Art & Culture

Cuban Books, Sometimes Smuggled, Emphasize the Heart of Miami Libraries

Miami-Dade residents have been discovering a place where they can stage and enjoy theatre presentations, panel discussions, and seminars, record audio, and video projects and gather with business associates and like-minded hobbyists. A place like our Miami Libraries is what we are referring to.

The foundation of the new Hialeah Gardens Branch Library, of an evolving Miami-Dade Library System with Samsung tablet lending program and a one-stop Internet "shop" for free music downloads and virtual language and computer class registrations, nevertheless remains the basic book.

This year, as writers in declining Cuban Communist conditions, have reportedly been imprisoned and under house arrest, as they were in Fidel Castro’s “within the Revolution” only publishing world, the Miami-Dade Public Library System celebrates 50 years of providing public access to the historical accounts, adventures, mysteries and more that use America's First Amendment right to educate and entertain.

Miami-Dade residents, through local libraries, have easy access to the books and e-books of authors whose manuscripts were confiscated in Fidel Castro’s Cuba and smuggled out of it, that landed their author's prison time and that, written during imprisonment, aided the quest for amnesty.

Cuban Books

Most of the Miami-Dade Library System’s Cuban books are physically concentrated within collections at the Main Library that shares downtown cultural plaza space with the HistoryMiami Museum and at a Hispanic Library nearer the Calle Ocho heart of Little Havana.

The Hispanic Library is designed to preserve the cultural heritage of Cubans and a growing variety of Hispanics who are paving lives for themselves amid the botanicas, salons, and eateries that also line Little Havana roads, alleys, and thoroughfares.

What this public building lacks in the size and sizzle of even the Hialeah Gardens Branch it compensates for, as an education-centered Cuba long has, in substantive literature – albeit bilingual works that embrace Cuba’s persecuted counterrevolutionaries and literary expatriates.

Cuban Collections here and at the Main Library chronicle Cuban history and, as part of that, contain the works of oppressed writers who through them found a way to express themselves and to communicate.

Library patrons can enjoy the acclaimed “Three Trapped Tigers” by Cuban expatriate Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who the Encyclopedia Britannica describes as “the most prominent Cuban writer living in exile” and a 1998 recipient of “the most prestigious. . . award for Spanish-language writers.”

Miami-Dade libraries also carry the works of now-deceased author Reinaldo Arenas, who was reportedly relegated to a labor camp because of his homosexuality and then imprisoned for smuggling his manuscripts to France for publication, and Severo Sarduy, who contributed to pro-Marxist papers and in Paris wrote about the male homosexuality and transvestism.

Cuba’s opposition to counterrevolutionary authors and intellectuals has been attributed to poet Heberto Padilla, who opened Cuba’s first press agency in Moscow.

Readers who are new to Padilla and other Cuban authors are introduced to many of them in “¡Cubanísimo! The Vintage Book of Contemporary Cuban Literature.”

The book includes the poems and diaries of José Martí, the “father of Cuban literature, and the works of internationally recognized Alejo Carpentier, Nicolas Guillen, and Jose Lezama Lima.

Also included in ¡Cubanísimo! is Ana Menendez’s “In Cuba I was a German Shepherd,” in which the Miami transplant explores whether people can or want to exceed their origins.

The Miami-Dade Library System in November launched its golden anniversary year with a "Libraries are Timeless" exhibit, commemorative gold library cards, and plans for activities, exhibits, and author events throughout the county.

The Miami-Dade Public Library System’s “Libraries are Timeless” exhibit takes place at the Main Library, 101 West Flagler Street, at least through January 29.

For more information about the library system’s golden anniversary, visit Miami-Dade Public Library System.

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