By TOM AUSTIN
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Beny Moré on the television program Cabernet Regalias; a promotional photo of Celia Cruz; a chess tournament match between Eleazor Jiménez Zerquera and Bobby Fischer; an interior shot of painter Amelia Peláez’s Havana home; a 1958 Bohemia magazine cover
Miami is both the center of the Cubanexile experience and a city that remains comfortable with high rollers and the big time, so it makes sense that the Cuban Heritage Collection—the largest repository of historical and cultural materials about Cuba outside the island—would be right here in town. The collection at the University of Miami, which spans 400 years and thousands of maps, postcards, photographs, manuscripts, books and personal and organizational papers, supports UM’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. And along the way, it reveals the beauty of an island that has never left the American consciousness, for good or bad.
Cubans have done pretty well in the Americandream department, and in 1998, the Otto G. Richter Library’s vast holdings were assembled as the Cuban Heritage Collection, now held within the 10,000-square-foot Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion. (The structure’s construction was made possible by the Goizueta Foundation, named for the Cuban CEO of The Coca-Cola Company who made America’s favorite haveiconography- will-travel corporate juggernaut a $145 billion enterprise.) Apart from the study materials, the facility has an Exhibition Gallery with an Humberto Calzada mural, titled Espejo de Paciencia, flanked by Cuban-style rocking chairs.
All of Cuba’s rich history is here, from a map of Havana from a circa-1762 London magazine to a 1900 William Henry Jackson photochrom of a Havana street to photographs of exiles in the 1970s and a beautiful 1998 handmade book entitled Los Feos: The Ugly Things, published by Ediciones Vigía of Matanzas with drawings by Rolando Estévez. This being Cuba, the collection goes from the glam—cocktail pamphlets from assorted bars—to the modern era, such as a Silvio illustration of a scythe spilling the island’s blood for a cover of Zig-Zag Libre.
Tens of thousands of images are available online in the CHC’s digital library, broken down into assorted collections, such as an archive of posters from the anti-communist organization Agrupación Abdala; the papers of Afro-Cuba scholar Lydia Cabrera, including an illustrated 1930s manuscript of Arere Mareken: Cuento Negro; high-1950s photos from the women’s organization The Lyceum and Lawn Tennis Club; and the archive of Cuban-born Randy Barceló, costume designer for 1971’s Jesus Christ Superstar.
Click on the Cuban Photograph Collections and some 5,000 images unfold—an entire world. Within the Jim Robinson Collection, the gems never stop, including 1950s Bohemia magazine showgirl covers and a 1958 cover of Carteles magazine with an illustration by Andres of one fetching Cubana. There are images of painter Amelia Peláez’s house in Havana, 1960s shots of exile businesses donated by Arva Moore Parks, images of circa-1988 Havana and a 1965 summit gathering of the Cuban Catholic Committee in Dallas.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI LIBRARIES CUBAN HERITAGE COLLECTION