Miami-Dade County

The fight for control of Miami’s Cuban museum ends with a familiar face in charge

Marcell Felipe, of the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami, seen here in his office in January 2019, was re-elected as chairman by the Board of Trustees in March.
Marcell Felipe, of the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami, seen here in his office in January 2019, was re-elected as chairman by the Board of Trustees in March. pportal@miamiherald.com

After months of litigation that cast the existence of Miami’s taxpayer-funded Cuban museum in doubt amid allegations of misuse of grant monies, firings and a divided board, the dispute may have been resolved.

The dispute came to a head in January when Marcell Felipe, chairman of the Board of Trustees of The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, unilaterally fired the museum’s director, Ileana Fuentes, and her daughter, Carisa Perez-Fuentes, who served as head of communications and design.

Former museum chairman Rafael Robayna and some of the other trustees objected to that and other actions by Felipe and filed a lawsuit. The complaint asked the court to issue an injunction preventing Felipe from hiring or firing employees or contractors or taking other actions without approval of the museum’s board.

As the litigation proceeded, the board held its annual meeting in March and re-elected Felipe as chairman, appointed a new executive committee and ratified his decision to fire Fuentes and Perez-Fuentes. The executive committee now consists of Felipe and The Cuban’s vice chairman, Alfredo Caballero, and new executive committee members Nelson Hernandez, a Brickell banker who will act as treasurer, and Daniel Lastra-Perez, a Broward businessman who will serve as the corporate secretary.

The lawsuit was dismissed Friday.

Museo El Cubano
The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami. Pedro Portal pportal@miamiherald.com


According to a release issued by The Cuban, the new executive committee will focus on increasing the history component of the museum and on recovering the institution’s financial health. The museum has struggled to pay its bills and attract people through its doors since it opened on Coral Way in early 2017.

“It is a challenge we must accept,” Hernandez said in the release.

Perez expressed confidence in the new team: “This museum will succeed.”

Felipe, in an email to the Miami Herald, called previous reports and allegations concerning him “baseless.” He applauded the litigation’s dismissal and the installation of a newly ratified board for the museum. He sees The Cuban as “an icon of freedom.”

Marcell Felipe, chairman of The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora’s board of trustees, announced the firing of the museum’s director, Ileana Fuentes, and her daughter, Carisa Perez-Fuentes, who served as head of communications and design.

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.


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