CHC Archivist Natalie Baur receives Fulbright-Garcia Robles award

Natalie BaurNatalie Baur has received a Fulbright-García Robles award to work on digital preservation research with Dr. Juan Voutssás at the Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliotecológicas y de la Información (Library Science and Information Research Center) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico).  Natalie will be exploring the challenges that the digital age presents to libraries and archives in a global context and developing possibilities for working with colleagues in Latin America on these issues.

Natalie joined the University of Miami Libraries in 2012 and serves as Archivist for the Cuban Heritage Collection. She has a Master of Library Science from the University of Maryland and a graduate degree in history and museum studies from the University of Delaware. Natalie is active in the Society of American Archivists, particularly its Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Roundtable.

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then-Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the longtime chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who had a profound influence on America’s foreign policy. His vision for mutual understanding shaped the prestigious exchange program that bears his name. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, it operates in over 155 countries worldwide and awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. The Fulbright-García Robles grants are awarded by the U.S.-Mexico Commission for Educational Exchange (COMEXUS) in support of fieldwork and research in areas of relevance to U.S.-Mexican relations.

Natalie will be on leave from September 2015 to May 2016. You can follow her on Twitter @nataliembaur.


Meet the Staff: Meiyolet Méndez

CHC Librarian Meiyolet Méndez

The Cuban Heritage Collection recently welcomed Meiyolet Méndezas the newest addition to its team. Mei officially began as the CHC librarian on September 1, but her seven-year career with the University of Miami Libraries had already made her a familiar face. Her experience with acquisitions, collection management, exhibit coordination, and instruction makes her a welcome and valuable faculty member.

Born in Cuba, Mei came to the United States when she was 14 years old. She completed her undergraduate studies at FIU and went on to pursue a Master of Library Science at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She joined the UM Libraries soon after graduating in 2006 and began working as an education and outreach librarian. Children’s literature has long been one of Mei’s interests, and in 2007 she approached the Collection with the interest in organizing an exhibition on the topic.

In 2009, Mei became the subject and instruction librarian for History and Latin American Studies at the UM Libraries. In this role, she frequently worked with CHC research fellows, helping them find materials and flesh out their courses of study. She partnered with CHC to teach classes and coordinate exhibitions.

Mei is frequently the first to handle new materials.

As the newest addition to the CHC team, Mei is responsible for acquisitions and management of new books and periodicals. She is frequently the first to handle new materials and is in charge of the reading room. In her role as exhibit coordinator, she works on physical and digital exhibitions, including our current display titled Picturing the Story: Cuban Illustrators of Children’s Books. She is currently wrapping up two exhibits for Spring 2014 that she is very excited about. The first is a 100th Anniversary celebration of Cuban poet Gastón Baquero, whose personal papers can be found in our collection, which she has been curating with CHC intern Eva Reyes Cisneros. The second is a bicentennial commemoration of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, the renowned nineteenth century Cuban poet.

Get to know Mei:

  • Family: Mei is married to another librarian and their son will be turning four in November.  She spends much of her free time playing with, reading to, and chasing him around.
  • Hobbies: Unsurprisingly, Mei loves to read. She also knits, which she says is “a bad hobby to have in South Florida.”
  • Highlights: Mei recently got to meet Cuban children’s author Daina Chaviano at a work event, which she called one of the most memorable moments of her career.

Meet the staff: Patricia Barriga

By Brittney Bomnin, CHC Web Communications Technician

Earlier this summer, CHC welcomed Patricia Barriga as the new Archives Assistant. Patricia joined the team in fall 2012 when she was hired as temporary staff for a preservation re-flagging project. In her new role, Patricia helps to accession, arrange, and describe archival materials and manuscript collections. Patricia brings to the job an M.A. in history from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) and years of experience as an independent research assistant.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Patricia always had an interest in archeology, but decided to focus on history once she began her undergraduate career. While completing her bachelors, she was awarded a scholarship to study Hispanic and European Studies in Toledo, Spain for 6 months, which she describes as an “amazing experience.” In 1992, she had the opportunity to curate her very own exhibit on her senior thesis topic, mining in Mexico. She worked closely with the Palacio de Mineria, a museum in Mexico City, to put together an audiovisual presentation. “It was a great experience working with the museum to organize it and I especially enjoyed being able to interact with and explain [the exhibition] to visitors.”

