Op-Ed

CasaCuba: Think tank to focus on Cuban heritage

Architectural rendering of CasaCuba at FIU
Architectural rendering of CasaCuba at FIU FIU

Florida International University has always been an epicenter of the Cuban heritage in our community.

Since our opening day in 1972, FIU has welcomed one of the greatest concentrations of students and faculty of Cuban origin in the country, and gained international recognition in the field of Cuban studies.

Today, the Cuban spirit continues to thrive at the university. FIU is proud to offer more than 70 courses related to Cuba across more than 20 disciplines, spanning the humanities and social sciences, the natural sciences, law, architecture and medicine.

Indeed, FIU draws upon the expertise of the largest nucleus of specialists on Cuba of any university in the United States — over 50 faculty members representing most academic disciplines.

Since 1991, moreover, the Cuban Research Institute at FIU has stood at the forefront of interdisciplinary teaching, research and public programming focused on Cuba and its diaspora. Through the generosity of numerous donors, the FIU library and museums have accumulated important Cuban collections ranging from Cuban genealogy materials to memorabilia, art and music.

The FIU Library, for example, is home to the renowned Díaz Ayala Cuban and Latin American Popular Music Collection, the most extensive publicly available collection of Cuban music in the United States.

The Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza Collection also holds thousands of unpublished family genealogies and manuscripts, now available in digital format worldwide. At the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at FIU, the Darlene M. and Jorge M. Pérez Collection features works by many of the best-known masters of Cuban art. All of these contributions have helped position FIU as a major resource on Cuban art, music, history and family genealogy.

In 2015, under the leadership of President Mark B. Rosenberg, FIU envisioned a dedicated space to harness these outstanding resources and all scholarly and cultural activity related to Cuba. Agustín Arellano, Sr. — now Chairman of the CasaCuba Board of Advisors — was the first to join the president in this vision.

Together, they recruited a group of prominent community members to form a board and fuel the creation of a center, right on FIU´s campus, that would preserve the Cuban heritage, celebrate the contributions of Cubans from around the world, and gather top scholars for the study of Cuba. A place where our children, and their children, will learn about the history of our island and our cultural traditions. A hub of resources for the community to advance our education and professions. A meeting place for conferences, exhibitions, and artistic performances. The most consequential, global think tank focused on Cuba and the Cuban people.

That vision is CasaCuba.

We are so energized by the progress we have made already. FIU has granted CasaCuba a choice piece of land for an iconic center, right at the entrance of our main campus, on 107th Avenue. We have also begun our fundraising campaign to finance the design and construction of the facility. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Ray Rodríguez, Vice-Chairman of the CasaCuba Board of Advisors, provided seed funding, and the Arellano Family recently honored us with a gift of 1 million dollars.

Even before our facility is built, CasaCuba will launch programs across the areas of education, research, public discussion, and the arts.

We are also planning a festival to help the community preserve and understand the historical value of personal objects related to the Cuban experience. Through future initiatives, we hope to reach and connect Cuban diasporas from around the world and engage not just Cubans, but everyone with a passion or interest in Cuba. The magnitude of our dream to build CasaCuba can only be matched by our conviction in our capacity to achieve it.

No other university can claim FIU´s expertise in Cuba scholarship, or FIU´s commitment to preserving the Cuban heritage. Yet, to make our dream a reality, we need your help.

The door of CasaCuba is open. Please join us and share your ideas to shape our programming and the scope of our facility. Contribute your talent and time through participation in one of our board committees.Donate through our website, casacuba.fiu.edu, or get in touch with us through casacuba@fiu.edu if you have an interest in making a major, legacy gift towards our fundraising campaign.

I hope that today you will consider becoming a founding member of CasaCuba, and helping FIU build an inspiring and inclusive second home for the Cuban community and beyond.

María Carla Chicuén is the Executive Director of FIU’s CasaCuba.

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