Fragile Wifredo Lam Letters Digitized and Online

Dr. Martha Frayde Barraqué served as Cuba’s representative to UNESCO in Paris until 1965, when she returned to Cuba and became active in the dissident movement. Frayde served 29 years as a political prisoner and has lived in exile in Spain since 1979. This collection consists of 32 letters she received from her friend, the Cuban visual artist Wifredo Lam (1902-1982), between 1962 and 1966, all of which have been digitized and made available online. Visit the digital collection here.




A Prisoner of War’s Last Letter to His Wife

Originally Published by María R. Estorino in December 2001

On June 30, 1871, Federico Fernández Cavada found himself a prisoner of war aboard the Spanish steamship Neptuno near Nuevitas, Cuba. He wrote his last letter to his wife, Carmela, who was living in Philadelphia with their son, Samuel.

“My dearest wife, I am here as a prisoner of war due to circumstances that without doubt are familiar to you. I don’t know what fortune will befall me – in any case you know that you and my adored son are in the most intimate of my thoughts. I hug you, and the rest of the family, Yours affectionately, Federico.”

The second of three sons, Federico was born to Emily Howard and Isidro Fernández Cavada in 1832 in Cienfuegos, Cuba. After her husband’s death, Emily Howard moved to Philadelphia with her children and married Samuel Dutton. Federico and his younger brother Adolfo served in the Union Army during the US Civil War. At the battle of Gettysburg, Federico was captured and taken prisoner. Held at Libby Prison until 1864, he later published his prison memoirs and sketches under the title Libby Life: Experiences of a Prisoner of War in Richmond, Va., 1863-64. From 1864 until February 1869, Federico served as Consul of the United States n Trinidad. He resigned this post to join the Cuban revolution that became Cuba’s Ten Years War.

In July of 1871, Fernández Cavada was executed by the Spanish in Puerto Principe, Cuba. He had served as a general of the Cuban army in the district of Trinidad and as commander-in-chief of the Cinco Villas. Adolfo Fernández Cavada, who had also joined Cuba’s revolutionary forces, was killed in battle in 1872.

This letter forms part of the Fernando Fernández-Cavada Collection of the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) of the University of Miami Libraries. This collection was donated to the CHC by Fernando Fernández-Cavada, grandson of Emilio, the eldest Fernández Cavada brother, in 1997. Along with this letter, the collection contains correspondence to and from Emilio, Federico, and Adolfo Fernández Cavada as well as some correspondence and a field diary of Emilio’s son, Emilio, who served as a doctor in the Cuban War of Independence of the 1890s.

For more information about this collection, view the finding aid.

Letter: CHC5006, Folder 5. Fernando Fernández-Cavada Collection, Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida.



A Prisoner of War’s Last Letter to His Wife

Originally Published by María R. Estorino in December 2001

On June 30, 1871, Federico Fernández Cavada found himself a prisoner of war aboard the Spanish steamship Neptuno near Nuevitas, Cuba. He wrote his last letter to his wife, Carmela, who was living in Philadelphia with their son, Samuel.

“My dearest wife, I am here as a prisoner of war due to circumstances that without doubt are familiar to you. I don’t know what fortune will befall me – in any case you know that you and my adored son are in the most intimate of my thoughts. I hug you, and the rest of the family, Yours affectionately, Federico.”

The second of three sons, Federico was born to Emily Howard and Isidro Fernández Cavada in 1832 in Cienfuegos, Cuba. After her husband’s death, Emily Howard moved to Philadelphia with her children and married Samuel Dutton. Federico and his younger brother Adolfo served in the Union Army during the US Civil War. At the battle of Gettysburg, Federico was captured and taken prisoner. Held at Libby Prison until 1864, he later published his prison memoirs and sketches under the title Libby Life: Experiences of a Prisoner of War in Richmond, Va., 1863-64. From 1864 until February 1869, Federico served as Consul of the United States n Trinidad. He resigned this post to join the Cuban revolution that became Cuba’s Ten Years War.