For about three years, Patricia worked as a primary research assistant at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City where she contributed to the editorial Diccionario biográfico y geográfico, among other research projects. She was sent by the Free University of Berlin to conduct research at the Archivo Histórico de Notarías de la Ciudad de México for about four years and later traveled through Italy for a few months where she was able to put her Italian skills to good use.

Patricia Barriga sorts new collection materials into boxes based on object type.

Following her time abroad, Patricia spent time at the University of California, Davis, conducting research for a book on the history of chocolate and later returned to Mexico to complete her M.A. in history with a focus on the uses of chocolate in medical treatment. During that time, she worked as a primary research assistant at the Archivo General de la Nación, which contains the entire history of Mexico since the 16th century. She soon met her husband, Martin Nesvig, a history professor at UM, while he was conducting research for his Ph.D. and she was working the Colegio de San Luis, A.C. in Mexico.

Patricia looks forward to learning and gaining responsibilities with archival methods and practices and is interested in exploring librarianship as a career. She notes that it has been challenging learning new technologies for processing collections, such as the Archon system used at the University of Miami Libraries, but she appreciates seeing the final result when a patron is able to access the completed collections. She describes herself as an active person, someone who is “always moving” and full of energy. Whether it’s training for marathons or conducting research, she welcomes all challenges and looks forward to the rewards.

Get to know Patricia:

  • Books: She enjoys reading stories by Latin American authors, particularly by Argentinian writers Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar, but any book on the history of medicine and food interest her.
  • TV: Patricia loves watching reruns of “Two and Half Men” with Charlie Sheen.
  • Food: For Patricia, Mexican and Italian are her favorite, but she lets her husband do the cooking.
  • Travel plans: Patricia visits her family in Mexico at least once or twice a year. In the next year or so, she plans to return to Italy for a month with her husband, but she would love to one day visit Egypt.
  • Hobbies: You can find Patricia playing sports, particularly swimming, running and biking. With almost a dozen triathlons under her belt, she now focuses on participating in half marathons and duathlons. She also enjoys drawing and painting.

Meet the staff: Amanda Moreno

By Brittney Bomnin, CHC Web Communications Technician

Though April 2013 marks when Amanda Moreno joined the Cuban Heritage Collection as Processing Assistant, she is a familiar face to the UM Libraries. Amanda began her time with the Collection in 2011 as a student assistant on a grant-funded digitization project focused on our theater materials. Her skills working with digital processes made her an ideal candidate to support similar projects, including editing video interviews for the Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project; describing clips from the Osvaldo Sánchez Film Collection; and eventually processing collections with CHC Archivist Natalie Baur.

Originally from Queens, New York, Amanda moved to Miami at the age of nine and has been living here ever since. In May 2012, she graduated with honors from the University of Miami, where she majored in political science, Spanish and psychology. While she initially planned to continue onto graduate study in public policy, working in the Cuban Heritage Collection has shown her she can combine her interests in libraries, museums and civic engagement into a rewarding career.

Amanda now plans to begin a dual Master’s program in Library Science and Latin American Studies in Fall 2014, combining her interests in Afro-Cuban religion and culture and public history. “After consulting with Natalie [Baur] and Maria [Estorino], I realized a joint degree would get me where I want to go faster than doing two graduate programs separately.”  Five years from now she hopes to be doing “curatorial and archival work at a museum” or other cultural institution.

Donor Chris Baker and Amanda Moreno work together to identify photos in the Ruston Academy Records.

