Objects in the Archive: Now on Display

objectsArchive_FINAL-withBlurb_webby Sarah Block, Library Communications

The exhibition features materials that highlight how the physical characteristics of objects can provide insightful clues about the past and inform the present.

Curated by Meiyolet Méndez, interim chair of the Cuban Heritage Collection, and Dr. Martin Tsang, UM Libraries CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in History and Area Studies, Objects in the Archive includes three-dimensional objects related to education, industry, and religion in Cuba from the Collection and outside materials. They span commodities and marketing materials from the tobacco industry, Republic-era educational memorabilia, creative works such as artist’s books from Cuba’s Vigía collective, and a rich variety of religious objects.

Tsang, a former CHC Graduate Fellow, culled religious ornaments and sculpture, many from the Lydia Cabrera Papers, that document influences of Afro-Cuban religion on the island and largely informed his own doctoral work.

“As an anthropologist I’m very interested in these material objects that remain and the inspiration, symbolism, and value that is given to and contained in these materials.” In his ethnographic fieldwork Tsang, who is also an initiated Lukumí priest, has also studied Afro-Cuban religion in both Cuba and on our doorstep through interviews and objects including religious icons and Afro-Atlantic beaded art.

“In some cases,” he explains, “objects have their own lives. A sculpture, such as that of a deity, can be as meaningful in a person’s life far beyond the concept of an inanimate object, taking on its own biography.”

One such object, a cement figure with cowrie shell features honoring the deity Elegua, is featured in the exhibition courtesy of Biscayne National Park, where it was originally found and is part of a larger religious use study that Dr. Tsang has conducted there. “The materials used and the way it’s created offer insights about origins of time and place, and broader cultural patterns and mobility.”

Objects in the Archive is on view through August 2016.

Dr. Alejandro Portes Launches Latest Work at CHC


by Meiyolet Méndez and Sarah Block

On Wednesday, March 30, the Cuban Heritage Collection hosted the North American launch of the book The State and the Grassroots: Immigrant Transnational Organizations in Four Continents. The book, which explores immigration topics through the lens of sociology and public health, was co-edited by Alejandro Portes, University of Miami Professor of Sociology and Law. The event was co-presented with the Miami Institute for the Americas and UM’s Department of Sociology.

A panel of experts, including David Abraham (University of Miami Professor of Law), Jorge Dominguez (Harvard University Academy for International and Area Studies Chair), and Felicia Knaul (University of Miami Professor and Director of the Miami Institute for the Americas), examined Dr. Portes’ work. President Julio Frenk delivered the closing remarks.

_NN25772Portes described his inspiration for the book as “the way immigrants organize to both defend themselves and their identities. They promote their well-being in the receiving countries as well as protagonism in the regions and countries from which they came.”

One key finding of his work is that in many cases immigration as a cyclical process, in which people move back and forth between home and receiving countries, is not a “zero-sum game.” “People are very much attached to the culture and language that they came from, and such attachments are not inimical to successful cultural and political incorporation in the receiving country,” he said.

In the closing remarks, President Julio Frenk, who earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of Michigan, said the book allowed him to revisit his scholarly roots. “I enjoyed reading both the insights and the arcane language of my colleagues in the social sciences,” he said. He also noted the event marked his first book launch since becoming president of the University of Miami. “These events greatly contribute to the intellectual vigor of our institution.”


Now On View at Richter Library: Natural Cuba

Natural Cuba

An exhibition highlighting the island’s vibrant flora and fauna and their historical depictions, from iconic botanical illustrations to stunning wildlife publications to the beautifully colored specimens of the polymita picta, Cuba’s native tree snail. A series of historical photos, books, and other materials preserved by the Cuban Heritage Collection are now on display through Fall 2015 at the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion at the Otto G. Richter Library.

Join Us for Broadcasting Modernity: Cuban Commercial Television, 1950-1960 on September 9


The University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection
and Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute
invite you to a presentation of the book

Broadcasting Modernity: Cuban Commercial Television, 1950-1960
by Yeidy M. Rivero, PhD

Opening remarks by Jorge Duany, PhD
Director, FIU Cuban Research Institute

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Reception 6:30 p.m.
Presentation 7 p.m.

Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion
Otto G. Richter Library, 2nd Floor
University of Miami
1300 Memorial Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146

RSVP to richterevents@miami.edu or call 305-284-4026.
Reception sponsored by the Amigos of the Cuban Heritage Collection


The birth and development of commercial television in Cuba in the 1950s occurred alongside political and social turmoil. In this period of dramatic swings encompassing democracy, a coup, a dictatorship, and a revolution, television functioned as a beacon and promoter of Cuba’s identity as a modern nation. In Broadcasting Modernity, television historian Yeidy M. Rivero shows how the television industry enabled different institutions to convey an image of progress, democracy, economic abundance, high culture, education, morality, and decency. After nationalizing Cuban television, the state used it to advance Fidel Castro’s project of creating a modern socialist country. As Cuba changed, television changed with it. Dr. Rivero not only demonstrates television’s importance to Cuban cultural identity formation; she explains how the medium functions in society during times of radical political and social transformation.

Yeidy M. Rivero is Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan. She is the coeditor of Contemporary Latina/o Media: Rethinking Production, Circulation, and Politics (2014) and author of Tuning Out Blackness: Race and Nation in the History of Puerto Rican Television (2005). Her scholarship focuses on television studies, race and the media, global media, and Latino/a studies.

Please click map image below to enlarge. Contact us at 305-284-4026 or richterevents@miami.edu with questions about directions and parking.


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.


CHC receives funding to digitize La Gaceta de La Habana

La Gaceta de La Habana

Gaceta de La Habana, 1889

The Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) at the University of Miami Libraries has received $29,850 from LAMP and LARRP to digitize its oversize holdings of the nineteenth-century newspaper La Gaceta de La Habana. LAMP (formerly the Latin American Microform Project) and LARRP (Latin Americanist Research Resources Project) are entities devoted to preserving and providing access to Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage material and are administered by the Center for Research Libraries.

The CHC holds issues of La Gaceta from 1849 to 1899, representing one of the most complete sets of the newspaper publicly available outside of Cuba. Funding from LAMP and LARRP will cover the cost to digitize over 27,000 pages in 44 oversized bound volumes of the newspaper spanning from 1849 to 1886. The 22 volumes for the years 1887-1897, which are smaller in size, are being digitized in-house by the Libraries’ Digital Production unit.

La Gaceta de La Habana was the newspaper of record for the Spanish colonial government in the second half of the nineteenth century in Cuba.  La Gaceta was the successor to Diario de La Habana, which was published until 1848, when it changed its name to La Gaceta de La Habana: Periódico Oficial del Gobierno.  In turn, it was succeeded by La Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba in 1902.

The social, cultural, legislative, and commercial information published in the pages of La Gaceta is of interest not only to scholars of Cuban Studies, but also scholars of Atlantic, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies. Digitizing this considerable work will open avenues of research to faculty and students around the world and help preserve an important historical resource.

Meiyolet Méndez, CHC Librarian, and Laura Capell, Head of Digital Production and Electronic Records Archivist, are leading this project.

Join us February 10 for talk by CHC Visiting Scholar Albert Sergio Laguna

chc-lagunaThe Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami Libraries will present “Diasporic Diversión: Play and Popular Culture in Cuban America,” a talk by CHC Visiting Scholar Albert Sergio Laguna, Assistant Professor of American Studies at Yale University, on Tuesday, February 10, 2015, at 4:30 p.m.

Despite being a central concern for Cuban academics and a vital narrative mode in both art and quotidian life on the island, forms of cultural play have received scant attention in the context of the Cuban community in the United States. Through readings of popular forms of diversión such as stand-up comedy, radio, Internet humor, and festivals, Laguna examines the trajectory of the ludic in the Cuban diasporic context in order to sketch an understanding of how US-born Cuban Americans and more recent arrivals navigate their relationships to the United States, Cuba, and each other.

This event is cosponsored by the American Studies Program, Center for Latin American Studies, and Department of Modern Languages & Literatures.

Scholar Spotlight: Hideaki Kami

Hideaki Kami was a 2013-2014 CHC Graduate Research Fellow. A doctoral student in history at Ohio State University, he authored the following report about his fellowship and his research on “Diplomacy and Migration: A Transformation of U.S. Relations with Cuba, 1974-1992.”

Hideaki KamiI am pleased to report that my research at the University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) proved very fruitful due to the generous support from the CHC. CHC staff members helped me settle in Miami, become familiar with materials and peoples, and gain better chances to deepen my knowledge of the history of Cuba and Cuban Diasporas. By writing this report I would like first to acknowledge your valuable assistance to my research in Miami in the autumn of 2013, which would be a fundamental source for my PhD dissertation on the history of U.S. relations with Cuba in the 1970s and 1980s.

