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


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

by Maria R. Estorino Dooling

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.

Tomás Estrada Palma Rides to Havana to Become Cuba’s First President

Originally Published by María R. Estorino on October 2001

Convoy accompanying Tomás Estrada Palma from Bayamo to Havana. From folder 24 of the Tomás Estrada Palma Collection (CHC0460), Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida.

In 1902, Tomás Estrada Palma set foot on the island of Cuba for the first time in almost twenty-five years. José Martí’s successor as head of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, Estrada Palma was living in exile in Central Valley, New York when he was elected Cuba ‘s first president in 1901. Once elected, he renounced his naturalized American citizenship and traveled to his homeland, landing in Gibara, Oriente on April 20, 1902. Estrada Palma traveled across Cuba for three weeks, getting reacquainted with the island and giving Cubans a chance to see in person the man they had elected as their first repúblican president. He reached Havana on May 11, 1902 and was inaugurated eight days later on May 20, 1902. This photograph depicts Estrada Palma’s caravan as he marched across Cuba. At the head of the group is a rider carrying the flag of Bayamo, Estrada Palma’s hometown and birthplace of Cuba’s struggles for independence. Estrada Palma rides in a black carriage at the center of the photograph. It is part of the Tomás Estrada Palma Collection of the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) of the University of Miami Libraries. This collection was donated to the CHC by Estrada Palma’s grandson, Tomás Douglas Estrada Palma, in 1995. Along with this photograph, the collection contains other pictures of Tomás Estrada Palma and his family as well as personal letters and other documents. For more information about this collection, view the finding aid.

Cuban Memories: Commemorating 25 years of the Miami Symphony Orchestra

by Fernando Espino, CHC Web Communications Assistant

This Sunday marks the opening of The Miami Symphony Orchestra’s 25th season. The Cuban Heritage Collection holds the papers of the Orchestra’s founder, Cuban-born conductor Manuel Ochoa (1925-2006).

Maestro Ochoa seemed destined for a musical life. His mother Caridad was a famous opera singer in Cuba, and he showed a strong ability for music from an early age. After studying and working in Cuba, Spain, Vienna, and Rome, he settled in Miami after the Cuban Revolution and set about making music that would resonate with an international audience.

Manuel Ochoa was among the first of Miami’s Cuban exile artists to see the creative opportunities that the city could offer as the gateway to the Americas. In 1969, with María Julia Casanova, Ochoa conceived of the Centro de Artes de América (America’s Center for the Arts), a performing arts center to promote cultural collaboration across the Americas. Ochoa continued to pursue his inter-American ideals throughout the 1970s, co-founding the Sociedad Hispanoamericana de Arte (Hispanic American Society for the Arts), but his vision would finally become a reality in 1989 when he established a truly multicultural arts organization, The Miami Symphony Orchestra.

In June 2000, Maestro Ochoa fulfilled a lifelong dream. He led the Orchestra in a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City with music by Joaquin Turina, Joaquin Rodrigo, Alberto Ginastera, and Saint Saen’s masterpiece Symphony No. 3. Manuel Ochoa passed away in 2006, but his musical legacy survives in the ongoing work of the Miami Symphony Orchestra, and his everlasting mark on Miami’s cultural fabric.

In 1996, WLRN’s TV program Huellas interviewed Maestro Ochoa.  He spoke in depth about music, his career, and the culture of his adopted city. A copy of this interview can be found online and on DVD in the Manuel Ochoa Papers held by the Cuban Heritage Collection.


With thanks to WLRN-TV Channel 17 for permission to post this interview.

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.

Cuban Memories: Celebrating Cuban singer Celia Cruz

Esperanza B. de Varona, Gladys Gómez-Rossié, Celia Cruz and Lesbia Orta Varona during a visit to Richter Library in 1999 when the University of Miami awarded Cruz an honorary doctorate in music.

This week we commemorate 10 years since the death of Cuban singer Celia Cruz. Internationally renowned as “La Guarachera de Cuba,” the award-winning singer graced us with over 50 years of iconic music that would become influential in the history of Cuban performance.

In 1999, Celia Cruz visited us at Richter Library when the University of Miami awarded her an honorary doctorate in music. At the time of her passing in 2003, we hosted an exhibition in her honor. Following her funeral, her husband Pedro Knight and the Municipios de Cuba en el Exilio presented us with the flag that draped her coffin during her wakes and funeral masses in Miami and New York. This flag is permanently on display in the Elena Díaz-Versón Amos conference room in the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion.

The images shared here are from our collection of photographs, memorabilia, and clippings about Celia Cruz.