As Processing Assistant, Amanda forms part of the Archives team responsible for arranging and describing our unique holdings of manuscript collections. In the past year, Amanda’s strong writing skills have gained her a following for “What’s cookin’” a weekly recipe blog series that accompanied the spring 2013 exhibit, “Food and Memory: an exploration of Cuban cooking, 1857-today.” Over the next 10 months, Amanda hopes to become more involved with the CHC blog, as she believes it is a good creative outlet that “breathes life into our history.” For her, the blog helps make our collections more visible and increase access in an engaging way.

Before the grant ends next April, Amanda hopes to process as much material as possible and increase her knowledge base. Today, she has a better understanding of what it takes to work in this field because of her time spent at CHC. “Working here has given me real-world experience that can be translated to grad school and beyond.”

Get to know Amanda:

  • Favorite collection(s): Ramiro A. Fernández and Tom Pohrt Collections. “I love photography and these collectors capture the essence of Cuban life in the 19th and 20th centuries through the still image.”
  • Movies and TV: Amanda is obsessed with 90s disaster movies, (see “Deep Impact,” “Dante’s Peak” and “Volcano,” “the campier the better”).and is watching “The X-Files” in its entirety after finishing the canceled Fox sci-fi series “Fringe.”
  • Travel plans: Amanda enjoys traveling and has a few trips in the works before starting grad school: Italy, Spain and the West Coast of the US.
  • Hobbies: You can find Amanda running (read: walking) around Miami with her dad’s Canon AE-1 in hand. She would love to formally study photography and learn to process her own film.

Meet the staff: Natalie Baur

By Amanda Moreno, CHC Projects Assistant

The Cuban Heritage Collection welcomes Natalie Baur, our new archivist, to the staff. Originally from Pennsylvania, Natalie concentrated her studies in history, anthropology and English as an undergraduate student and went on to complete multiple advanced degrees. She received a Master of Arts in history with a focus in American history and a Museum Studies Certificate from the University of Delaware in 2010, and a Master of Library Science from the University of Maryland in 2011, where she specialized in Archives, Records and Information Management.

Natalie was attracted to library work because of its proximity to history. Working as a graduate assistant in the special collections of the University of Delaware, she eventually moved on to the Delaware Historical Society post-graduation to be “close to the history.” In her previous position, Natalie cataloged collections relating to Delaware’s history that were housed in an online archive. Here at the CHC, she will be handling our extensive manuscript collections and overseeing the Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project, processing materials to make them available to researchers and the general public alike.

Natalie has made a quick transition since her arrival in Miami, starting work two weeks after landing from Delaware. She was drawn to CHC because of the “excellent reputation” of the work that goes on here. “It’s a very special collection [with] materials [that are] one of a kind.” Having no previous exposure to Cuban materials, Natalie is excited to learn more about the subject matter behind the vast array of collections at the CHC, and is proud to join such a knowledgeable staff. “It’s just amazing [Esperanza b. de Varona and Lesbia Orta Varona] have been here so long, they’re like their own repository of information and it’s really great to work with people like that. It’s inspiring to work with people who are that dedicated. You just don’t find that very often anymore.” Natalie hopes to offer a quality research experience to our patrons by making materials available as efficiently as possible and treating the items in a way that will preserve them forever and make them available for future generations to have access to them.

Further down the line, she would like to explore her interests in different cultures and “take [her] skills to places that would benefit” from that curious spirit. Having lived in Ecuador for two years, she plans to take advantage of Miami’s prime position for international travel and explore the rest of Latin America with her husband, whose family resides in Ecuador.

Get to know Natalie:

  • Languages: Natalie is fluent in both English and Spanish, and wants to learn Portuguese.
  • Hobbies: She loves to read. Currently, she’s delving into books about Cuban history, but she also likes mysteries.
  • TV: Some of Natalie’s favorite TV shows include the BBC Masterpiece series: Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Lewis and Downton Abbey.
  • Pets: Her cat’s name is now Jorge (formerly George); she changed the spelling “so he could fit in in Miami.”
  • Foods: Natalie likes trying new food; since arriving in Miami, she is particularly looking forward to enjoying the Cuban fare at Sergio’s.

