Tucked into an upstairs corner of the University of Miami Library, the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) is the largest compendium of materials on Cuban studies outside Cuba. Covering both Cuba and the Cuban diaspora, the CHC’s holdings include books, manuscripts, letters, periodicals, archival materials, art objects, and rare historical documents.
Elizabeth Cerejido is the recently appointed Esperanza Bravo de Varona Chair. She spoke with Rosa Lowinger about the CHC’s mission and goals, her plans to challenge traditional narratives about the Cuban diaspora, and to alter the way the collection is perceived beyond academic walls.
From the Interview
Q. What’s the focus of the collections?
Cerejido: The CHC is the most comprehensive collection of materials on Cuba—from the Colonial Period to the present—outside the island, and the largest repository of materials on the Cuban diaspora anywhere. We have strengths in history, exile history, Afro-Cuban, and visual arts materials that cover all periods.
For example, we have Mambises marchando, one of the earliest photographs to document the mambises—fighters in the Cuban wars for independence. And we have the Lyceum Lawn & Tennis Club Collection, 1929–1986. That was an exhibition space and cultural center in Havana, run by women, where many of the vanguardia artists showed for the first time.
Our Lydia Cabrera collection, which is one of the most frequently consulted, contains drawings, correspondence, manuscripts of her works, field notes, interviews, photographs, illustrations, objects of hers, and memorabilia that touch upon all disciplines. We have an original illustrated manuscript of Arere marekén: cuento negro, with illustrations by [the Soviet artist] Alexandra Exter, with whom Cabrera studied painting in Paris.
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