Cuban Memories: The 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Amongst our collections of personal papers, the Cuban Heritage Collection holds the papers of José Miró Cardona (1902-1974), received in 2003 as a gift from his son José Miró Torra. In 1961, José Miró Cardona was president of the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC), a coalition of anti-Castro organizations that worked with the administration of John F. Kennedy to plan the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón) invasion. Miró Cardona resigned from the CRC in 1963 and taught at the school of law at the University of Puerto Rico until his death in 1974. His papers are an essential primary source for the study of the Bay of Pigs invasion and the early history of the Cuban exile community. The collection include 21 boxes of the administrative records of the CRC and 36 boxes of Miró Cardona’s personal and professional papers.

Cuban exile invasion force Brigade 2506 led the Bay of Pigs invasion. On Saturday, December 29, 1962, Miami’s Orange Bowl was the site for a ceremony honoring the surviving members of the invasion. The photograph above, from the Miró Cardona Papers, shows U.S. President John F. Kennedy at that ceremony with Brigade Commanders Manuel Artime next to him and José “Pepe” San Roman at the podium. José Miró Cardona is pictured at far right. View an online guide to the José Miró Cardona Papers »

The Cordovés and Bolaños Families Collection and The Norman Díaz Papers also include materials regarding the Bay of Pigs invasion.  Through our Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project, we have interviewed two veterans of Brigade 2506, José Basulto and Alfredo Durán. To learn about additional sources available in the Cuban Heritage Collection and at the Otto G. Richter Library about the Bay of Pigs invasion, including books, magazines, and newspapers, conduct subject searches in the Library’s online catalog for Cuba — History — Invasion, 1961 and Brigada de Asalto 2506.

Cuban Memories: the Cuban Constitution of 1940, then and today

By Rudo Kemper, CHC Web Communications Technician

Gaceta Oficial, Lunes, 8 de Julio de 1940
Gaceta Oficial announces at 3:00pm on July 8, 1940 that the Constitution was promulgated in Guáimaro. Link to IBISweb record.

Seventy years ago on October 10, 1940, the Cuban government promulgated a new Constitution in Guáimaro, a historic town in the Camagüey province. The Constitution, known later as the 1940 Constitution of Cuba, was the culmination of a six-month debate that took place during the presidency of Federico Laredo Brú. Comprising 286 Articles grouped in 19 Titles, it was drafted with the collaboration of a Constitutional Convention, presided over by Carlos Márquez Sterling and composed of seventy-six delegates from nine political parties. These delegates represented practically all sectors of Cuban political opinion according to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in 1962. The ICJ furthermore describes that the 1940 Constitution was characterized by “the rare balance it established between republican, liberal and democratic postulates on one hand and the demands of social justice and economic advancement on the other.” [1]

On the same day, Cuba held the first presidential election under the 1940 Constitution, resulting in the election of Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar over former president Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín. Although Grau, one of the delegates, was instrumental in the passing of the 1940 Constitution, Batista enjoyed strong support from a coalition of political parties, and served out a four year term as the first President of Cuba under the 1940 Constitution. Grau succeeded Batista four years later, but when Batista returned in 1952 under a coup d’état, he suspended parts of the constitution via a Constitutional Act passed on April 2, 1952.

Dr. Carlos Márquez Sterling is presented the golden pen with which he signed the Constitution.
Dr. Carlos Márquez Sterling is presented the golden pen using which he signed the Constitution. From Memorias de un estadísta: frases y escritos en correspondencia. Link to IBISweb record.

The Cuban lawyer Carlos Márquez Sterling, who presided over the 1940 Constitutional Convention, ran for the Cuban presidency in 1958. During the election, which was to be held one year before the Cuban Revolution, Márquez Sterling famously asserted that Castro’s coming to power would be the death knell of democracy in Cuba. In his campaign, he championed the Constitution that he helped usher in 18 years ago, asserting that “ni el gobierno de Batista ni la sangre derramada por los nuevos caudillos perniciosos serán la solución correcta del grave problema cubano, y sólo unas elecciones libres, con todas las garantiás ofrecidas por la Constitución del 40 podrán devolver la paz a Cuba.” (Translation: neither the government of Batista nor the blood shed by the pernicious new caudillos will be the right solution for the momentous Cuban problem; only free elections, with all of the guarantees offered by the 1940 Constitution, can return peace to Cuba.“) [2] CHC holds the papers of Márquez Sterling, which primarily consist of correspondence from after he went into exile in the United States in 1961. Visit the finding aid of the Carlos Márquez Sterling papers.