In July of 1871, Fernández Cavada was executed by the Spanish in Puerto Principe, Cuba. He had served as a general of the Cuban army in the district of Trinidad and as commander-in-chief of the Cinco Villas. Adolfo Fernández Cavada, who had also joined Cuba’s revolutionary forces, was killed in battle in 1872.

This letter forms part of the Fernando Fernández-Cavada Collection of the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) of the University of Miami Libraries. This collection was donated to the CHC by Fernando Fernández-Cavada, grandson of Emilio, the eldest Fernández Cavada brother, in 1997. Along with this letter, the collection contains correspondence to and from Emilio, Federico, and Adolfo Fernández Cavada as well as some correspondence and a field diary of Emilio’s son, Emilio, who served as a doctor in the Cuban War of Independence of the 1890s.

For more information about this collection, view the finding aid.

Letter: CHC5006, Folder 5. Fernando Fernández-Cavada Collection, Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida.



José Lezama Lima’s Shoes

Originally Published by Eugenio A. Alonso López in November 2001

José Lezama Lima was born in Havana in 1910. He is considered the foremost Cuban poet of the 20th century. His prose is full of signs, enigmas, parables, and allegories, which allude to a secret, intimate reality. Lezama Lima cultivated novels as well as a poetic style incomparable to any writer of his time and scope.

In the early 1970s, José Lezama Lima wrote his sisters Eloísa and Rosa in Miami requesting a pair of shoes and detailing the size and color he would like to have. Lezama Lima had lived two decades in Cuba and had been recognized as a leading poetic figure in his own lifetime both inside and outside the country. This letter (top) illustrates twofold his poetic vision and the special circumstances surrounding his life in Cuba during this decade. He needed a pair shoes but at the same time took the opportunity to write his sisters a note on the contour of his foot.

Having received the requested pair of shoes, Lezama Lima composed a poem thanking his sisters for them. The poem (bottom) lays bare his use of the shoes as a metaphor to recount his life and that of his family. The poetic discourse in José Lezama Lima’s work is both commonplace and Baroque in the imagery of its usage. This poem illustrates how such an ordinary item can give rise to such symbolic verse.

These items form part of the José Lezama Lima Papers of the Cuban Heritage Collection. Donated in 2001 by Lezama Lima’s sister Eloísa, this collection consists of the siblings’ correspondence from 1961 to Lezama Lima’s death in 1976.

For more information about this collection, view the finding aid.

Letter and poem: CHC5047, Folder 18. José Lezama Lima Papers, Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida.



José Lezama Lima’s Shoes

Originally Published by Eugenio A. Alonso López in November 2001

José Lezama Lima was born in Havana in 1910. He is considered the foremost Cuban poet of the 20th century. His prose is full of signs, enigmas, parables, and allegories, which allude to a secret, intimate reality. Lezama Lima cultivated novels as well as a poetic style incomparable to any writer of his time and scope.

In the early 1970s, José Lezama Lima wrote his sisters Eloísa and Rosa in Miami requesting a pair of shoes and detailing the size and color he would like to have. Lezama Lima had lived two decades in Cuba and had been recognized as a leading poetic figure in his own lifetime both inside and outside the country. This letter (top) illustrates twofold his poetic vision and the special circumstances surrounding his life in Cuba during this decade. He needed a pair shoes but at the same time took the opportunity to write his sisters a note on the contour of his foot.

Having received the requested pair of shoes, Lezama Lima composed a poem thanking his sisters for them. The poem (bottom) lays bare his use of the shoes as a metaphor to recount his life and that of his family. The poetic discourse in José Lezama Lima’s work is both commonplace and Baroque in the imagery of its usage. This poem illustrates how such an ordinary item can give rise to such symbolic verse.

These items form part of the José Lezama Lima Papers of the Cuban Heritage Collection. Donated in 2001 by Lezama Lima’s sister Eloísa, this collection consists of the siblings’ correspondence from 1961 to Lezama Lima’s death in 1976.

For more information about this collection, view the finding aid.

Letter and poem: CHC5047, Folder 18. José Lezama Lima Papers, Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida.