Scholar Spotlight: Anasa Hicks

Anasa Hicks was a 2013-2014 CHC Graduate Pre-Prospectus Fellow. A doctoral student in history at New York University, she authored the following report about her fellowship and her research on “Domestic Work in 20th Century Cuba.” 

Anasa HicksBefore beginning research at the Cuban Heritage Collection, I knew that I wanted to write about domestic workers, but I was not sure exactly what that would mean. My interest in the topic stemmed from an interest in the experiences of black women in twentieth-century Cuba, many of whom had been domestics; but I was not sure what aspect or theme within the lives of domestic workers would ground my research.

The sources I found at the Cuban Heritage Collection suggest the possibility that exploring the meaning of domestic work itself—that is, asking questions about who does it and when, who never does it and why, and when legislators or charitable institutions become involved in issues surrounding domestic work—could yield a broader and more interesting analysis than just focusing on the experiences of a specific group of domestic workers. Certainly, many black women were domestic workers—but as the CHC’s extensive collection of the Gaceta de la Habana showed me, so were Chinese men. Anglophone Caribbean women migrated with their men to become domestics in eastern Cuba; and recently arrived Spanish women were often nursemaids. Sources like the Gaceta and conversations with staff members at the CHC clarified the diversity of identities among domestic workers in Cuba.

Other CHC holdings highlighted domestic work’s centrality to upholding Cuba’s class divisions. Americans travelers to Cuba regularly noted that middle- and upper-class families defined themselves in large part by their ability to hire domestic help. Employing domestic workers was definitional to what it meant to be an elite Cuban woman: one observer of Cuban culture wrote that “the well-to do Cuban will not allow his wife to do any housework. Cooking, washing or scrubbing would lower her to the level of a servant.” ¹ Early twentieth-century travelogues demonstrated that the institution of paid domestic labor reinforced gender, racial, and class identities and hierarchies.

The theme of education, specifically the need to educate (certain) young women to perform domestic work, emerged from the documents I found as well. Lyceum y Lawn Tennis Club, a women’s social club, was an intellectual and social service staple in Havana society from its founding in 1939 to its end in 1968. The women of the club hosted talks, offered vocational and academic classes, founded the island’s first public library and even had an art gallery. Education was central to Lyceum’s mission to “foment in the woman a collective spirit;” the club offered such classes as English language, Swiss cooking, and Cuban history.

In perusing the Gaceta oficial, I found detailed plans for an “Escuela del Hogar” which opened in Havana in 1919. The school, open to young women between fifteen and twenty-five years old, aimed to educate them in the art of domesticity, offering classes such as sewing, ironing, and cooking. None of the classes offered were as erudite as the selection offered at Lyceum. Elsewhere in Latin America, similar institutions were essentially feeder programs into the homes of wealthy benefactors: working-class girls attended the schools and then became domestics. It is difficult to know whether this was the case in Cuba, or for whom this kind of education was intended. Did young middle-class and elite women enroll, or would such tasks be beneath them? Studying domestic work would shed light on the reasons for which some women were educated in how to iron clothes and linens while others learned French and flower arrangement.

My findings in Miami have allowed me to think more clearly about why domestic work interests me. A study of how domestic labor got done in Cuba, when it was paid for and when it was taught and to whom, can allow historians to gain new understandings of labor, of gender, of class and race relations. My findings at the CHC were essential to my presentation at the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women in May of 2014. Additionally, what I have found at the CHC this summer will guide the drafting of my prospectus as I prepare to defend it and will guide my questions as I continue my dissertation research.

¹ Lowry Nelson, Rural Cuba (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1950): 144.

Scholar Spotlight: Maikel Fariñas Borrego

Maikel Fariñas Borrego was a 2013-2014 CHC Graduate Pre-Prospectus Fellow. A doctoral student in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he authored the following report about his fellowship and his research on “Regional Pressure Groups in Cuba: Local Elites and Conflicting Interests, 1888-1968.” 

