to teach at the University of Miami. The University’s collection of library materials related to Cuba grew to support course work and scholarship in Latin American and Caribbean studies. The rate of growth and diversity of materials greatly expanded in the early 1960s when thousands of Cubans came to live in the United States.
Cuban materials could be found throughout the University of Miami’s Otto G. Richter Library, which was dedicated in 1962 and included a reserve collection of Cuban books. The quality of the materials in the collection during the early years of the Library reflects the knowledge and talents of Charles Lewis Morgan, who was head of acquisitions, and J. Riis Owre, dean of the Graduate School and one of the founders of the University’s Pan-American Institute in 1927.
In the 1960s, Library Director Archie L McNeal hired two exiled Cuban librarians, Rosa M. Abella and Ana Rosa Núñez. Supporting their quest to collect Cuban materials and document the Cuban experience in exile, he became the first of several of library directors to recognize the unique asset this represented to a research institution. With the growing acquisition not only of books but also of periodicals, maps, posters, photographs, and other materials, the library’s Archives and Special Collections Department established the Cuban Collection in 1980 with Esperanza B. de Varona as its archivist. Members of Miami’s Cuban community recognized the uniqueness of the Cuban Collection and in 1995 formed the Amigos, a membership group that raises funds to support the collection’s mission
The collections documenting Cuba and the Cuban diaspora expanded to become the most important body of resources on these topics outside the island. In 1998 the vast and growing collections were brought together as the Cuban Heritage Collection.
Thanks to a $2.5 million challenge grant from The Goizueta Foundation and additional support from the late Elena Díaz-Versón Amos and the Fanjul Family, the 10,000-square-foot Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion was inaugurated on January 28, 2003 as a permanent home for the Collection.
In 2005 the University of Miami Libraries received an anonymous gift of $1.5 million to endow the Esperanza Bravo de Varona Chair of the Cuban Heritage Collection, in honor of Professor Esperanza B. de Varona, a key force in building the Collection.
The Goizueta Foundation again gave its support in 2009 with a five-year grant of $2.4 million to support collection development, preservation and access, digitization, and fellowship programs at the Cuban Heritage Collection.
The span of the University of Miami Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection reinforces the University’s commitment to a continuing relationship with its neighbors. Today, the Collection hosts researchers from around the world who are interested in Cuban history, the Cuban experience outside the island, and the impact of Cuban Americans in South Florida and beyond.
Amanecer en la Atlántida by Gustavo Acosta, 2002