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Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project


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The Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project digital collection includes videos, outlines, and selected transcripts of oral history interviews conducted principally with members of the first generations of Cubans to leave the island after the Cuban Revolution.  Launched in 2008, the Project was conceived of and funded by the Amigos of the Cuban Heritage Collection as a community history initiative to capture the testimonies of older Cuban exiles.  It includes interviews with entrepreneurs, civic leaders, former political prisoners, artists and writers, community activists, and others. A number of interviews have been conducted with individuals outside the primary scope of the Project, such as the writer Zoe Valdes or visual artist Laura Luna.  

These oral histories express the views, memories and opinions of their respective interviewees. They do not represent the viewpoints of the University of Miami, its officers, agents, employees, or volunteers. The University of Miami makes no warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the interviews and expressly disclaims any liability therefor.

Copyright to these materials lies with the University of Miami. They may not be reproduced, retransmitted, published, distributed, or broadcast without the permission of the Cuban Heritage Collection. For information about obtaining copies or to request permission to publish any part of an interview, please contact the Cuban Heritage Collection at chc@miami.edu.

Below is information on the interviews that are currently available.



Ernestino Abreu

Interview with Ernestino Abreu, a leader in the underground and guerrilla movements in Cuba who was instrumental in setting up training camps for anti-Castro exile forces in Central America in the early 1960s, and who infiltrated Cuba at age 75.

Lourdes Aguila-Meneses

Interview with Lourdes Aguila-Meneses, whose mother, Lourdes Aguila, founded the Miami-based charity Liga Contra el Cancer.

Horacio Aguirre

Interview with Horacio Aguirre, the Nicaraguan-born publisher, director, and editorialist of Diario las Americas, one of Miami's Spanish-language newspapers.

Elio Alba Buffill

Interview with Elio Alba Buffill, a leading Cuban professor, essayist, and intellectual, who has written extensively on Cuba, Cuban politics, and the literature of José Martí and Enrique José Varona.

Sor Hilda Alonso

Interview with Sor Hilda Alonso, a nun who directed Havana's Colegio La Inmaculada before the revolution and helped bring the religious order Las Hijas de La Caridad to Miami.

Guillermo Álvarez Guedes

Interview with Guillermo Álvarez Guedes, a radio, TV, theater, and movie actor since the 1940s, who has over 20 bestselling recordings of stand-up comedy.

Reverend Martín Añorga

Interview with Reverend Martín N. Añorga, a Presbyterian pastor and educator who opened La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Miami in 1971.

Uva de Aragón

Interview with Uva de Aragón, a Cuban-American writer and academic who is the associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

Carlos Arboleya

Interview with Carlos Arboleya, former Vice Chairman of Barnett Bank of South Florida, co-founder of Flagler Bank, and civic leader recognized for his work with the Boy Scouts.

Antonio Arias

Interview with Antonio Arias, a radio journalist who worked for a number of Miami's Spanish-language radio stations in the early years of exile.

Ricardo Arregui

Interview with Ricardo Arregui, founder of Publicidad Arregui and Arregui International Advertising who has been active in advertising in both Cuba and Miami since the 1950s and 1960s.

Chris and Dennis Baker

Interview with Chris and Dennis Baker, the sons of James Baker, former headmaster of Ruston Academy, which was the largest bilingual American school in Cuba, before it closed in 1961.

José Basulto

Interview with José Basulto, a member of the 2506 Brigade and founder of the Cuban exile organization "Brothers to the Rescue."

Virgilio Beato

Interview with Virgilio Beato, M.D., a political opponent of Castro during the 1959 Revolution who was one of the first exile Cuban doctors to practice medicine in the United States.

Bernardo Benes

Interview with Bernardo Benes, a leader of the Cuban Jewish community who played a pivotal role in the "diálogo" with the Castro regime in the late 1970s.

Carmina Benguría

Interview with Carmina Benguría, a Cuban poet and orator, who attained fame in 1959 for her rendering of the Marcha triunfal del Ejército Rebelde, only to became exiled soon after.