Maikel Fariñas BorregoI was in residence at the Cuban Heritage Collection as a Pre-Prospectus Fellow from June through July 2013. The number and variety of sources I consulted have proven to be highly valuable to my project. As my project is focused on the study of local to national and transnational civil society, the elites and their conflicting interests in the twentieth century, the expressions of sociability and associations in particular are extremely important. Between 1888 and the 1930s many new forms of associations were established in Cuba. Both the Spanish traditions and the North American culture inspired a considerable number of organizations. This second influence, however, attracted the elites overwhelmingly. Many of the new organizations started in Havana and later spread all over the country. The social hierarchies and class distinctions were majorly shaped by the actions and members of the new incoming clubs. That is why a case study of Rotary International, its influences in Cuba, and the local Rotary Clubs throughout the archipelago can inform about both civil societies interactions. The Rotarian organizations and the global networks of Rotary Clubs got to spread profusely in Cuba. In this process, aside of their typical philanthropic aims, they intervened in almost every sphere of the country’s economy, politics and even foreign affairs.

Among the pamphlets and books, many materials will allow me to study the special relationship that these social clubs held with chambers of commerce, especially the “Cámara de Comercio de la República de Cuba” and the “American Chamber of Commerce of Cuba.” There are directories which can be studied as databases to identify the common members of the two organizations. In addition, there are other books providing abundant information on these institutions (e.g. American Chamber of Commerce of Cuba. Cuba: Facts and Figures). In rare books we can also appreciate the importance of an American community in Cuba and how far they managed to establish themselves on the Island of Pines (Stephen Chalmers. Isle of Pines: Where the Pine and the Palm Tree Meet). This is particularly relevant to the intervention of Cuban Rotarians on the Cuban claims of sovereignty over the second largest island of the archipelago; which was finally established in 1925 after the ratification of the Hay-Quesada treaty. Many materials are specifically related to Rotary and Lions in Cuba (e.g. Club de Leones de La Habana. Directorio año social 1947-1948 and the Club Rotario Marianao. Directorio 1958-59). These booklets can provide essential information about the membership, the type of Rotarian businesses and even the places they chose for residence on the island. By understanding similar organizations such as Lions Clubs I gain a more in depth comprehension of Rotarians.

Another point to consider is the importance of the close relationship of Cuban Rotarians with their peers in the United States during World War II (Rotary Club of Havana. A hundred letters from the front). Conferences of the Rotarian district (Rotary Club of Marianao. Memoria de la XXXIII Conferencia del distrito 101: sede, Club Rotario de Marianao) left behind abundant sources of information. The many lectures given at Rotarian gatherings promoted a patriotic spirit among Cubans (e. g. Raúl Maestri. Movilización económica de las Américas and Luis Rodolfo Miranda. Homenaje a José Martí en el Club Rotario  de la Habana). It should be mentioned that yearbooks are especially important because of the amount of information they can provide to the investigation (Distrito 25º de Rotary International. Memoria de las actividades desarrolladas por el Dr. Manuel Galigarcía, Gobernador del Distrito 25º de Rotary International).

Abundant archival sources related to the culture of the exile document how Rotarians and Lions formed a substantial part of the integration of Cubans who came to Miami after the Revolution of 1959. The vertical files were informative about this process as well as for many other Cuban institutions and national and local personalities. Other important collections at the CHC contributed substantively to my research (e. g. Gerardo Machado y Morales Papers, Lydia Cabrera Papers, and José Lezama Lima Papers).

The collections are carefully preserved and the work environment that permeates the CHC is very supportive of research. The staff provides the best of services and I want to thank in particular Maria Estorino, Gladys Gomez-Rossie, Annie Sansone-Martinez, Meiyolet Mendez, Rosa Monzon-Alvarez. Thanks to them, their service and the preservation of documents, we can count on these collections to write a significant portion of the history of Cuba, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

Scholar Spotlight: Walfrido Dorta

Walfrido Dorta was a 2013-2014 CHC Graduate Pre-Prospectus Fellow. A doctoral student in Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Languages at the City University of New York, he authored the following report about his fellowship and his research on Intellectual and Cultural Politics in Cuba and Cuban Exile in United States (1960-2000): the Map of the Cultural Journals.

walfrido dorta

In July 2013, I was in residence at the Cuban Heritage Collection as a pre-dissertation fellow. It was a productive and extremely valuable experience. During my time at the CHC, I focused my research on the cultural journals published by Cubans in the United States from 1960 to 2000. I was interested mainly in the independent journals, which were not sponsored by universities, political associations, or unions. One of my initial assumptions was that this fact, as a frame of enunciation, guarantees a discursive autonomy, which is essential for the articulation of the intellectual politics of the journals. Cuban intellectuals and writers have published a considerable amount of cultural journals in the United States from 1960 to present (Cuadernos desterrados [1964-66]; Exilio [1965-73]; Alacrán Azul [1970-71]; Postmodern Notes / Apuntes postmodernos[1990-], or Újule [1994-95], to name a few). The study of these journals is critical in order to trace the different configurations of the Cuban cultural field in exile. They are marked by the reconstruction of cultural and affective memory of the nation, as well as by processes of identitarian negotiation, which entail certain narratives on subjects, spaces of socialization and culture.

