Panel on “Special Collections for Cuba and the Caribbean in Miami Academic Libraries: Florida International University and Barry University.” (2014)

Monday, May 20, 2:00-3:30

Moderator:   Gayle Williams, Florida International University

Rapporteur: Georgette Dorn, Library of Congress


  • Cuban Children’s Program / Operation Pedro Pan Records — Ximena Valdivia, Barry University and Rita M. Cauce, Florida International University
  • Interrogating Caribbean History Through a Journalist’s Eyes: The Bernard Diederich Research Collection — Brooke Wooldridge, Florida International University
  • In Search of the Ancestors, Cuban Genealogy Collections at FIU — Althea (Vicki) Silvera, Florida International University
  • Colección Díaz-Ayala: historia de Cuba y Latinoamérica a través de la música — Verónica González, Florida International University

Williams urged the SALALM attendees to visit the Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami and then introduced the four speaker speakers.

Presenters, Ximena Valdivia, and Rita Cauce described, with Power Point support, the records in the Cuban Children’s Program/Operation Pedro Pan which is held at their university. Valdivia described the oral interviews with Monsignor Bryan Walsh and James Baker, Head of the Ruston Academy, the originators, leaders and managers of Operation Pedro Pan. The speakers discussed and showed visual reproductions of some of the official records. The first Cuban children arrived in Miami on December 26, 1960. Between 1960 and 1962 about 14,000 children came, unaccompanied, from Cuba to the United States. Approximately 50% had no relatives in this country. During 1960-1962 about 1,000 Cubans were arriving every week without any money. Their arrival overwhelmed welfare agencies in Florida. One of the coordinators helping the refugees was Tracy Vorhees.  Walsh, Baker and Vorhees met with officials in Washington. D.C. to secure student visas for the children. They established links with welfare agencies throughout the United States to find places for the Cuban Children’s Program.

The experiment stopped after Fidel Castro established relations with and began receiving economic support from the then Soviet Union. He nationalized business, established CDRs and established youth groups. In 1961 he proclaimed the “Year of Education,” rewrote school curricula, and sent youths to the countryside.  In his interview Baker describes the parents’ despair as they hid their children in the countryside to avoid what they viewed as “communist indoctrination.” Monsignor Walsh mentioned in his interview that after the U.S. and Cuba broke diplomatic relations in 1962, the embassy was closed they could no longer secure student visas for the children whose parents were anxious to relocate the children in the U.S. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 stopped all flights to the island.  In 1965 “freedom flights” began sporadically.  Monsignor Walsh kept good records. These include correspondence, financial records, photos, newspaper clippings and other items to document the largest migration of minors in the Western Hemisphere.  All the materials in the 400 boxes were cataloged.  Florida International included copies of materials created by Monsignor Walsh and Baker at Catholic Charities and materials from the Catholic Welfare Bureau. The most important part of the collection is the Case File. A separate Monsignor Walsh collection relates to reuniting children with their parents.

The second presentation by Brooke Wooldridge dealt with “Interrogating Caribbean History through a Journalist’s Eyes: The Bernard Diederich  Research Collection” at her university. Brooke Wooldridge began her presentation by discussing the Digital Library of the Caribbean which is an open access collaborative project. It has been growing for the last nine years. The project has 35 partners and contains 13,000 titles with 80,000 items. The DLC offers training programs, does educational outreach and collaborates with a number of scholars. Wooldridge then proceeded to describe the Diederich Collection.

Born in New Zealand in 1926, prolific journalist, Bernard Diederich, wrote for the “New York Times,” the Associated Press, and he was Head of the “Time Magazine” Bureau in Mexico City.  In 1943 he fought in the Pacific Theater with the US Merchant Marine during the Second World War. In 1949 a detour took him to Haiti and “he never really left the island” because it remained his main interest. He founded the newspapers “The Haiti Sun” and “Island Luminous.”  Issues of the “Haiti Sun” were digitized by Duke University. FIU plans to digitize the entire run.

Diederich covered thoroughly Haitian politics for more than three decades and wrote much about Papa Doc, the Tonton Macoutes, Baby Doc and other aspects of the contemporary scene. He covered the fall of Baby Doc and the 1965 civil war. He also wrote articles and books about Anastasio Somoza, Leonidas Trujillo, and also about the US invasion of Grenada. He was an eyewitness to important events and gave us the first draft of the history of Haiti.

In 1954 Diederich met and befriended Graham Greene in Haiti. He recently published a book on the noted British author [“The Seeds of Fiction: Graham Greene’s Adventures in Haiti”] Many of Diederich’s books on Haiti have been translated into Haitian Creole.