Israel Bichachi

Interview with Israel Bichachi, a Havana-born, Sephardic Jewish activist who joined a group of Cuban Jews to fight for Israel's independence. He was a founder of Temple Moses in Miami Beach and served as president of the Cuban-Sephardic Hebrew Congregation.

Ricardo Bofill

Interview with Ricardo Bofill, a former Cuban political prisoner and one of the founders of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights.

Néstor Cabell

Interview with Néstor Cabell, playwright and producer known for his productions of "teatro bufo cubano" in Miami. Cabell is also a frequent zarzuela performer with Sociedad Pro-Arte Grateli.

Hilario Candela

Interview with Hilario Candela, a Cuban-born architect who was influential in developing Miami's modern look. He designed the Marine Stadium and Miami Dade College.

Andrés Cao

Interview with Andrés Cao, a Cuban physician and former member of the Movimiento de Recuperación Revolucionaria (MRR), a Cuban counterrevolutionary group.

Isidro Cárdenas and Neida Revuelta

Interview with Isidro Cárdenas and Neida Revuelta, a husband-and-wife Cuban folksong duo best known for their Spanish-language radio program with the La Poderosa broadcast studio in Miami.

Amelia del Castillo

Interview with Amelia del Castillo, a Cuban exile writer, poet, essayist, and political activist who participated in various Cuban literary organizations, including the Pen Club and Cuban Writers in Exile.

Siro del Castillo

Interview with Siro del Castillo, a human rights advocate and community leader on immigrant issues who was named Assistant to the Ombudsman for the General at Guantánamo Naval Base during the Cuban Rafter Crisis of 1994.

Willy Chirino

Interview with Willy Chirino, a renowned Cuban-American salsa singer and music producer who won a Grammy in 2006 for Best Salsa/Merenge Album.

Olga Chorens

Interview with Olga Chorens, a Cuban-born singer and half of the entertainment duo "Olga y Tony." Chorens is also a pioneer of TV in Cuba and Puerto Rico and of Spanish TV in the U.S.

Juan M. Clark

Interview with Juan M. Clark, a well-known sociologist and professor emeritus at Miami-Dade College who is a Bay of Pigs veteran and a former political prisoner.

Mercedes Cros Sandoval

Interview with Mercedes Cros Sandoval,an anthropologist, author, and scholar of Afro-Cuban religion.

Maria Elena Cruz Varela

Interview with Maria Elena Cruz Varela, a Cuban poet, activist, and political prisoner who led a group of anti-Castro dissidents called Critico Alternativo and won the Liberal Institute Prize for Freedom.

Manuel J. Cutillas

Interview with Manuel J. Cutillas, former Chairman of the Board and CEO of Bacardi Ltd.

Guarioné Díaz

Interview with Guarioné Díaz, a Pedro Pan child, and a sociologist, writer, and community leader who founded the Cuban American National Council.

Maribel Díaz

Interview with Maribel Díaz, daughter of renowned Cuban pianist and music instructor, Conchita Espinosa. Díaz runs her late mother's school, Conchita Espinosa Academy.

Sonia Díaz and Martha del Pino

Interview with Sonia Díaz and Martha del Pino, two Miami-area ballet dancers and instructors who founded the Coral Gables-based Academia Cubana de Ballet.

Lincoln Díaz-Balart

Interview with Lincoln Díaz-Balart, who served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1987 to 1989, the Florida Senate from 1989 to 1992, and the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2011.

Alfredo Durán

Interview with Alfredo Durán, a Bay of Pigs veteran who chaired the Florida Democratic Party from 1976 to 1980, and was the first Hispanic to serve on the Miami-Dade County School Board. He founded the Cuban Committee for Democracy in 1993.

Josefina Fajardo

Interview with Josefina Fajardo, first wife of Cuban flutist and internationally renowned bandleader José Fajardo, who helped popularize Cuban charanga and pachanga music.

George Feldenkreis

Interview with George Feldenkreis, the CEO and Chairman of Perry Ellis International and a prominent member of the Cuban Jewish community in Miami.