The intellectual politics of cultural journals manifests itself at a discursive level in the texts (editorials, manifestos) that usually appear in their inaugural issues (although a journal’s stance is often reiterated and revised, so it becomes necessary to peruse the entire set). Editorials and manifestos are crucial because they establish the entrance of the cultural journals into the intellectual field. Therefore, my research focused on the specific textual modality of the editorials, declarations of purposes, manifestos, and the opening texts of the cultural journals. My main goals at this stage were to make an inventory of the journals, to collect and reproduce the journals’ founding statements (the editorials and manifestos of journals from 1960 to 2000). At the same time, the following questions arose: What concepts of culture, intellectual, writer and artist do the journals propose? What is the relationship with the nation (Cuba) that the journals affirm, deny or rewrite? Which literary or artistic canon do they aim to promote? What is the cultural memory that they intend to build or rebuild? Finally, what legacies do they want to claim, that is, what kind of narrative do the journals produce about historical memory, cultural heritage and the role of the intellectual?

I examined a total of 42 journals. From this total, 30 were cultural journals, according to the criteria I established at the beginning of my research. These include Cuadernos desterradosExilio; Nueva GeneraciónCubanacánJoven CubaKrisisContra viento y mareaConsensoEscandalar;Catálogo de letrasAnales literariosPensamientoEnlace literarioEl Gato TuertoLyraLa nuezTérmino…, among others. I will comment briefly on some preliminary remarks on the intellectual politics of some of these journals. For example, Exilio (1965-73), which was directed by Víctor Batista and published in New York, introduces itself as a continuation of a line of thought. It is a reconstructive discourse, which is marked by a willingness to reflect on the fate of Cuba as a country. It highlights its conscience of beginning again in adverse contexts. On the other hand,Escandalar (1978-84) was directed by Octavio Armand and published also in New York. This journal is willing to trascend Cuban issues, and open to several texts and cultural references. This can be read as a symptom of a displacement of ‘Cuba’ that occurs in many publications from exile in the 80s and the 90s. Escandalar published for first time in Spanish several essays from renowned authors, such as Harold Bloom, Julia Kristeva, Edward Said, George Steiner, Roland Barthes, Alain Robbe-Grillet…

The literary archive of the cultural journals of exile is focused primarily on five authors: Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Severo Sarduy, Reinaldo Arenas, Lorenzo García Vega and José Lezama Lima. Such recurrences are no surprising, because several of these journals are actually characterized by oppositional strategies to the discourse produced from Cuba or by the desire to make visible what Charles Merewether calls a “counter-archive”.

I intend to publish several essays on the intellectual and cultural politics of the cultural journals of Cuban exile. The archival sources I examined at CHC proved essentials to my future work. They helped shape my dissertation project, although it won’t be focused primarily on the journals of the Cuban exile. The references I found in the CHC were invaluable since they sometimes are unavailable in neither local nor national libraries.

I highly recommend this experience to graduate students and scholars. The Cuban Heritage Collection provides an exceptional space for researching, because of its unique archive, its collaborative environment and amazing staff. The advice of the CHC’s staff (María Estorino, Lesbia O. Varona, Gladys Gomez-Rossié, Esperanza B. de Varona, Rosa Monzón-Álvarez, Meiyolet Méndez, among others) was essential for my research.

Scholar Spotlight: Alexis Baldacci

Alexis Baldacci was a 2013-2014 CHC Graduate Pre-Prospectus Fellow. A doctoral student in history at the University of Florida, she authored the following report about her fellowship and her research on The Haves and Have-Nots: Material Culture in Revolutionary Cuba and the Cuban Diaspora, 1959-1980.

bonnie2_thumb2Thanks to the generous funding of the Goizueta Foundation and the Amigos of the Cuban Heritage Collection, I was able to spend one month between July and August 2013 reviewing a wide array of materials at the Cuban Heritage Collection. Though preliminary in nature, the research that I conducted at the CHC proved enormously helpful in establishing the viability of my project. The Pre-Prospectus Fellowship enabled me to explore my rather large research questions to a degree to which I had not yet been able, and I now have a much better sense of the kinds of sources available dealing with material culture and consumption in revolutionary Cuba. I not only came away from the experience with a wealth of documents that will no doubt prove foundational to my dissertation, but also with a clear conceptual framework and sharper focus for my project.

