Research Guides

Afro-Cuban Collections

Introduction to the Guide
In this guide, you will encounter materials to assist in the research of the University of Miami Libraries' Afro-Cuban Collections as well as additional external resources.

A national 2012 census showed that out of over 11 million Cubans currently living on the island, around 1 million Cubans described themselves as Black (9.3% of the population) and 3 million considered themselves to be "mulatto" or "mestizo" (mixed-race). Outside of Cuba, Afro-Cuban refers to Cubans with African ancestry, a concept related but distinct from Afrocubanism, or Afro-Cuban as a socio-historical cultural movement distinguished by unique forms of religious practice such as Santería, Palo Monte, and the fraternal sect of Abakuá; music such as son, conga, mambo, chachachá, rumba, guaguancó, comparsa, and tumba francesa; and other art forms like theater, dance, and the visual arts. Note that, in Cuba, Black Cubans are not identified by the term Afro-Cuban. Studies of Afro-Cuban culture and identity also address the aftermath of the slave trade and colonization, as well as racism and its consequences in contemporary Cuban society and politics.

The resources included in this guide range from archival collections such as the Lydia Cabrera papers, oral histories, lectures, books, articles, databases, audiovisual materials, and online resources.

Photo and description by K. Villa, Havana, Cuba, Jan. 2016:

This image shows the “Rincon de La Descolonización” (Corner of De-Colonization) that is found outside of the Presidential Palace, on the corner of Morro and Colon, behind the Granma Memorial. It memorializes the death of five of the Abakua Brotherhood who attempted to save the eight medical students who were executed by the Spanish military in November 1871. Each year since 2006, on November 27, a parade is held, beginning at this corner, to celebrate the memory of the martyrs.


Untitled (Bag with Afro-Cuban Motifs), Sergio Guerra (Cuba), 1981. Lowe Art Museum. 
Subject Specialist

Martin Tsang

  • CHC Librarian, Curator of Latin American Collections
  • (305) 284-4900

Amanda Moreno

Katherine Villa

  • Peer Research Consultant / UGrow Fellow 2020-21
  • (305) x
Archival Collections
Lydia Cabrera papers Cabrera traveled throughout Cuba conducting interviews, collecting oral histories, recording stories and music, documenting rituals and practices, and cataloging “Africanisms” of Cuban Spanish. The result was El Monte (translated as The Forest or The Wilderness), published in 1954, a formative work on Afro Cuban religions and liturgy. Post-exile, in 1970, she published Otán Iyebiyé, Las Piedras Preciosas and in 1971 the third volume of “cuentos negros” Ayapá: Cuentos de Jicotea, followed by other publications. She published one of her most well-known works, Anaforuana, about the secret Abakuá society, in 1975. During her long and prolific career, Cabrera produced what is considered the most complete and important body of research on Afro Caribbean religions and folklore. She was one of the first to recognize the richness of African culture and its vital contributions to Cuban identity. Her work remains a leading authority of Afro Cuban culture. Selected items have been digitized and can be viewed here.

Jorge Castellanos papers Jorge Castellanos was an author and professor born in 1915 in Guantánamo, Cuba. Exiled to the United States by way of Jamaica in 1961, Castellanos was working as a history professor at Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan, by 1962. After retirement, he continued to publish books on Cuban culture, most notably his series Cultura Afrocubana, co-authored with his daughter Isabel Castellanos, from 1988 to 1994.

Celia Cruz collection Celia Cruz (1925-2003) migrated to the U.S. in 1960 after having had an important career in Cuba with the group La Sonora Matancera. She never returned to Cuba and died in New York in July 2003. Celia was considered "the Queen of Latin Music" and dominated the Latin music scene for almost fifty years. Along with photographs and documents, the collection also contains important music scores of the instrumental parts for the arrangements of some of Cruz's major hits and an array of items like a shoe, cassette tapes, a fan, CDs and a DVD.

Alberto del Pozo's Orichas Collection This collection consists of the series of drawings by Cuban-born artist Alberto del Pozo (1946-1992) of the deities of Afro-Cuban Santería. There are approximately 25 orichas in the Santería pantheon, 17 of which were depicted by del Pozo in this series. Santería refers to the Afro-Cuban practice of Lucumí or Regla de Ocha, a religious system originating with the African Yoruba people.

Oral Histories - Digital Collections (
For example, Interview with Padrica Mendez. 2009. (Patron must sign up for StoryCorps account or be on campus to access some of the oral history recordings) 

Cuban Theater Digital Archive The CTDA is a resource for research, teaching, and learning in Cuban theater and performance and includes materials digitized and filmed in Cuba and outside the island as well as resources and information related to Cuban theater, with a special focus on theater produced by Cuban communities in the United States. See for example: De cómo Santiago Apóstol puso los pies en la tierraCefi y la muerte

Tumba francesa group in Havana, Cuba
"Tumba francesa (Habana en casa de Mimi Bacardí)"; Tumba Francesa is a traditional cultural dance and style of that emerged in the 18th century in Oriente, Cuba." Lydia Cabrera papers. 
Vertical Files

Collection CHC0231 - Vertical Files: Cuban Diaspora 

  • Item id365075 - Afro-Cubans-Miami
  • Item id365076 - Afro-Cubans-Music
  • Item id365077 - Afro-Cubans-Religions
  • Item id365078 - Afro-Cubans-Santería
  • Item id365805 - Culture, Afro-Cuban

Electronic Books
Aja, Alan A. Miami's Forgotten Cubans. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2016.

