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An exhibit based upon the presentation by William E. Brown, Jr. (Richter Library, University of Miami) and Cecilia E. Botero (Smathers Library, University of Florida) delivered at the Library of Congress on May 22, 1997.
I. ROLE AND NATURE OF EXILE LITERATURE
Exile literature attempts to nurture the collective memory and culture of individuals who find themselves displaced from their native land. Exile literature is usually identified as individual phenomenon, and few scholarly investigations pursue the phenomena of popular literature within exile communities. To date, there exists no substantive analysis of the role and impact of newspapers in an exile community. The University of Miami Library, with its extensive collection of Cuban exile newspapers, offers researchers more than two hundred such titles. With the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the U.S. Newspaper Program (USNP), the University of Miami is working with the University of Florida on a multi-year project to catalog and microfilm these rare newspapers.
Keeping alive the collective memory of the homeland is difficult for an individual in exile because of language and distance, as well as other factors. Individual authors living in exile often find themselves facing an unfamiliar language, vastly different traditions, and limited economic opportunity. For the most part, exile authors have to contend with an entirely new culture. Consequently, many exile authors and writers live in great isolation and find it difficult to garner an audience for their work.
Latin American and Caribbean region exiles may face a positive experience, if for no other reason than the similarity in languages among the many nations. This situation allows writers to continue their literary careers. Authors can maintain their culture and memories of homeland while at the same time sharing these sentiments with a local, regional, or world-wide audience.
The Cuban exile experience, now one of almost forty years, offers different experiences for individuals. Factors such as age, family life, levels of education, economic opportunity, and many other factors influence the particular experience of each Cuban exile. The experiences of the first generation of Cuban exiles in the 1960s are significantly than those faced by exiles of subsequent years. The large and growing population of Cuban exiles in greater Miami has created a unique dynamic and greatly affected the possibilities and opportunities for preserving Cuban culture and history.
II. ROLE AND NATURE OF NEWSPAPER LITERATURE
Newspapers are a primary source of research in understanding the culture and ideas of a given community within a historical context. The local press reports the history of the community, day by day, or week by week. Generations have grown up with significant portions of their knowledge derived from, reinforced by, or contradicted in newspapers. Community newspapers, particularly those which reach an interested and involved audience, are in a position to not only reflect the culture of the day, but to ensure its continuity.
III. THE ROLE OF EXILE NEWSPAPERS
Exile newspapers, although not independently discussed in the research on the broader topic of exile literature, have many of the same characteristics and profound role in the life of an exile community. In fact, exile newspapers serve a dual purpose in the community. Like exile literature, they serve to preserve the sense of culture and history of a community. Unlike exile literature that is usually directed at and read by a small elite audience, newspapers have the advantage of reaching a much larger audience. In this aspect they are invaluable in preserving and continuing a sense of identity and community among exiled brethren.
Although Cuban exiles are now firmly assimilated in South Florida life, these exiles have maintained their customs, traditions, and more importantly, their language. Evidence of this are the numerous Spanish-language newspapers, publications, radio stations, and television stations operating in the region.
The Cuban exile newspaper collection at the Universitry of Miami is an excellent example of the role these important materials have in keeping a sense of shared community and culture within the exile population. In addition, this collection serves to preserve and communicate to future generations the history of Cuba and the exile experience. The great variety of exiled newspapers enhances their importance in maintaining the sense of community identity, as well as continuing the ties with the homeland. The newspapers published by professional societies (lawyers, doctors, et. al.) are a prime example of this category. These papers strive to maintain the professional ties that existed in Cuba and facilitate the integration of new exiled professionals.
IV. CUBANS IN MIAMI
The historical ties between Florida and Cuba are longstanding, as are the ties between the University of Miami and Cuba. The 1960 s brought a great influx of Cuban exiles to South Florida as a result of the Cuban Revolution. Initially the exiled Cuban community and their American hosts thought that their stay in the United States would be a limited one. The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion and subsequent developments in Cuba changed this perception. For this reason we see an increase in the number of exiled newspapers published after 1965. The Cuban exiles felt an increased urgency to maintain the sense of community and to keep the struggle alive. There is a flurry of newspaper publishing during the 1970s and 1980s. The 1990s have seen the further integration of the Cubans into US society particularly the younger generation of Cuban-Americans. This ongoing integration process has led to a decrease in the number of newly created exiled newspapers being published.
As the years in exile progress and new generations (whose ties to the homeland are simply a family memory) increase, the historical value of exiled newspapers becomes increasingly significant. Although Cuban exiles have been extremely successful in maintaining their cultural identity, the emerging generation, born and raised in the United States, has successfully integrated into American society. It is for this group and future Cuban-Americans that these exiled newspapers play a meaningful role in the development of a national identity. The Cuban exile newspaper collection allows individuals to examine and understand their history and to preserve their culture.
VI. CARIBBEAN NEWSPAPER IMAGING PROJECT
The University of Florida is currently engaged in a newspaper scanning and indexing project funded by the Mellon Foundation. Two Caribbean newspapers were chosen for the project, one Haitian: Le Nouvelliste; and one Cuban: El Diario de la Marina.
El Diario de la Marina is one of the oldest Cuban newspapers and has continued as an exile newspaper with its publication in Miami. The project focuses on the 14 years between 1947 and 1961, concentrating on the events leading to the Cuban Revolution and immediately afterwards. The project consists of scanning the newspaper images, creating an index with selective abstracts, and producing a CD-ROM product. [2009 Update: Full page images and full text for El Diario de la Marina is available online in the Digital Library of the Caribbean.] The criteria for the abstracts is based on the social, economic, and political events that led to the Cuban Revolution. Librarians established a list of controlled keywords to further enhance searching capabilities. Abstracts are available in Spanish and English. They are created by graduate students with backgrounds in Latin American Studies. The task of producing and translating the abstracts is an extremely labor intensive effort and would not be possible without this graduate student support.