An inside look at Florida International University’s new Cuban cultural center and think tank.
I recently sent out an announcement about my joining the board of advisors at CasaCuba, a Cuban cultural institution, community center and think tank at my alma mater Florida International University. There’s so much more to its story that I thought I’d share all the good news.
The concept and space are the first of its kind in the U.S., and I’m so proud that our city is going forward to make this dream happen. When CasaCuba’s new home is completed in 2024, it will be a global destination for Cuban heritage through multiple galleries for exhibitions and a state-of-the-art venue for diverse programming from performances to dances. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in interactive, digital experiences with the latest technology like listening to Cubans’ oral histories. Scholars, business leaders and policymakers will have access to its Cuban Research Institute, a think tank that promotes valuable discussions on where we’ve been and where we’re going, how do we preserve our heritage while addressing our current status and needs. But you don’t have to be Cuban or Cuban-American to benefit from this incredible resource for the whole community. Everyone is invited to learn about Cuban culture and to join in the fun like sipping a cafecito on the front porch.
The dream started five years ago. If you haven’t already participated in one of its interesting programs, I urge you to check out the calendar listing in the link below. Previous happenings include the Orígenes dinner series partnership with FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Contemporary Cuban Literature Circle collaboration with Books & Books, for which Richard Blanco inaugurated by reading an excerpt from his book “The Prince of Los Cocuyos.”
Upcoming virtual events are conversations with Bacardi USA former president and ceo Eduardo Sardiña for the Chaplin lecture series on November 12; and with Juana Valdes for the Contemporary Cuban art series on November 17. Dr. Rafael Rojas, a professor at the College of Mexico who has written extensively about the intellectual and political history of Latin America, speaks for the Briefings on Cuba lecture series on November 19. Tune in for pianist Enrique Chía’s “An Hour Remembering Our Music from My Living Room,” a virtual concert of classic Cuban dance habaneras, criollas and guajiras, on December 6.
I’d also like to congratulate local architect René González whose firm was awarded the commission to design CasaCuba’s brand-new, multimillion-dollar, 57,000-square-foot building. Having taught architecture at FIU decades ago, he called the honor “the most meaningful commission of my architectural career.” The commission is even more impressive considering the level of talent from his competition including the late Zaha Hadid’s London firm and Arquitectonica International based here. González’s work has been featured in Architectural Digest and The New York Times. Among many attributes, he was selected for previous projects that address cultural and environmental factors.
CasaCuba is fortunate to benefit from the involvement of many local organizations and businesses. It received major grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A portion of Bacardi USA’s recent gift of $5 million to FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management expands CasaCuba’s programming. I’m doing my part, too, in offering a $5,000 challenge grant in honor of Give Miami Day on November 19. Please consider lending your support as well to create a home away from home for all Cubans and the community at large.