My dissertation research centers on material culture in revolutionary Cuba from 1959 to roughly 1989. I am interested in experiences of consumption and scarcity prior to the Special Period of the 1990s, and I hope to explore the social, cultural, and political ramifications of both consumption and scarcity in the distinct environment of revolutionary Cuba, where revolutionaries struggled to create a classless society and state rationing promised, but not always delivered, access to basic goods. The official discourse found in speeches and the state press is only one part of the story, and I intend to use film, oral history, and correspondence to counterbalance the top-down version of events. My aim is to better understand the everyday experiences of the Cuban revolution though the tripartite lens of basic necessities: food, housing, and clothing.

It would be impossible to detail all of the sources that I consulted at the CHC – which ranged from cookbooks to fashion magazines – in the limited space available to me. Instead, I will focus on two collections that were especially rich for my purposes. The first, the Burdsall Papers, is a collection of letters exchanged between Lorna Burdsall, an American dancer who married a Cuban revolutionary and lived on the island from 1955 until her death in 2010, and her family, for the most part located in the United States. The Burdsall Papers span the entire three decades that I am interested in, and form a particularly unique window into revolutionary Cuba for two key reasons. The first is that the Burdsalls were from the United States. This led Lorna and the family members that visited her in Cuba to write their letters with an eye toward their American audience, explaining things in great detail that many Cubans would have taken for granted or expected their audience to be familiar with. The second is that Burdsall was married to Manuel Piniero, a high-ranking Cuban intelligence officer, which granted her privileged opportunities to receive packages from the United States through the Ministry of Exterior Relations and to travel abroad and purchase goods unavailable in Cuba, despite the travel restrictions placed on the greater populace. Burdsall’s letters are a fascinating window into both scarcity and privilege, and the benefits that she received through her husband’s political position cast doubt on the sincerity of Cuban officials’ efforts to build a classless society.

The second collection that was especially useful for my purposes was the Jose Lezama Lima Papers. The often beautiful letters that Lezama Lima wrote to his sisters in Florida clearly reveal preoccupations with scarcity and the changes that it wrought on everyday life in Cuba; however, his concerns are quite different from Burdsall’s, throwing her privileged lifestyle further into relief. Lezama Lima’s discussions of the colas and line culture provide especially interesting insights into the stress that everyday tasks, such as waiting in lines to pick up the dry cleaning or buy groceries, put on the elderly and infirm.

I think it only fair to conclude by thanking the staff of the CHC, as they are one of the Collection’s finest resources. Were it not for their helpful suggestions, challenging questions, and fascinating stories, my project would be a very different one.

Scholar Spotlight: Kelly Urban

“The resources and the staff here are themselves a great addition that you just can’t find anywhere else.”

Kelly Urban is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Pittsburgh. She was a Cuban Heritage Collection Graduate Pre-Prospectus Fellow in 2011 and returned for another three-month research period in 2013. Her project is entitled “For the Poor Sick Ones and for Cuba: Tuberculosis and Nationalism in Cuba, 1902-1959,” and analyzes the development of state policies and programs that dealt with tuberculosis in Cuba, the delivery and practice of public health, and the debates and controversies that surrounded these policies and practices. Kelly describes tuberculosis as a “social disease of great importance in Cuba during the first half of the twentieth century, described as an unrecognized yet fearsome ghost in the countryside and a pervasive scourge in Havana’s ever-expanding slums.”

During her Research Fellowship, Kelly consulted a number of primary sources including the Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar Collection and the Gerardo Machado y Morales Papers, two key political figures in Cuba during the period of her study. “President Machado was one of the first politicians to devote significant resources to TB,” says Kelly. A decade later, Fulgencio Batista launched an extensive national anti-tuberculosis campaign, led by his newly founded Consejo Nacional de Tuberculosis (CNT). She also made use of several government publications, including the official proceedings of eight Memorias Oficiales of the Conferencias Nacionales de Beneficencia y Corrección de la Isla de Cuba, government-sponsored public health conferences that took place from 1902 to 1909. “They have served as an invaluable source for me as I reconstruct what [tuberculosis] services were established during this time, the efforts of physicians to push [the disease] onto the state agenda, and changing ideas about public welfare.”

