Donor Stories: Rotary Club Miami-Granada

The Rotary Club Miami-Granada recently donated a series of documents dating to 1916, when the historic Havana Chapter of Rotary International (RI), from which the club originates, was established. The Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) recognized the Miami-Granada club’s donation at a June 30 event at the CHC’s Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion.

The Havana Rotary Club was the “first RI chapter established outside of the United States in a Spanish-speaking country,” explained the chapter’s president, Dr. Réne López-Guerrero.


Ellen Blasi, a former District Governor of Rotary International, introduces Dr. Réne López-Guerrero, president of the Rotary Club Miami-Granada at the club’s centennial anniversary event on June 30 at the CHC.

From its inception, the club’s list of achievements grew exponentially, providing RI with four directors and sponsoring the foundation of 43 other Cuban clubs. After a 25-year hiatus precipitated by the 1959 Cuban revolution, the Havana Rotary Club was reborn in 1985 in Miami, Florida, as the Rotary Club Miami-Granada to continue its legacy of “Rotary Serving Humanity.”

In a letter read during the event, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio recognized the important collaboration of the CHC and Rotary Club Miami-Granada. “I am humbled to learn of the many accomplishments the Rotary Club Miami-Granada has made of service to others in their communities,” Sen. Rubio writes. “As the son of Cuban parents I share with you a sense of pride and joy during this meaningful event as you share with others a rich and plentiful history.”

The documents are now available in the Rotary Club of Miami-Granada Collection, 1916-1985, for the permanent use of scholars and researchers.  Material will be added to the collection on an on-going basis.

This Just In: Fragmentos: Revista Mensual

by Mei Mendez, CHC Librarian


Fragmentos: Revista Mensual

Last year, the Cuban Heritage Collection received several volumes of the Cuban Jewish periodical Fragmentos: Revista Mensual through the generosity of Mr. Moisés Pitchón, whose father, Marco Pitchón, was the editor of the magazine.  The Collection’s holdings of this work range from Volume 4 (January 1955) to Volume 11 (July/September 1964).  With permission from Mr. Pitchón, these issues have been digitized and are available in our digital library.  You can find them here.

Marco Pitchón was born in Turkey and migrated from France to Cuba in 1923.  He founded the B’nai Brith Maimonedes chapter in Havana in 1943 and launched its monthly newsletter, Fragmentos: Revista Mensual. Written in Spanish, Fragmentos was published as a short pamphlet, four pages long, and included a supplement. Articles featured on the front page addressed topics ranging from cinematic portrayals of the Second World War to specific world events or even letters received by the editor.  Inside, shorter articles highlighted important dates in the Jewish calendar.  Several of the supplements found inside the magazine contain letters expressing support for the (then) upcoming publication of the book Jose Martí y la comprensión humana, edited by Pitchón and also published by B’nai Brith.  This book has also been digitized and can be found here.

Special thanks to Moreno Habif for facilitating the donation of Fragmentos to the Cuban Heritage Collection.

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.”




Rare photo from the Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection shows historic Cuban lighthouse in its original design

Last year, we acquired and digitized the Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection, an invaluable collection of photographic images of Cuba in the 19th and 20th century. To accentuate this collection, we featured a guest article by the donor himself, where he reflects on the collection and his personal interests in collecting historical photographs from Cuba. We continue to highlight Mr. Pohrt’s collection below by featuring one very special photograph of the Faro de Villanueva lighthouse in the Bay of Cienfuegos.

This article was written by Ana Rodriguez, CHC Metadata Assistant.

The Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection contains a series of albumen prints of Cuban lighthouses and views. Among these is a photo album of lighthouses and views of Cuba from the 1850s, presumed to be taken by the studio of C.D. Fredricks in Cuba. One of these photos which depicts the Faro de Villanueva lighthouse, located at Punta de los Colorados in the Bay of Cienfuegos. According to Spanish historian Miguel Angel Sánchez Terry in his Faros españoles de ultramar (link to IBISweb record), this lighthouse was commissioned in 1846, and Punta de los Colorados was selected for its construction due to the quality of the land which was formed by solid rock. On March 16, 1851 the newspaper Gaceta de La Habana announced the completion of its construction.  A casa de mampostería (house made of bricks) was added to the lighthouse around 1866 and served as the residence for two torreros (lighthouse keepers) and their families.

