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Celebrating History: New Exhibit Focuses on Latin Culture in Miami

The Patron Saint of Cuba, the Cuban Exodus, and the role of Hispanics in South Florida are showcased in three exhibits at St. Thomas University. The exhibits, complimented by film and programming about Latino history and culture, are possible thanks to a competitive Latino Americans: 500 Years of History grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. As one of the grant recipients selected from across the country, St. Thomas opened three exhibits at the Archbishop John C. Favalora Archive and Museum at the St. Thomas University Library – home of the Archdiocese of Miami’s museum and archive. The grand opening events on September 8th for the three unique exhibits included a Mass followed by a reception and guided tours.

“St. Thomas University’s history is inextricably linked to Cuba and the Hispanic community,” said University President Rev. Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale. “From our original campus in Havana, to our own exile to Miami, and in serving a student body that is representative of South Florida, these exhibits and these programs allow us to highlight – from a unique perspective – the rich cultural legacy of Hispanics in our community.”

The three exhibits include:

  • La Virgen de la Caridad: Images from the Diaspora: This exhibit explores the religious practices and traditions surrounding the devotion to La Virgen de la Caridad in Miami. La Virgen de la Caridad’s Miami story began in 1961 when a replica of the original image venerated in El Cobre, Cuba was smuggled out of Havana and taken to a baseball stadium in Miami on her feast day, September 8th, to be reunited with the Cuban Diaspora.  Drawing from the photographic archives of the Archdiocese of Miami, and The Voice, and La Voz Catolica newspapers, this exhibit traces her Miami story from 1961 through the building of the La Ermita de la Caridad del Cobre, 1967-1971, and into the 1990s.
  • Latino Americans: Cuban Experiences in Miami: The 1959 Revolution and the subsequent establishment of a socialist regime in Cuba prompted the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Cubans searching for freedom. Our exhibit chronicles the first decade of Cubans seeking political asylum, the establishment of the Cuban Refugee Assistance Program, the Camarioca boatlift, the Freedom Flights, and the establishment of a community that made Miami its new home and changed its face forever.
  • Miami: A Multicultural Hispanic Community: The Metropolitan region contains many different Hispanic/ Latino ethnic and racial groups, and each of these communities have their own unique experience in Miami. Drawing from the photographic archives of the Archdiocese of Miami, and The Voice, and La Voz Catolica newspapers, this exhibit illustrates some of cultural traditions, religious practices, and daily life experiences of some of these important pillars of the multicultural Hispanic Community that built Miami into the City it is today.

The exhibits will be on display from September 8, 2015 – May 15, 2016 and complemented throughout that period with programming. A six-part, award-winning and NEH-supported documentary film “Latino Americans,” which chronicles the history of Latinos in the United States from the 16th century to present day, also funded by the grant, will be combined with programs involving esteemed St. Thomas University faculty. St. Thomas University Gus Machado School of Business Professor, Dr. Jose Rocha, will highlight the unique aspects of Miami Hispanic/Latino Businesses and explore what the South Florida Business community has done to attract and develop our current Hispanic/Latino business leaders, and what more it can do to build the next generation of great Hispanic/Latino business leaders. Dr. Ondina Cortes, a faculty member in the St. Thomas University School of Theology and Ministry, will examine the experience of Cubans within the wider lens of Hispanic/Latino Americans, comparing the dreams and disappointments of Latino immigrants over time, offering solutions for Latino’s love-hate relationship with the United States, and highlighting what Latinos have contributed in the forging of this nation and what they have gained and lost in in the process. To build on the St. Thomas University motto, “Developing Leaders for Life,” programming will also examine the current generation of Hispanic/Latino leadership in Miami-Dade and how to develop the next generation of great Hispanic/Latino leaders of our nation. 

For a schedule of events, visit St. Thomas University Library’s Facebook Page or contact

The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History grantees represent 42 states and the District of Columbia, and include 78 public libraries, 68 college/university libraries and organizations, 19 community college libraries, 10 state humanities councils, 12 museums and a range of other nonprofit organizations. View a full list of the recipients. Latino Americans: 500 Years of History is part of an NEH initiative. To learn more about the Latino Americans documentary series, visit

Marlen Lebish

Author Marlen Lebish

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