Scholar Spotlight: Rachel Hynson

“Although I will return to the CHC in the future, I am privileged to have already spent three months consulting materials at such a remarkable institution.”

Rachel Hynson is a Ph.D. candidate in History at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was in residence at the Cuban Heritage Collection for three months in 2011 as a Graduate Fellow. Her research is entitled “Sexing the Cuban Revolution: Gender Difference and Sexuality as Tools of Nation-Making, 1959-1975.” Rachel’s dissertation explores how the post-Revolution Cuban government employed a particularly gendered discourse to define the ideal Cuban revolutionary, and how this discourse was challenged and negotiated by everyday Cubans in order to understand the changes that occurred on the island after 1959.

While at the CHC, Rachel consulted a number of primary sources including Cuban periodicals such as Bohemia, Mujeres, Romances, and Verde Olivo. She also made use of several secondary sources, consulting, for instance, various memoirs published in the 1980s and 1990s that provided important information. “The people that work here are incredibly educated and can make suggestions about where I can go and where I can look, and not merely the staff members, also the graduate student workers,” Rachel explains while recalling an experience where another Graduate Fellow made suggestions on materials that ultimately proved another invaluable source for her research.

During a presentation at the culmination of her time at the CHC, Rachel discussed the images of Cuban women she had been analyzing, and illustrated how Cuban media sources depicted these women over the course of several years through advertisements, cartoons, letters to the editor, and articles. Based on these findings, she was able to argue that after 1959, “women were expected to give their bodies to the revolution, but not merely as laborers or ideological vessels. They were expected to project a certain image, to embody revolutionary ideals on a daily basis. Of course, this image was never static and varied according to politics and the economy.”

Following her time at CHC, Rachel made plans to continue her research in Cuba at the archive of the Federation of Cuban Women, as well as the Instituto de Historia de Cuba. Looking back on the three months she spent conducting her research at the CHC, Rachel feels that her experience exceeded her expectations: “In the end, when I write my dissertation, it would not be half of what it will be if it weren’t for the Cuban Heritage Collection.”

Scholar Spotlight: Daylet Domínguez

“My month at the Cuban Heritage Collection proved to be a very productive, invaluable and amazing experience to further develop my dissertation project.”

Daylet Domínguez is a Ph.D. candidate in Spanish at Princeton University and was in residence at the Cuban Heritage Collection for one month in 2011 as a Graduate Fellow. Her research, entitled “Etnografía, narración y proyectos nacionales en el Caribe insular hispánico,” focusses on the emergence of ethnography as a scientific discourse and practice in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In her research, Daylet studies how Caribbean national projects in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were supported by ethnography, literature and politics.

In one of her chapters, Daylet examines the works of Alexander Von Humboldt and Ramón de la Sagra in relation to Cuba. As she puts it, “I make use of 19th century scientific travel narratives to evaluate how these texts structured a rhetoric model that helped to develop a proto- nationalist consciousness among the intellectual creole elite. I then analyze how these travel narratives allowed for the discursive and tropological development of the ethnographic domain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” During her visit, Daylet was able to consult a number of 19th century Cuban materials including de la Sagra’s journal, Anales de ciencia, agricultura, comercio y arte (1827-28), where he published some of his most important pieces on natural history, agriculture and statistics. Other consulted materials include Crónica Médico quirúrgica de la Habana, El álbum, Revista Bimestre, La siempreviva, La moda o Recreo semanal del bello sexo, as well as two rare books titled La prostitución en la ciudad de la Habana, by Benjamín de Céspedes, and Tipos y costumbres de la isla de Cuba, by Bachiller y Morales.

After her time at CHC, Daylet continued working on her dissertation with plans to defend it on July 2012 and later develop it into a book manuscript. Overall, she notes: “I am extremely thankful to the Cuban Heritage Collection for their generous financial support and for access to the archival collections.”

Scholar Spotlight: Michael Bustamante

“It’s definitely a unique resource. The librarians here are super helpful. Not only do they know the collection here well, but they know other collections and people to put you in touch with.”

Michael Bustamante is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Yale University and was in residence at the Cuban Heritage Collection for one month in 2011 as a Pre-Prospectus Fellow. His research is entitled “Cuban Counterpoints: Memory Struggles in Revolution, Exile, and Diaspora.” Michael’s dissertation focusses on collective/historical memory as a central site of political and cultural struggle in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. Conducting research both in the United States and Cuba, Michael will analyze the ways in which individuals’ memories on and off the island are shaped, represented, challenged, mediated, and/or “collectivized” through media, political discourse, public spectacle, and the arts.