As leader of the 26th of July movement during the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro claimed (e.g. in his October 1953 “History Will Absolve Me” speech) that one of the Revolution’s main goals was to reinstate the 1940 Constitution. When he came to power following the abdication by Batista and his collaborators, however, Castro proceeded to repeal much of the Constitution by way of various reforms that culminated with it being replaced by the Fundamental Law decreed on February 7, 1959. Although the Fundamental Law repeated many of the articles from the 1940 Constitution word for word, it contained key alterations in the form of “transitional and exceptional” provisions and reforms of the organs of the state. It was eventually replaced in full by the Socialist Constitution of 1976.

Constitución de 1940
A copy of the 1940 Constitution published by Movimiento Patriotico Cubo Libre (Patriotic Movement for a Free Cuba), 1960. Link to IBISweb record.

The 1940 Constitution continued to have a life of its own outside of Cuba, however. The Constitution was often republished by Cuban exile groups and organizations in the United States, who considered this constitution to be the legitimate source of Cuban law, with Castro’s legal reforms and his Socialist Constitution of 1976 being fraudulent. One important reason why the 1940 Constitution is continued to be taken as a legitimate legal document is the fact that the alterations to the Constitution by Castro were not modified through the established legal procedures outlined in Articles 285 and 286.

The continued importance that the 1940 Constitution holds outside of Cuba is evident in the post-1960 work of José Morell Romero. Morell Romero served as a justice of the Cuban Supreme Court during the period of 1950-1960 and as a leader of various exile groups upon arrival in the United States. Morell Romero resigned from the Cuban Supreme Court on November 12, 1960, noting in his letter of resignation that:

I do not share the opinion of the majority of the members of the Court of Constitutional and Social Guarantees and the Government Division, as expressed in their judicial or executive action, concerning the scope of the powers of the de facto Government in respect to what they have been pleased to call its ‘constitutive powers.’ I must repeat that the constitutive power resides in the people alone and must be manifested through a public referendum, as was done in 1940 when the lawful Constitution of the Republic was adopted…the de facto Government is not empowered to take measures of a constitutive nature that conflict with those adopted by the People in lawful organization and constitution and which form the historical basis of the Cuban nation. [3]

Artículo 149
Article 149, from a republication of the 1940 Constitution in the same year. Link to IBISweb record.

Morell Romero’s service in Cuban exile groups seeking to achieve the liberation of Cuba led to his being sworn in on February 24, 1995 as provisional president of Cuba in exile under the 1940 Constitution, in accordance with provisions established in Article 149 of the Constitution. Article 149 stipulates that, in the case that appropriate presidential substitutes, the conditions for which are stipulated in Title X of the 1940 Constitution, are lacking, “the most senior Magistrate of the Supreme Tribunal shall occupy the Presidency of the Republic in the interim, and shall call national elections within a period of not more than ninety days.” Hence, since Fidel Castro did not meet these conditions, Article 149 was invoked to allow for the oldest Supreme Court judge to be elected provisional president in exile, which was José Morell Romero. He served as provisional president in exile until his death.

In his statement of acceptance of office he invokes Article 149 as justification for his mandate in the absence of the rule of law in Cuba, and writes that “to the greatest extent possible, given its nature and circumstances, the government of Cuba in exile will adhere to the principles established in the Cuban Constitution of 1940.” We reproduce below this letter, as well as several other items including the cover page of the first issue of the Gaceta Oficial of the Cuban Constitutional Government in Transition, published the same year. Further into this issue, Morell Romero asks governments of other states, as well as the Organization of American States, to recognize the Constitutional Government in Transition as the one and only legitimate representative of the Cuban nation.

The José Morell Romero Papers were donated to the Cuban Heritage Collection this year by his daughter, Silvia Morell Alderman. To learn more about this collection, visit the finding aid online.

Acceptance of Office and Statement of Principles
Acceptance of Office and Statement of Principles to assume the provisional presidency of Cuba in exile, 1995. Link to José Morell Romero finding aid.
Gaceta Oficial, Gobierno Constitucional de Transicion, Republica de Cuba, Edicion Mensual
The first monthly issue of the Gaceta Oficial of the Cuban Constitutional Government in Transition, written by José Morell Romero in his capacity as President of the Cuban Nation for the democracy transition of Cuba, 1995. Link to José Morell Romero finding aid.