Camilo Fernández

Interview with Camilo Fernández, a Cuban businessman in Elizabeth, New Jersey, who co-founded the Asociación Pro Cuba and served as president of Junta Patriótica Cubana in that area.

Delia Fiallo

Interview with Delia Fiallo, a Cuban-born author of radio dramas and television novelas, who found success both in pre-Revolutionary Cuba and in the United States after her exile.

Andrés Fleitas

Interview with Andrés Fleitas, a living legend of Cuban baseball who had a distinguished career in the pre-revolutionary Cuban professional league and internationally.

Leonor Ferreira, M.D.

Interview with Leonor Ferreira, M.D., a civic leader and one of the first Cuban female physicians actively involved in the University of Havana and political struggles of her time.

Jaime García

Interview with Jaime García, a pianist, chief arranger, and founder of Miami's Conjunto Universal.

Tomás García Fusté

Interview with Tomás García Fusté, a pioneer of Cuban radio in Miami whose long career also includes numerous radio commercials and voiceover work.

José Antonio Garrido

Interview with José Antonio Garrido, a Cuban-born businessman who made his mark in the coffee industry in Cuba and the United States. He is the Chairman of the Garrido Group, a corporate organization that specializes in distributing consumer goods worldwide. He also founded the Garrido Foundation, a charitable organization that is active in many Caribbean countries, including the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Miguel Germain

Interview with Miguel Germain, a Cuban activist of Haitian descent who served as president of Municipios de Cuba en el Exilio in the early 1970s.

Mario P. Goderich

Interview with Mario P. Goderich, the first Cuban-American appointed and later elected as a judge in the Third and Eleventh Judicial Circuit Courts of Florida.

José Gómez Gómez

Interview with José Gómez Gómez, a Galician immigrant and a leader of the Spanish community in pre-revolutionary Cuba who helped found the Casa de Santa Marta de Ortigueira social club in Miami.

Fidel González

Interview with Fidel González, a defense attorney for many death penalty candidates before Cuba's revolutionary courts, who soon became a target of the dictatorship himself.

María Grau de Santeiro

Interview with María Grau de Santeiro, granddaughter of Gerardo Machado, the fifth president of Cuba from 1925 to 1933.

Carlos Gutiérrez

Interview with Carlos Gutiérrez, who served as CEO of Kellogg Company from 1999-2004, and as the US Secretary of Commerce from 2005-2009.

Francisco "Pepe" J. Hernández

Interview with Francisco "Pepe" J. Hernandez, a Cuban exile leader who served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and who co-founded the Cuban American National Federation.

Enrique Huertas, M.D.

Interview with Enrique Huertas, M.D., the president of Colegio Médico Cubano Libre (Free Cuban Medical College) and a leader in the Cuban exile community.

Sylvia G. Iriondo

Interview with Sylvia G. Iriondo, founder and President of Mothers Against Repression (MAR), an organization that fights for the democratization of Cuba, who is also an internationally recognized human rights activist.

Antonio Jorge

Interview with Antonio Jorge, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Florida International University, who worked extensively on the economic reconstruction of Cuba.

José Le Matt

Interview with José Le Matt, an opera and lyric singer and musical director who performed with the Orquesta Filarmónica de La Habana, and directed the Teatro de la Opera de La Habana in Cuba.

Benjamin León, Jr.

Interview with Benjamin León, Jr., founder and CEO of Leon Medical Centers (LMC). With his father, he also ran Miami's first pre-paid medical center, Clínica Asociación Cubana.

Aida Levitan

Interview with Aida Levitan, a Cuban-American businesswoman who served as CEO and vice-Chairperson of Bromley Communications and who heads her own marketing company, The Levitan Group, Inc.

Eloísa Lezama Lima

Interview with Eloísa Lezama Lima, a professor of literature at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico and sister of Cuba's great poet José Lezama Lima.

Camilo López, Jr.

Interview with Camilo López, Jr., son of the founder of Cuba's Camilo Muebles (Camilo Furniture) who re-launched the family business in exile in Miami with his brothers.

Tony López

Interview with Tony López, a sculptor known for his caricature statuettes of popular social and political figures who is responsible for the Torch of Friendship in Miami.

