When Zeida Comesañas Sardiñas enrolled her son, Benjamin, at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in 2004, she never expected to become the school’s documentarian.
But as she visited the school and met with staff members over the years, she became fascinated by the school’s 161-year-old history, whose roots began in Havana.
In 2010, Sardiñas started talking with Pedro Suarez, Belen’s president, about documenting the school’s history.
Last week, the school and Sardiñas celebrated the release of her 450-page hardcover book Men for Others: The Belen Jesuit Story. The work contains more than 600 images, features more than 2,000 alumni and traces the school’s origins back to 1565, when Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived to the island with the first Jesuits.
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“I was able to showcase the work of the Jesuits and everyone else involved and how they turned Belen into the institution that it is today,” said Sardiñas, who spent more than three years sifting through more than 500 documents and conducting more than 100 interviews.
“The attitude that the Jesuits take toward life is that they are men for others, and they emphasize leaving the world a better place than they found it.”
Divided into various sections, the book includes the establishment of the school in Havana in 1854 and its transition to Miami in 1961. There is also a chapter dedicated to recording scores and achievements from the various clubs and sports at the school.
Sardiñas says the book will give Belen students a road map of what they’re up against if they are interested in breaking a record, or just learning more about their school’s history.
Suarez sees Sardiñas’ work as a way for students and alumni to bond over their history.
“The book is not only well written, but it’s also a graphic record,” said Suarez, who graduated from Belen in 1958. “The way she brings everything together, the history, the anecdotes, the stories, it’s beautiful.”
Leo Nuñez, 72, director of the nation’s center for the arts at Belen, is already sold on the book.
“I had no idea, even though I had spent time working with her, that the outcome was going to be that good,” said Nuñez, who has been at the school for 40 years and at times helped gather material for Sardiñas. “It’s amazing.”
For those interested, the book can be purchased for $100 from the school’s website, belenjesuit.org/thebelenjesuitstory.