Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami approaches its centenary

The Cuban Heritage Collection of the University of Miami (UM), is the largest of its kind outside the island, according to a report by efe. With more than 75,000 books and newspapers, as well as documents and objects, it will be 100 years old in 2026.

“We are here to collect all the information we can about Cuba, exile and the diaspora. Politics does not matter to us, anything can be in our collection if it is useful for researchers,” the director, Amanda Moreno, 32, told the Spanish agency.

Documents on Cuba are organized into 800 thematic collections on historical figures and groups, and more than 75,000 books and newspapers, among other stationery.

The director of the Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami (UM), Amanda Moreno (i), and Gladys Gómez (d), one of the five founders of the Cuban Heritage Collection, pose during an interview with EFE. Photo: Jorge I. Pérez/Efe.

Moreno’s words are confirmed by Gladys Gómez, one of the five founders of the Cuban Heritage Collection. He specifies that, although the Cuban government has not requested his services, researchers have arrived from the island. “There was one who investigated hurricanes. He spent more than a month with us”, recalls Gladys.

Unlike Amanda, who was born in New York and is the daughter of Cubans, Gladys came into the world in Cuba and arrived in the United States in the 1960s with other of the more than 14,000 children participating in the Operation Peter Pan.

Standing next to one of the showcases, both validate that a children’s book, Memories of the Sierra Maestrasigned by Fidel and Raúl Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, is next to some original letters smuggled out of Cuban prisons in 1965.

In another window is one of the pieces that the director likes the most, a bilingual menu of dishes served by the famous Tropicana cabaret, along with some newspaper covers Exoduswhich the Cuban rafters of the 1994 crisis wrote while detained at the US base at Guantanamo.

The oldest document in the collection is a 1552 work by the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas.

A bridge between Miami and Havana

Although it grew with the arrival of Cuban exiles in the early 1960s, the collection began in 1926 when it opened the University of MiamiYo.

“The president (rector) began to visit universities. The closest one to the south was the University of Havana and a book exchange took place there. The first 300 books that entered the University of Miami were Cuban books,” explains Gladys, founder of the archive along with four other women.

Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami approaches its centenary
Éxodo newspaper, made by Cuban rafters during the 1994 crisis and at the Guantánamo naval base. Photo: Jorge I. Pérez/Efe.

But the inauguration of the University of Miami, he says, “occurred in the middle of a cyclone,” the powerful hurricane known as “the cyclone of ’26,” which cut off maritime traffic between Cuba and South Florida.

Gladys founded the collection in the 1960s together with the librarians Rosa Abella, Ana Rosa Núñez, Lesbia Orta Varona and the recently deceased Esperanza Bravo de Varona.

“The one who started was Rosita Abella, who worked in the acquisition department (…) She was the one with the idea of ​​collecting everything related to Cuba to eventually take it back, thinking that it was going to be a very short exile,” he recalls. Gladys, who began working at the University of Miami in 1967.

“At that time the exile newspapers began to appear. We were the only ones who collected them and to preserve them they were microfilmed ”, he details.

In a gesture to bring us closer to time, Amanda shows number 163, for this month of March, of the magazine the kentubanpublished from Kentucky by the many Cubans living there.

Erasing the line that separates this archive from the physical island can be achieved with exchanges, according to its director.

“I don’t like that division, what I like is exchanging. I have not been to Cuba, my family has never returned and I do not want to offend them, but I would like to go. I would love to see where my parents grew up in a tiny town in Pinar del Río, San Cristóbal,” says Amanda.

While the director looks for a travel postcard that someone donated showing the San Cristóbal train station, Gladys prefers to pose next to a relic, an edition of “Ismaelillo”, the book of poems by José Martí written in New York in 1882 and signed by its author.

Jorge I. Pérez/Efe/OnCuba.

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