UM studies about Cuba get a boost
BY ELAINE DE VALLE
On the 133rd anniversary of Cuba's declaration of independence
from Spain, the struggle to preserve the history and culture of the island
nation won a big victory
Wednesday about 150 miles to the north.
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez and former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack joined with University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala and nearly 200 others to unveil plans for a bigger and better Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies and Casa Bacardi at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.
Funded by a $1 million grant from the Bacardi Family Foundation, Casa Bacardi will house a 3,000-square-foot exhibition hall for art and other displays, a small cinema for regular screenings of Cuban films and documentaries, a conference center and two pavilions. Construction, which involves expansion and remodeling of the institute's existing building at 1531 Brescia Ave., is expected to be finished by May 2002.
Martinez, who left Cuba in the Pedro Pan exodus, said he was glad the institute exists.
``It's so important for our young people to understand where they
come from and what they're made of,'' he said, calling it ``a rallying
point and place where the
reconstruction of Cuba can begin.''
Much of the credit was heaped on institute director and UM Professor
Jaime Suchlicki, whose vision made the institute a reality, said Andy Gomez,
dean of the UM
School of International Studies.
Beaming like a proud papa, Suchlicki said, ``This is a dream that has come true today.''
The state-of-the-art Casa Bacardi will also have listening stations
where students and visitors can listen to a century of Cuban music -- from
Ernesto Lecuona to Celia Cruz -- and computer terminals with access to
the institute's Cuba database, a comprehensive archive of Cuban history
and information available online at
Shalala called Casa Bacardi a ``permanent symbol'' of UM's commitment to Cuban and Cuban-American studies.
``Our unique geographic location affords us the opportunity to tap into the reservoir of history, culture and ideas in the Cuban diaspora,'' she said, adding that she recently learned that when her family fled Lebanon to these parts of the world, Cuba was one destination.
``It seems I, too, have Cuban blood and now Cuban coffee and Bacardi rum running through my veins,'' she told an appreciative crowd.
For more information on Casa Bacardi or the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies call 305-284-2822 or visit www.miami.edu/ICCAS