Nuevo Siglo, Jueves 2 de Marzo de 1995
Newspaper article from Nuevo Siglo about Morell Romero’s acceptance of the presidency, March 2, 1995. Link to José Morell Romero finding aid.
Declaración Internacional, Coalición para la restauración del Gobierno Constitucional de la Republica Cuba
International declaration by the Coalition for the restoration of the Constitutional Government of Cuba, laying out the principles of the transition government, 1998. Link to José Morell Romero finding aid.

[1] International Commission of Jurists. 1962. Cuba and the Rule of Law. Geneva: The Commission, 79.

[2] Márquez Sterling, Carlos. 2005. Memorias de un estadísta: frases y escritos en correspondencia. Miami: Ediciones Universal, 36.

[3] Cuba and the Rule of Law, 73.

Cuban Memories: 80 years ago, student demonstration against Machado results in death of student leader

By Rudo Kemper, CHC Web Communications Technician

On September 30, 1930 the University Student Directorate (DEU) of the University of Havana called for a planned demonstration aimed at protesting the perceived despotism of president Gerardo Machado y Morales. This protest signaled the beginning of student involvement in the struggle against Machado, who was overthrown three years later. Tipped about the protest in advance, police blocked the streets around the University of Havana and confronted the students. The crackdown by the police resulted in arrests and several students being wounded. Among the wounded were the student leaders Pablo de la Torriente-Brau, a journalist who wrote for the Mexican newspaper El Machete and later died fighting against Franco in the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and Rafael Trejo, who was fatally wounded and later held up to be a martyr and hero by the Castro regime.

To commemorate the death of Rafael Trejo, Pablo de la Torriente-Brau wrote La última sonrisa de Rafael Trejo (The Last Smile of Rafael Trejo), which was originally published by the University of Havana periodical Alma Mater in 1956. After the Cuban Revolution, however, the new regime was eager to create a canon of important figures leading up to the 1959 revolution that could be celebrated, and republished this brief article by Torriente-Brau on September 30, 1959. A prologue was added, which reads:

Si “honrar honra,” recordar fortalece cuando viva se mantiene la memoria de los hombres ejemplares que ofrendaron su vida en la lucha por una más digna para sus hermanos. Así vivió y murió Rafael Trejo. La Delegación del Gobierno Revolucionario en el Capitolio Nacional rinde con esta publicación homenaje de recordación a quien las balas de la tiranía, disparadas contra la libertad, como dijera el Maestro Enrique José Varona, hirieran mortalmente en la jornada revolucionaria-estudiantíl del 30 de Septiembre de 1930. Este folleto reproduce el artículo “La Ultima Sonrisa de Rafael Trejo” de Pablo de la Torriente Brau, presente y herido también aquel día. Como Trejo, como los grandes, Pablo murió también “cara al sol” en Majada Honda, Sierra de Guadarrama. Se hermanan así en el recuerdo de estas generaciones agradecidas los que a ellos señalaron deber y cómo cumplirlo. En esta Cuba entera que se yergue reencarna la voz de aquellos maestros jóvenes, alienta su ejemplo y conmueve su fe, su fe en que el nuestro no es pueblo de siete meses. El tiempo ajusta la estatura de los hombres. Como legítima, la de Rafael Trejo ha resistido todas las pruebas y ya figura indiscutiblemente para estímulo de la patria eterna, entre los hijos grandes de nuestra tierra.

Translation: If “honor honors,” when kept alive, memory strengthens the deeds of those exemplary men who gave their lives in the struggle for dignity for their brothers. So lived and died Rafael Trejo. With this publication, The Delegation of the Revolutionary Government in the National Capitol pays homage to those who were mortally wounded by the the bullets of tyranny that were fired against freedom – as Enrique José Varona would say – during the revolutionary student movement of September 30, 1930. This booklet reproduces the article “The Last Smile of Rafael Trejo” written by Pablo de la Torriente Brau, who was present and also wounded that day. Like Trejo, like other great men, Paul also died “facing the sun” in Majada Honda, Sierra de Guadarrama. Through the memories of a grateful generation, solidarity is formed by those who recognized the call to duty and left a record of how to full it. In this Cuba that rises unified, the voice of those young teachers is reincarnated, their deeds are celebrated and their faith is extolled; a faith that is not even older than seven months. Time judges the stature of men. Rafael Trejo’s has withstood all tests and thus he already serves as an indisputable figure to inspire the eternal homeland, and counts among the great sons of our country.

We own a copy of this 1959 reissue (link to IBISweb record). What follows are several scans of illustrations found in this publication. Click images to enlarge.

Rafael Trejo

Student protests, with pickets reading “Die, Machado”

Illustration of the clash between police and students

Rafael Trejo and Pablo de la Torriente-Blau in the hospital

Photograph of conflict between police and student