Although Michael had previously conducted research at the CHC in 2009, he spent time during this visit sifting through the Luis Santeiro Papers looking more specifically at the materials related to the bilingual television sitcom ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.?, and was even able to contact Mr. Santeiro directly over the phone with the help of CHC Chair, Esperanza B. de Varona. In addition, Michael dedicated the rest of his time to the Bernardo Benes Papers, which provided an initial look into cultural dynamics in Miami post-Revolution.

“Overall, my experience at the CHC this summer was enormously valuable,” Michael notes. “Not surprisingly, I was only able to scratch the surface of the broader set of collections I hope to review in the future.” After his visit, Michael returned to Yale University to continue working on his dissertation while making plans to return to CHC.

Scholar Spotlight: Sitela Alvarez

“I recommend this fellowship and archive to any Cuban scholar, their materials are in excellent condition and they provide such a comfortable and welcoming archival experience. Today, I know I was spoiled at the Cuban Heritage Collection because there really is no place like it.”

Sitela Alvarez is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Tulane University and was in residence at the Cuban Heritage Collection for one month in 2011 as a Pre-Prospectus Fellow. Her research is entitled “The Religious and Nationalist Transformation of Cuba, 1790-1860.” Sitela’s dissertation focusses on the late-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries to reveal the degree that the Enlightenment permeated Cuban society, and the possible causes that led to a schism between Catholicism and Cuban liberal intellectuals. Her interest in religious ideology and nationalism stems from her previous work, which examines how the political association of Catholicism and Spanish colonialism in Cuba led Cuban émigrés to distrust Catholicism in the late nineteenth century.

During her time at the CHC, Sitela looked extensively at the Cuban Catholic Church Papers, Cuba and Florida Inquisition Papers, Cuban Historical and Literary Manuscripts, and La Gaceta de la Habana. She also gained access to over 38 books that were unavailable in other local or national libraries, as well as unprocessed materials acquired from the independent historian Salvador Larrúa. With the help of CHC Chair Esperanza B. de Varona, she was able to meet with Father Fidel Rodriguez and Larrúa, which proved invaluable sources for her research. She also benefitted greatly from meeting and discussing ideas with fellow researchers João Felipe Gonçalves and Guillermo Flores Laforet.

After completing her fellowship at the CHC, Sitela continued working on the last two chapters of her dissertation, which she plans on defending in July 2012. She hopes to develop the project into a book manuscript. “I am extremely thankful to the Cuban Heritage Collection for their generous financial support and for access to the archival collections,” she explains. “I recommend this fellowship and archive to any Cuban scholar, their materials are in excellent condition and they provide such a comfortable and welcoming archival experience.”

Scholar Spotlight: Susana Rodríguez Drissi

“The time spent at CHC was special to me for many reasons, the greatest being the hospitality and support of everyone I came across. I thank CHC for the opportunity to ‘dig’ through their boxes and rummage through their holdings. What I didn’t find on the stacks, was neatly filed, but readily available in Lesbia Orta Varona’s mind or in one of Esperanza de Varona’s folders.”

Susana Rodríguez Drissi is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. For one month in 2010, she was the first Graduate Fellow in residence at the Cuban Heritage Collection. Her research project, entitled Desert(ed) Islands: Cuba and Algeria from the Nineteenth Century to the Present, explores the Cuba-Algeria connection by looking into Cuba’s historical and political relationship with Algeria in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

While at the CHC, Susana examined the historical and cultural exchanges between Cuba and Algeria by analyzing selected journals, works of literature, performances, posters and images. Specifically, she looked through journals, such as Revolución, Bohemia, Verde Olivo and Granma, and less known Cuban publications, such as El Arabe, as well as foreign journals, such as Paris-Match and Times. Among her findings, she was very pleased to come across a soap opera, or telenovela, written by Delia Fiallo entitled, Bajo el cielo de Argelia, comprised of 88 chapters and broadcast in Cuba, in 1962, on Canal 6 de CMQ-Televisión; as well as the memoirs of Jorge (Papito) Serguera, ambassador of Cuba in Algeria, Che Guevara: La clave Africana—Memorias de un comandante cubano, embajador de la Argelia postcolonial.

Following her time at CHC, Susana went on to conduct archival research at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and Archives of the Algerian War 1954-1962 at the Paris Préfecture de Police.