In the photo of the Faro de Villanueva, the lighthouse is shown to have an almost square structure, which was, at first, puzzling to me when I was creating the metadata; another photo that I found of this lighthouse, on a website created by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill titled “Lighthouses of Cuba” (link), shows the lighthouse having a circular shape. But as we learn from the blurb given on that page as well as Sánchez Terry, the square shaped lighthouse was torn down by the American vessels “Morehead” and “Winsdlow” on May 11, 1898, during the Spanish-American War.

Faro de Villanueva was later rebuilt, but instead of replicating the original square shape, it was given a circular shape. The new Faro de Villanueva tower was inaugurated in 1901, and according to Sánchez Terry, it has been renovated several times. The latest update dating to 1969, when electricity was incorporated to the tower. This photograph from the Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection, however, is believed to be one of the few taken of its original square design.

Faro de Villanueva, Bay of Cienfuegos
Faro de Villanueva, Bay of Cienfuegos, with the original square shaped design. From “Photo album of lighthouses and views of Cuba,” Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection. Link to digital collection.
Gaceta de la Habana, March 16, 1850
Gaceta de la Habana announces the construction of the lighthouse on March 16, 1851. Link to IBISweb record.


Nuevo Siglo, Jueves 2 de Marzo de 1995
Blueprint of the lighthouse featuring the casa de mamposterías, 1878. Credit to Sánchez Terry, M. A. 1992. Faros españoles de ultramar. Madrid: Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. Link to IBISweb record.
Declaración Internacional, Coalición para la restauración del Gobierno Constitucional de la Republica Cuba
The lighthouse in its current state, 1990s. Credit to Rowlett, R. September 28, 2009. Cienfuegos Province Lighthouses. In Lighthouses of Cuba. Retrieved from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Web Site.
Sánchez Terry, M. A. 1992. “Faro de Villanueva en la Punta de los Colorados.” In Faros españoles de ultramar, 82-90. Madrid: Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.


The Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection now available online

Brooch with picture of woman. Click image to view this item.

Editor’s Note: Last year, we acquired the Tom Pohrt Photograph Collection, an invaluable collection of photographic images of Cuba in the 19th and 20th century.  With funding from The Goizueta Foundation, we digitized the entire collection, which includes albumen prints, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and stereographs. We are excited to announce that it the digital collection is now available for online viewing.

Tom Pohrt, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is an author and illustrator of children’s books.  He is also a collector of Cuban photographs, documents, and memorabilia. We asked him to write a guest article about his photograph collection.

The motivation behind my collecting historic photographs of Cuba began out of simple curiosity. I wanted to know more of Cuban history and its people.

A longer answer to this might come from having parents who instilled in me a sense of curiosity and the value of knowledge for its own sake. My father was a life long collector of American Indian artifacts. The Detroit Institute of Arts and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody Wyoming are now home to this collection. The exposure growing up around my fathers passion in this aspect of American history had a rich and profound effect on me.

Union case with ambrotype of man and little girl. Click image to view this item.

As an artist I have always had a great love of the visual arts, including photography. About twelve years ago I stumbled across and purchased some photographic studio portraits of Havana residents, taken in the early 20th century. I was taken by these images and wanted to know more of their story.

Like many of my generation I grew up reading and hearing of Cuba during the years of the Cold War. I had a passing knowledge of the “Spanish American War” but that was the embarrassingly limited extent of what I knew of Cuba. Eleven years ago I had my first opportunity to travel to the island, to see and explore some of its history first hand. It left a lasting impression and since I have returned many times.

This collection was put together by purchases made from other collectors and dealers from around the world. Books and photographs were also found in the odd rare book and antique shop. Early on I decided to let the photographs I was finding direct the focus of my collecting. Soon I found that part of the strength of this collection lay in the mid 19th century photographs I was coming across. As a comprehensive history of early photography in Cuba has yet to be written I felt this period demanded special attention.

These rare images represent a significant collection of mid 19th century photography of Cuba. Aesthetically beautiful they are also of great importance as historical documents.

There are examples here of Cuban studio photographers as well as American itinerant photographers.

Stereograph of plantation slaves and workers during a break at noon, taken by George Barnard. Click image to view this item.

Examples of the American Civil War photographer George Barnard, whose Cuban stereo-view’s represent the earliest known images of slavery on the island, form part of this material. His views of Havana also give us a glimpse of life at the time.

There are 71 photographs from an album, taken between 1859 and the early 1860’s, documenting lighthouses from around the island, with views of Havana and outdoor views taken along the islands northern coastline. While the photographer remains unknown there is evidence that these may have been taken by photographers (most likely Cuban) working for Charles DeForest Fredricks. C.D. Fredricks & Co. was one of the premier photographic studio’s in Havana in the mid 19th century.