Meet the staff: Lesbia Orta Varona

By Brittney Bomnin, CHC Web Communications Technician

Nineteen sixty-six: a time before computers and online catalogs when microfilm was the norm and the Cuban Heritage Collection had not yet been established. Nineteen sixty-six: the year Lesbia Orta Varona joined the staff at the University of Miami Otto G. Richter Library. She has seen the library grow and change, welcoming new technology and adapting to the evolving needs of its patrons.

Lesbia’s journey with books began at an early age. She was a librarian at the national library in Havana, Cuba until 1966 when she and her husband decided to come to the States around the time when Cuban-U.S. relations broke down. Lesbia learned of an opening at Richter through her aunt, who was working at the UM library at the time.

Working part-time at the library while pursuing a bachelor’s degree at UM, Lesbia eventually went on to obtain a Masters in Library Science from Florida State University after three summers of intensive study.

“Now I look at my past and I don’t understand how I was able to do everything in order to achieve what I wanted. So for me it was very important to get that degree because it guaranteed in a certain way my future as a librarian,” Lesbia recalls.

Starting in acquisitions, Lesbia eventually moved on to work with U.S. government publications, all while collecting Cuban books and periodicals on the side. She remembers when, as the head of the Microforms and Reserves Department, computers were finally implemented for online cataloging in the 1980s. The Cuban materials she accumulated would later become part of today’s CHC collections.

A move to the 8th floor to work with Esperanza de Varona followed, and in 2003, with the help of a gift from The Goizueta Foundation, the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion was built on Richter’s second floor to house the Cuban Heritage Collection.

After all this time, Lesbia still finds pleasure in her work as bibliographer for the collection. “I am very happy with my job. I love to meet new people. I love to be able to help the students or anybody that comes from another university or institute [with their research]. It is important to feel like you can help other people to go ahead in their endeavors.”

When asked what’s next for her, Lesbia laughs and says “retirement,” although she’s not looking forward to it.

Watch Lesbia share her story

Meet the staff: Gladys Gómez-Rossié

Gladys Gómez-Rossié was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to Miami when she was 14 years old through what she later found out was the Pedro Pan Program. She went to live with her extended family, the Dauvals, in Flushing, Queens, NY. After a year there, she returned to Miami to live with the Hernández family, who had been taking care of her younger brother. Her first job was  at the University of Miami Family Medicine Department, which led her to apply to a job opening at the Otto G. Richter Library in the Periodicals Department. That was 43 years ago, and she has been with the Libraries ever since.

While she was working with serials, Gladys took part in a project that exposed her to the Library’s Cuban materials.  At that time Cuban émigré lawyers needed to prove the legitimacy of their degree to be able to practice in the U.S., and one way to do that was to locate the official notice of their being sworn in as a practicing lawyer upon graduating.  These notices were published in Cuba’s Gaceta Oficial. During her lunch breaks, helped countless lawyers find their citation. During this time, she got to know some of the other Cuban librarians and staff.

Throughout her years at Richter, Gladys worked with various departments and collections, including the Russian collection (at the time the second largest collection of Russian materials in the United States), the photocopying department, course reserves, gifts, and for a short period of time with archives and special collections. In this way, she became familiar with many different facets of the library, ideal training for the position of receptionist and later assistant to the library director. As the director’s assistant, Gladys was in charge of human resources, budgeting, facilities, and the Friends of the Library.

After working with the Friends of the Library, Gladys proposed the idea of forming a similar group for what was at the time the Cuban Collection in the Library’s Archives and Special Collections department.  The Amigos first formed in 1995, with former University of Miami President Henry King Stanford and benefactor Elena Díaz-Versón Amos as co-chairs. This group became instrumental in raising funds and attracting donors to the growing Cuban Collection.  In 1998, the Library established the Cuban Heritage Collection as a separate department, and in 2002, Gladys took on new responsibilities as assistant to the Chair of the Cuban Heritage Collection, a position which she continues to holds to this day. In addition to providing support to Esperanza B. de Varona, Gladys coordinates all events in the Goizueta Pavilion and tours for visitors from outside the UM community.

