Manuel M. Fraginals, Cuban scholar
BY WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA
El Nuevo Herald
Cuban-born historian and scholar Manuel Moreno Fraginals died Wednesday at his Miami home of cerebrovascular disease. He was 80.
Hailed as one of the most prolific Cuban intellectuals of the century, Moreno was a well respected professor at major universities in Latin America and the United States.
His contributions to the economic and demographic history of Cuba
include the books The Sugar Mill, History as a Weapon, Cuba Seen Through
Its Currency, The
Spanish Army in Cuba as a Means of Migration and Cuba-Spain, Spain-Cuba.
Disappointed with the situation in his homeland, Moreno took advantage of a trip to the U.S. in 1994, as a Guggenheim Foundation fellow, to request political asylum in this country.
In his years in exile, he was professor emeritus at Florida International University until 1998 and a guest professor at Yale University.
``He said that he continued to be a revolutionary while Fidel Castro and his clique had ceased to be revolutionaries,'' said his wife, Teresita Pedraza-Moreno.
``In his final years, he was an outspoken critic of the Castro regime, which cost him many academic assignments'' in Cuba, she said.
Until Moreno became ill, he and his wife were working on an English-language book, the Historical Encyclopedia of Cuba.
As a historian, Moreno was nonjudgmental.
``I hate the stance of the historian-judge. We historians are nobody to judge others as time goes by,'' he said in 1998. He would rather ``try to understand people through the past that slips through our hands.''
In 1998, the Association of American Historians named him an honorary
member, a distinction granted to only six Latin American historians in
the 116 years of the
Moreno was born in Havana in 1920. He obtained a doctorate in law at the age of 23 and went on to study history at the College of Mexico (1945-47) and the Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain.
Returning to Cuba in 1949, he became deputy director of the National
Library and a professor at the University of Oriente. He also obtained
his doctorate in social
sciences at the University of Havana.
His first major book, José Antonio Saco: A Study and Bibliography, was written during this period, in 1951.
``No other Cuban historian approached the island's colonial history from such an original scientific viewpoint,'' said Victor Batista, editor of Colibri Books in Madrid, after hearing of Moreno's death.
The book was an example of Moreno's ``coherent and provocative'' thinking, Batista said Thursday.
In 1959, after a six-year research sojourn through Latin America and the Caribbean, Moreno returned to Cuba, just as Castro rose to power.
Moreno adapted to the revolutionary process and worked in the 1960s as university professor and advisor on international trade relations. At that time, he wrote The Sugar Mill, a monumental work about Cuba's economic and social evolution.
Moreno never reneged on his Marxist concepts of history.
``Accustomed as we were to discussing Marxism in terms of ideology, we were delighted one day in 1989 when Moreno was invited to the University of Havana and presented to us Marxism in its original sense -- as a method of historic and social research,'' said writer Emilio Ichikawa, a former professor at the University of Havana who settled in Miami last year.
Moreno is survived by his wife, a sister, Josefa, and six children, one of whom lives in Cuba.
Visitation begins at 4 p.m. today at Maspons Funeral Home, 7895
SW 40th St. Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Woodlawn South, following
a Mass at St.
Catherine of Siena Church, 9200 SW 107th Ave.