With the wealth of historic material at the Cuban Heritage Collection I felt this was the natural home for this material. I was also greatly impressed by the CHC Digital Collections. This service provides easy access both to scholars and to the general public.

CHC acquires Repertorio Español records

New York City greeted CHC with snowy weather in January

In January, CHC Archivist Beata Bergen and Web Communications Technician Rudo Kemper traveled to New York City to inventory and pack up the records from the New York-based theater company Repetorio Español. In the midst of a snowstorm, we packed a total of 76 boxes, which include an assortment of records, photographs, promotional materials, correspondence, and other items that will become available to researchers for the first time.

One of the oldest Hispanic theater companies in the United States, Repertorio Español produces Latin American, Spanish and Latino theater productions. It was founded in 1968 by two Cubans, the late producer Gilberto Zaldívar and artistic director René Buch. “We are very proud of Repertorio Español’s artistic contributions to society since its founding in 1968,” said Associate Producer José Antonio Cruz. “The Company’s achievements have had a considerable influence in the preservation of Spanish and Latin American culture in the United States. In addition, its productions have made an unique contribution to the American theater field.”  When asked why the Company decided to donate its archive to the Cuban Heritage Collection, Cruz noted, “It is of utmost importance to have the Company’s accomplishments preserved as an example for future generations of what may be achieved for the benefit of our Hispanic communities. Given Repertorio’s founders’ Cuban heritage, we couldn’t think of a better place than CHC to bring context to what they have achieved through their tireless work at Repertorio Español.”

After an initial visit to Repertorio’s premises in July last year to assess and appraise the records, we are delighted to finally have this invaluable archive in our Collection and look forward to making it available to the public.  The acquisition of the records of this historic theater company will serve to fortify our existing collection of Cuban and Latino theater and further promote scholarship in this field.

We were introduced to Repertorio in 2005 by Dr. Lillian Manzor, Associate Professor in the University of Miami’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and Director of the Cuban Theater Digital Archive.  We are extremely grateful to Repertorio Español, the late Mr. Zaldívar, Mr. Buch, Executive Director Robert Weber Federico, and Associate Producer José Antonio Cruz for trusting us with their legacy.

For more information about CHC’s theater collections, visit

New acquisition: Raquel Lázaro and Jesús M. Casagrán papers

Last week we had a visit from Raquel Lázaro, the Cuban painter and widow of sculptor Jesús Casagrán. She was generous enough to give us a collection of photographs, exhibit catalogs, and a scrapbook related to her and her husband’s careers as visual artists. Here are a few images from the Raquel Lázaro and Jesús M. Casagrán Papers.

Click images to enlarge.

Raquel Lázaro and Jesús Casagrán, early 1950s?

Raquel Lázaro with one of her paintings, 1980s

A 30″ x 40″ acrylic painting by Raquel Lázaro, 1980s

Rumba by Jesús Casagrán, 1930s

India by Jesús Casagrán, 1931

Rare Daguerreotype from Havana dated 1852 acquired

Tom Pohrt of Ann Arbor, Michigan recently sent us a package containing a small treasure we just had to share with you: a daguerreotype portrait of a Cuban family taken in 1852. This wonderful image is now the oldest Cuban photograph we own. Adding to the value of this portrait is a note that accompanies it written by one of the members of the family in the photograph. He notes “El día 7 de febrero nos retratamos Papá Mamá Orocio y yo, en el año 1852. Cuando nos retratamos tenía: Mamá, 36; Papá, 43; Angelita, 16; Orocio, 4; Y yo, 14. Habana y febrero 7 de 1852, Gumersindo Díaz y Viciedo” (“We were photographed on the 7th of February, Papá, Mamá, Orocio, and myself, in the year 1852. When photographed we were: Mamá, 36; Papá, 43; Angelita, 16; Orocio, 4; and me, 14. Havana, February 7, 1852, Gumersindo Díaz y Viciedo”).

The earliest form of photography, daguerreotypes are named after Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, who invented this photographic process in France and announced it to the public in 1839. Daguerreotypes are images created without the use of a negative, instead as a direct positive on a copper sheet plated with a thin coat of silver. These images were most often matted, covered with glass, and enclosed in a case. As new photographic processes were developed, the popularity of the daguerreotype declined in the late 1850s.

We are excited to add this image to our holdings and thank Mr. Pohrt for generously donating it to us.

Click images to enlarge.