Laura Luna

Interview with Laura Luna, a Cuban post-modernist visual artist who established a studio in Miami in 1994, and is part of the "80s Golden Generation."

Gustavo Machado

Interview with Gustavo Machado, a Miami businessman and philanthropist who founded one of the largest Hispanic-owned car dealerships in the United States.

Jorge Mas Santos

Interview with Jorge Mas Santos, the American-born son of exile leader Jorge Mas Canosa. Santos is the CEO of MasTec and the president of the Cuban American National Foundation.

Huber Matos

Interview with Huber Matos, a "comandante" of Castro's guerrilla and first Commander-in-Chief of Camaguey province, who was jailed for 20 years for denouncing Castro's communist leanings in October 1959.

Humberto Medrano

Interview with Humberto Medrano, a journalist and former sub-director of Cuba's Prensa Libre who served as the Director of Radio and TV Martí in exile.

Demetrio Menéndez

Interview with Demetrio Menéndez, a set designer, stage manager, entertainment entrepreneur, musician, and all-around behind-the-scenes man of Cuban performing arts who helped found Añorada Cuba and Sociedad Pro-Arte Grateli.

Lidia Mesa-Martí Betancourt Sharpe

Interview with Lidia Mesa-Martí Betancourt Sharpe, the widow of Juan René Betancourt, who was president of the Federation of Cuban Societies of Color. Sharpe owns the Little Havana Restaurant on Cornelia Street in Manhattan.

Albertina O´Farrill

Interview with Albertina O´Farrill, a former political prisoner who served time with Polita Grau and who was involved in Operation Pedro Pan.

Agustín País

Interview with Agustín País, brother of Frank País, who is regarded by many as the one revolutionary leader who could rival Fidel Castro in the struggle against Batista.

Luis de la Paz

Interview with Luis de la Paz, a Cuban-born writer who came to Miami on the Mariel Boatlift. He has written numerous plays and dramatic works, as well as a column for Diario Las Américas.

Héctor Palacios Ruiz

Interview with Héctor Palacios Ruiz, a Cuban human rights advocate who helped found the Varela Project, and one of 75 opposition leaders jailed in March 2003.

Eduardo Palmer

Interview with Eduardo Palmer, a Cuban-born lawyer and film producer whose work includes the documentary, Havana: a Portrait of Yesteryear.

Enrique Patterson

Interview with Enrique Patterson, a former professor at the University of Havana, a Miami journalist, and an expert on race relations in Cuba.

Luis Pedrón

Interview with Luis Pedrón, an exiled Cuban guerilla fighter who participated in the 26th of July Movement with Frank País.

Sergio Perodín

Interview with Sergio Perodín, a survivor of the Trece de Marzo sinking in Havana harbor in 1994, who was held as a political prisoner in Cuba before his release to the United States.

Ernesto Pichardo

Interview with Ernesto Pichardo, co-founder of the Church of Lukumí Babalú Aye in Hialeah, Florida, and Santeria priest and advocate.

Alicio Piña

Interview with Alicio Piña, the first Mariel refugee to receive a law degree from the University of Miami, who served as chief deputy of Miami-Dade County Courts and is now a partner in Florida Value Partners, a real estate investment firm.

Leonor Portela

Interview with Leonor Portela, a Cuban exile widowed in Bay of Pigs invasion who sold her Miami home and moved to Guatemala, where she founded the Misioneros del Camino orphanage and charity in the 1980s.

Jorge L. Quadreny

Interview with Jorge L. Quadreny, a Cuban engineer who participated in clandestine cells of the Movimiento de Recuperación Revolucionaria (MRR) in Cuba and was a leader of the Cuban exile community in Puerto Rico.

Nicolás Quintana

Interview with Nicolás Quintana, a Cuban modernist architect and urbanist who has contributed to the architecture of Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Miami in exile.

Raphael "Felo" Ramírez

Interview with Raphael "Felo" Ramírez, the official Spanish-language radio broadcaster for the Florida Marlins, who was a pioneer of baseball and boxing broadcasting in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Latin America.