For Gladys, the best thing about CHC is not only the actual collections themselves but also the people that have been involved over the years. “The people have a lot to do with what makes the CHC special,” she observes. “We give a lot of ourselves; whenever there is an event, or a researcher in need of help, we are all willing to go out of our way to try to help find materials, locate people who they can meet and interview, and so forth. And the researchers are sometimes amazed that we can do all this for them; they get a lot out of it, and we do too.” Gladys also gets a feeling of fulfillment knowing that collections that she helped build are being used by researchers. She recalls that when she was just starting her career at Richter, librarian Rosita Abella would tell her that when she went to the grocery store she would have to bring her back the little periodiquitos and pamphlets being distributed there, and every Monday, Rosita would ask Gladys what she brought her. “It’s amazing to see how we made those collections at that time, and we’re still doing that,” Gladys says.

In addition to her time working at the University of Miami Libraries, Gladys has been engaged in student activities on campus as well. In 1990, she became the adviser of the Federation of Cuban Students (FEC), and in 2000 she brought Lambda Theta Phi, a Latino-based service and social fraternity, to campus.

Since the birth of her first granddaughter, most of Gladys’s free time involves spending time with all six of her grandchildren. She also likes to do crafts, and plans to spend time working with her father’s quite extensive stamp collection.

Meet the staff: Annie Sansone Martínez

Annie Sansone Martínez is celebrating her 10-year anniversary with us this year, and we couldn’t be happier to have her working with us. For the past ten years, Annie has been an integral part of the CHC family and has been involved in just about every aspect of the workplace. Chances are that if you’ve had some kind of contact with the Cuban Heritage Collection in the past decade, you’ve probably spoken with Annie.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Annie was born in Río Piedras and lived in Río Grande until she graduated from high school in 1998. She studied psychology and creative writing at the University of Miami, working as a CHC student assistant for two years starting in 2000. During that time, she largely worked on processing a variety of different materials. Annie highlights this as one of her favorite times during her career at CHC, as she got to work with and become intimately familiar with some very unique and cool items, including the maps, posters, the Cuban Postcard Collection, and the limited edition artists’ books published by Ediciones Vigía.

Almost a year after she graduated from UM in 2002, we hired Annie as a full-time library assistant, supervising students and answering reference questions for researchers. Proving herself to be such a reliable and intelligent colleague, she increasingly became involved in the “behind the scenes” aspects of the workplace. Annie helped with planning Amigos events, helping to coordinate exhibits, and a plethora of other projects. She worked closely with Esperanza B. de Varona, Chair of the Cuban Heritage Collection, in preparing administrative reports. When asked for highlights from this era, Annie gives us a veritable sampler dish of experiences. Among other things, she helped coordinate the pickup of the Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar Collection, she got to sit next to actor Andy García at an Amigos board meeting, and meet the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, Bolero singer Olga Guillot, and—perhaps most exciting for her as a self-described “NPR geek”—NPR reporter Tom Gjelten. Despite all of this, one of her favorite things remains meeting interesting researchers and learning about their projects.

In 2009, Annie was promoted to the position of Assistant to the Deputy Chair. In this position, she continues to have a hand in a variety of projects. Recently, she coordinated CHC’s partnership with the StoryCorps Historias project, which is dedicated to recording the diverse stories and life experiences of Latinos in the United States. She also provides essential support for the CHC Fellowships, which launched this year, and the Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project.

For Annie, the best thing about CHC is the learning environment, where one can learn about daily life in Cuba and Cuban exile communities, as well as broader historical themes. She mentions that as a Puerto Rican, the study of Cuba is of particular interest to her. “The two islands have a shared history, and it is fascinating for me to learn about where and how the story diverges,” she observes.