The fundamental purpose of my Miami research was to incorporate Cuban American politics and its history into the broader narrative of U.S. relations with Cuba in the recent decades. Because of its central focus on state-to-state relations, the field of diplomatic history has all too often dismissed the importance of human migration—the changing configuration of demographics, backgrounds, worldviews, and mindsets—for the making of U.S. foreign policy. Such assumptions, however, would be open to question if we study the case of Miami Cubans and their role in U.S. relations with Cuba, which would help us to wonder how the movement of people might have changed the dynamics of power and cultures within and across the borders of nation-states.

The CHC graduate fellowship allowed me to take an important step toward an answer to this question by broadening my perspectives of foreign relations history. With this fellowship I could stay for three months in Miami, where I could gain access to the valuable resources, even outside the CHC, and could meet with historical figures who were willing to share their stories with future generations. One good example of such resources is Dante Fascell Papers at the University of Miami’s Special Collection. This congressional collection holds numerous notes, letters, correspondences, published materials, which tell about the last fifty years’ history of Miami, where Cuban Americans played a major role. Further, my interview with Alfredo Duran, key player during the Jimmy Carter’s presidency, generously informed me of the insider story of the Carter administration’s approach to the Cuban American community.

Most of the time I spent in Miami, however, was at the CHC’s reading room, where I encountered even more numerous stories of Cuban life in Miami. Reading Cuban American newspapers, magazines, tabloids, newsletters, and all other published materials consumed much of my time and energy. Yet, these resources provided crucial information about the Cuban American community’s varying reactions to the actions and behaviors of Washington and Havana at critical moments in bilateral relations. Even richer materials than these published materials are manuscript collections, which provided unique perspectives of the Cuban American community and its interactions with the governments of the United States and Cuba. Particularly relevant to my project were Bernardo Benes and Mirta Ojito Collections, whose resources allow me to reexamine the context of the Mariel boatlift of 1980. While comparing and combining stories of this specially emotive event from perspectives of Washington, Havana, and Miami, I came to realize how valuable these collections were not only in terms of the history of the Cuban American community, but also in the broader context of U.S. relations with Cuba at the height of the Cold War.

Several noteworthy testimonies that I found within Diana Kirby Papers also will shed new light on the experiences of Mariel Cubans, whose critical views of all U.S. and Cuban players were indispensable for polishing my views of the event. Likewise, the materials of Cuban Refugee Center Records and Fort Chafee Collections will enrich further my stories of the boatlift.

Materials on the 1980s are relatively scarce, but the CHC also surprised me by offering several important sources. Some organizations like Alpha 66 held the comprehensive records, covering this decade. The most powerful and important Cuban American organization, Cuban American National Foundation, published numerous newsletters and information memorandum that poured into some of individual collections at the CHC. Equally important are three volumes of Jorge Mas Canosa’s speeches and radio transcripts, Jorge Mas Canosa en busca de una Cuba libre: Edición completa de sus discursos, entrevistas y declaraciones, 1962-1997. The records account for the trajectory of his political career, as well as the shifting strategies of the most memorable leader of the community of his time. Added to these sources is Jose Antonio Font Papers, which includes some of CANF’s internal documents that would be otherwise unattainable anywhere else.

My research also benefits from Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project, which the CHC offers online. Colorful testimonies and recollections of major Cuban American players in U.S.-Cuban relations, such as José Basulto, Bernardo Benes, Lincoln Díaz-Balart, Alfredo Durán, Irma Santos de Mas Canosa, Enrique Ros, Jorge Mas Santos, Diego R. Suárez, not only provided precious information but also made me aware of what might be missing from the written records available today. Despite CHC’s generous support for my attempts to interview Pepe Hernandez and other CANF’s founding fathers, these efforts have not yet come to fruit until now. Nonetheless, I will keep pursuing this and other chances to expand my knowledge of the ideas and activities of the foundation, along with its connections with Washington politics.

Numerous other materials, such as Cuban periodicals like Bohemia, interview records with Fidel Castro, and Miami’s radio monitoring service records (on Cuban radios in Havana) prove helpful to explore the Cuban side of history and to prepare for further research on this frontier. Overall, the CHC fellowship gave me tremendously valuable opportunities not only to read uncountable rare resources in Miami, but also rigorously to train myself as a scholar, who wants to be familiar with the unique history of Cuba and Cuban Diasporas. I will continue my dissertation research in the hope of writing dissertation within three years, and writing a book and/or journal articles on some of the topics that would be relevant to this project.

Thank you once again for the generous support. As one of the former CHC fellows, I will remember and cherish my fortunate time as the University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection.

This report was authored by Hideaki Kami to fulfill one of the requirements of the CHC Graduate Fellowships.