Diederich donated his collection to Florida International University and also gave the university the rights to reproduce his photographs. All the books have been cataloged and the rest of the collection continues being processed, beginning with the manuscripts.  The collection contains the newspaper “Island Luminous,” created by him and Adam Silva, ‘The Haitian Sun,” books, photographs, correspondence, cable reports, and archival materials, such as the initial article on the Tonton Macoutes which later became a book.

The university plans to digitize much of the materials in the collection and mount them on the web. It also has plans for several exhibitions to make this important collection known to the scholarly community.

The third presentation by Althea (Viki) Silvera, Head of Special Collections at FIU, described the collection of Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza, a major recent acquisition by the university.

Cuban-born Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza received a law degree from the University of Havana and in exile in the United States, worked for 20 years at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.  He then retired in Miami. He was a member of the Cuban Genealogy Club and through them gathered some of his materials.

On Hurtado’s first visit to FIU, he decided that this repository would “become the home” for his collection. He wanted to donate the collection before his death. However, before he could carry out his intentions, he became very ill and is currently in an assisted living facility. The university decided to buy the collection from Hurtado’s nephew.

There are several thousand books, including the whole set of the Garcia Caraffa’s “Diccionario heraldico de apellidos espanoles y americanos”;  the rare “Historia General de la Casa de Lara” (Madrid: 1694-97);  Alberto Ferrer Vaillant’s history and genealogy of Camaguey

Handwritten notes, typed correspondence, primary sources; (some genealogical charts go back ten generations); documents of Cuban history and genealogy; in sum a treasure trove of Cuban history and society.

Hurtado always wanted his books, manuscripts and documents to be available to the Cuban community of Miami. Cuban Genealogy Club member Lourdes del Pino began alphabetizing the genealogical charts. A detailed index to the collection is in preparation.

Fifty percent of the “really phenomenal collection” assembled by Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza documents Cuban genealogy and the other fifty percent is correspondence and personal notes including genealogical charts. FIU began scanning some of the materials.

The fourth presentation by Veronica Gonzalez, Florida International University addressed Cuban-born Cristobal Diaz-Ayala lived in Puerto Rico. He donated his collection to Florida International University. The last items arrived at FIU in 2004. The multi-format collection of more than 100,000 items, valued at more than one million dollars, includes discs, tapes, cassettes, CDs. printed materials, photographs, videos, as well as sheet music by composers. Diaz-Ayala owned one of earliest recordings of “La Paloma.” Some of the rare items are musical pieces recorded on wax cylinders from 1887-1915.

The collection was further enriched with a donation of LPs of Cuban and Latin American music, by Radio Marti.  There are more than 25,000 LPs, some are of Puerto Rican music. The commercial recordings are organized by record label, by artist, and by subcategories such as orchestra, etc.

The collection is not exclusively Cuban as it includes music from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Argentina and other countries. For example it has early recordings of Los Chalchaleros, the “Misa Incaica” in Kechua and Spanish, a Pablo Neruda’s  recording entitled “Cri du Chili,” and  “corridos” from the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) in a disc portfolio, including recordings by Pancho Villa.  Some of the documents are oral histories; one example is the oral histories from the Circulo de Musica of Caracas, recorded in 1967, and accompanied by a map.

The Florida International University offers three one-week grants annually to do research in the Diaz-Ayala collection.

Cristobal Diaz-Ayaal ceded all rights to the university. Much of the collection is accessible online.


Paul Losch (University of Florida) asked whether the early historical recordings in the collection were done in U.S. studios, principally in Los Angeles. Veronica Gonzalez responded that the first recordings were done in New York City, ten later in Havana and in Mexico City.  The Diaz-Ayala collection has more recordings done in Havana and Mexico City.

Edmundo Flores (Library of Congress) asked whether there is another collection like this in the world. Veronica Gonzalez answered that she believes that the University of California, Los Angeles, has the Fonoteca Collection, mostly Mexican music. The collection is available online. It is true that often Cuban singers recorded with Mexican orchestras and vice versa. She added that FIU hopes to continue adding to the Diaz-Ayala collection.

Gayle Williams added that she is involved in endeavoring/continuing to add materials to the Diaz-Ayala collection and it is in her budget.

Antonio Sotomayor (University of Illinois) commented that the Hurtado de Mendoza is truly extraordinary. He asked if there were any documents on the Audiencia de Santo Domingo in the Hurtado collection.V eronica answered, that yes, there are some such items. She drew attention to the fact that Hurtado had started an index of birth and death records in the “Diario de la Marina.” Lesbia Varona (Univesity of Miami) mentioned that there is an important index entitled “Familias Cubanas.” Gayle Williams added that the Hurtado de Mendoza collection only arrived in 2011. She agreed that the genealogical materials in this collection are unsurpassed. Sotomayor added that the Hurtado collection is not only important for genealogical research but also to study society, economic aspects, birth and death records, marriages, race, miscegenation and other aspects of Cuban history.