José Ignacio Rasco

Interview with José Ignacio Rasco, a lawyer, university professor, and former leader of the Movimiento Democrático Cristiano and other Cuban anti-communist organizations.

Agapito Rivera

Interview with Agapito Rivera, known as "El Guajiro Rivera," a legendary leader of anti-Castro guerilla forces in the 1960s who served 25 years as a political prisoner.

Antonio Rivero

Interview with Antonio Rivero, a member of the Rivero family that made a name for itself in the funerary and florist industry both in Cuba and Miami.

José Ignacio Rivero

Interview with José Ignacio Rivero, a journalist and former director of Cuba's Diario de la Marina newspaper.

Armando Roblán

Interview with Armando Roblán, a Miami-based actor, writer, and satirist best known for his impersonations of Fidel Castro on television, stage, and film.

Ana Lázara Rodríguez

Interview with Ana Lázara Rodríguez, a doctor and political prisoner who was imprisoned for nineteen years in Cuba and wrote the memoir, Diary of a Survivor.

Félix Ismael Rodríguez

Interview with Félix Ismael Rodríguez, a participant in the Bay of Pigs invasion and former Central Intelligence Agency operative best known for leading the interrogation and execution of Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Bolivia in 1967.

Roberto Rodríguez de Aragón

Interview with Roberto Rodríguez de Aragón, a member of the House of Representatives of Cuba during Batista's presidency who was among the first Cubans exiled in Miami in 1959.

Monsignor Agustín Román

Interview with Monsignor Agustín Román, the first Cuban-born Catholic bishop in the US since the colonial era who helped negotiate a resolution in the 1987 prison riots involving Mariel detainees.

Salvador Romaní

Interview with Salvador Romaní, a journalist and political leader of the Cuban exile community in Venezuela for over 35 years who is now a twice-exiled Cuban in Miami.

Enrique Ros

Interview with Enrique Ros, a Bay of Pigs veteran and father of U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Pili de la Rosa

Interview with Pili de la Rosa, co-founder and director of Sociedad Pro-Arte Grateli, Miami's oldest Hispanic performing arts company.

Juan Manuel Salvat

Interview with Juan Manuel Salvat, a Cuban activist and dissident who co-founded the anti-Castro organization Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE), and who currently directs the publishing house Ediciones Universales in Miami.

Antonio Santiago

Interview with Antonio Santiago, a renowned labor leader, a representative of "Partido Social Demócrata Cubano" an advocate of democratic socialism across the world.

Irma Santos de Mas Canosa

Interview with Irma Santos de Mas Canosa, widow of Jorge Mas Canosa, a Cuban activist, intellectual, and community leader who co-founded the Cuban American National Foundation.

Osvaldo Soto

Interview with Osvaldo Soto, a Cuban exile lawyer, Bay of Pigs veteran, and founder of the Spanish-American League Against Discrimination (SALAD).

Diego R. Suárez

Interview with Diego R. Suárez, a Cuban businessman and civic leader who worked in the sugarcane and manufacturing industries in Miami, and was integral to the founding of the Cuban American National Foundation.

Rodrigo Suárez Báster

Interview with Rodrigo Suárez Báster, a member of the House of Representatives of Cuba before the Revolution who has been politically active in the Hialeah community since his exile.

Francisco "Silito" Tabernilla Palmero

Interview with Francisco "Silito" Tabernilla Palmero, a general in the Cuban Armed Forces during the Batista regime and son of the highest ranking military chief at that time.

Asela Torres

Interview with Asela Torres, a photographer who has spent almost 40 years documenting Cuban and Hispanic performing arts in South Florida.

Zoé Valdés

Interview with Zoé Valdés, an award winning writer and political activist who represented Cuba on an international UNESCO mission in Paris, and who later moved there as an exile.

Jorge Valls

Interview with Jorge Valls, a philosopher, mystic, poet, and former "plantado" political prisoner.

Eva Vázquez

Interview with Eva Vázquez, an actress in radio, theater and TV in Cuba in the 1940s and 1950s. Her son, Carlos Alberto Badías was a famous romantic lead who became a political prisoner under Castro.