Outside of the workplace, Annie likes to write fiction and poetry and “read like every good librarian and library staff should.” Lately, she’s been reading everything written by Chuck Palahniuk, the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson, and is thinking of reading David Sedaris’s latest book.  She has eclectic taste in music, reflected in her likes for both karaoke and Broadway musicals. Annie also likes to travel and partake in the calmer Miami nightlife.

By Rudo Kemper, CHC Web Communications Technician

Meet the staff: Rebecca González-Kreisberg

This week we say goodbye to our summer intern, Rebecca González-Kreisberg. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts to Cuban and Jewish parents, Rebecca became interested in the genealogy of the Cuban side of her family while in high school and visited CHC to use our genealogy resources and study the history of Cuban refugees for a term paper.  Now a third year student at Colby College in Maine, where she is focusing on Latin American Studies and Studio Art, Rebecca spent 10 weeks this summer working in our archives division.

Rebecca’s work focused on arranging and describing manuscript collections. Under the supervision of archivist Beata Bergen, Rebecca processed the papers of Teresa María Rojas, a Cuban-born actress and founder of Miami-Dade College’s Promoteo theater group.  She also inventoried the 19th-century Cuban photographs recently acquired from Tom Pohrt and a donation of photographs and ephemera from the well-known collector, Ramiro Fernández.

Rebecca noted that the internship was the perfect complement to her studies. “As a photographer and a student of Latin American studies, getting to know the photograph collections on such an intimate level was an amazing experience. The work that I had to do allowed me to really get into some very specific facets of Cuban history and culture, which helped to solidify my overall sense for the island’s history as well as that of Latin America at large.” When asked what her favorite thing about working at CHC was, she immediately answered that it was getting to see and work with the daguerreotypes contained in the Tom Pohrt collection (learn more about one of the those daguerreotypes).

In the future, Rebecca plans to live and teach in Latin America, while working on her photography. We were thrilled to have Rebecca working with us this summer and wish her every success.

If you are a college student and interested in internship opportunities in the Cuban Heritage Collection, contact us at

Meet the staff: Rosa Monzón-Alvarez

Rosa Monzón-Alvarez is the newest addition to the Cuban Heritage Collection family. She joined us this month as Library Assistant, working under our Bibliographer and Reference Librarian, Lesbia Orta Varona, to support research services and acquisitions and cataloging activities. Rosa previously worked for South Florida Workforce and as a library assistant for Miami Dade College’s Inter-American campus library.

Born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, Rosa always had an interest in singing and the talent to go along with it. She joined a kid’s choir in the third grade, which allowed her to travel throughout the island. Wanting to pursue her passion to become a choir director, she eventually enrolled in a state-sponsored specialized music school in the ninth grade.

In the late 1990s, Rosa’s parents applied for a Special Program for Cuban Migration (or bombo) visa for their family. Her parents received the visa in 2002, and Rosa joined her parents in Miami two years later. She enrolled in Coral Gables High School, where she learned English and continued to sing in choir. Rosa studied psychology at Miami Dade College and hopes to continue her education in that field at the University of Miami.

In the Cuban Heritage Collection, Rosa works primarily with books, periodicals, and vertical files and staffs the reference desk. When she is not helping researchers find the resources they need, she is adding newly acquired materials to the catalog or supervising students on a variety of processing projects.

Rosa is deeply passionate about history, in particular Cuban history. In fact, her favorite thing about working at CHC so far has been to get to work with such an amazing and diverse array of historical materials, like the papers of Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar and rare letters penned by José Martí. “Yesterday I was working with old photographs of Cuban theater and they were so fascinating that I almost got lost in them” she observes. She adds that she has also really enjoyed working with the staff as well.

In her free time, Rosa likes to read self-improvement and psychology books; loves music, especially salsa, pop, punk, and reggaeton; movies, particularly comedies; attending church; exercising; and spending time with her family and friends.