Alejandro De La Fuente. A Nation for All. University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

Clealand, Danielle. The Power of Race in Cuba. New York: Oxford UP, 2017. Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities.

Devyn Spence Benson. Antiracism in Cuba: The Unfinished Revolution. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 2016. Envisioning Cuba.

La Rosa Corzo, Gabino. Runaway Slave Settlements in Cuba: Resistance and Repression. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. 

Matibag, Eugenio. Afro-Cuban Religious Experience: Cultural Reflections in Narrative. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996. 

Moore, Robin D., and NetLibrary, Inc. Nationalizing Blackness: Afrocubanismo and Artistic Revolution in Havana, 1920-1940. Pittsburgh, Pa.: U of Pittsburgh, 1997. Pitt Latin American Ser.

Olupona, Jacob K., Rowland Abiodun. Ifá Divination, Knowledge, Power, and Performance. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2016.

Perry, Marc D. Negro Soy Yo: Hip Hop and Raced Citizenship in Neoliberal Cuba. Durham: Duke UP, 2016.
Selection of Titles

Print Books

Díaz, María Elena. The Virgin, the King, and the Royal Slaves of El Cobre: Negotiating Freedom in Colonial Cuba, 1670-1780. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 2000.

Gutiérrez, Mariela. An Ethnological Interpretation of the Afro-Cuban World of Lydia Cabrera (1900-1991). Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 2008.

Howard, Philip A. Changing History: Afro-Cuban Cabildos and Societies of Color in the Nineteenth Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998. 

Jiménez Román, Miriam, and Juan Flores. The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States. Durham [N.C.]: Duke UP, 2010.

Lachatanere, R. El sistema religioso de los afrocubanos. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1992. 

López Valdés, Rafael L. Africanos de Cuba. San Juan de Puerto Rico: Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe con la colaboración del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 2002. 

Montejo Arrechea, Carmen Victoria. Sociedades negras en Cuba, 1878-1960. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales: Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Cultura Cubana Juan Marinello, 2004.  

Naranjo Orovio, Consuelo. Racismo e inmigración en Cuba en el siglo XIX. Madrid, Doce Calles: Fundación de Investigaciones Marxistas:, 1996. 

Ortiz, Fernando. Cuban Counterpoint, Tobacco and Sugar. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. 

Ortiz, Fernando. Los Bailes Y El Teatro De Los Negros En El Folklore De Cuba. Madrid, Spain: Editorial Música Mundana Maqueda, 1998.

Palmié, Stephan. The Cooking of History: How Not to Study Afro-Cuban Religion. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2013.

Sawyer, Mark Q. Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 

Sosa, Enrique. Los Ñáñigos: Ensayo. Ciudad De La Habana, Cuba: Casa De Las Américas, 1982.

Valdeís, Yrmino. Ceremonias fúnebres de la santería Afrocubana: Ituto y honras de Egún. ed. Antiguo San Juan, Puerto Rico: Sociedad de Autores Libres, 1991.

UML Access Historical and Research Databases

Caribbean Newspapers, 1718-1876

Latin American Newspapers Series 1 & Series 2, 19th and 20th-century newspapers.

Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: Digital memorial documenting the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Slavery & Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive
Consists of more than five million cross-searchable pages sourced from books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, legal documents, court records, monographs, manuscripts, and maps from many different countries covering the history of the slave trade. 

World Scholar: Latin America And The Caribbean A collection of primary source documents about Latin America and the Caribbean; academic journals and news feeds covering the region; reference articles and commentary; maps and statistics; audio and video; etc.

Feminism in Cuba: Nineteenth through Twentieth Century Archival Documents This collection, compiled by Dr. K. Lynn Stoner, includes Cuban sources that span the period from Cuban independence to the end of the Batista regime. The collection sheds light on Cuban feminism, women in politics, literature by Cuban women, and the legal status of Cuban women. The collection includes archives of Minerva (see below) is a journal dedicated to women of color in Cuba


Changó from the Alberto del Pozo Orichas Collection 
Online Resources

AfroCubaWeb: the African cultures in Cuba - Abakwa - Congo - Dahomey - Haiti - Yoruba - West Indies AfroCuba Web is an extensive online resource of news articles, essays, biographies, statistics, art, music, culture, politics, religion, links to websites. and more with the objective of educating about and preserving Afro-Cuban culture. 

At the Crossroads: Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami Digital exhibition from HistoryMiami Museum. 

Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC) is one of the largest guides for Latin American content on the Internet features thousands of links. See: African Diaspora in Latin America

Colecciones - Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba José Martí ( A link to the Jose Marti National Library of Cuba's collection's page, which includes a collection dedicated to Wifredo Lam as well as Folklore and Ethnology, and others.  

Digitales – Afrocubanas Afrocubanas Magazine's list of links to blogs and websites dedicated to Afro-Cuban history and culture. 

CANDELA Book Club  Instagram page of a Miami-based Afro-Cuban advocacy group and book club, includes announcements about events. 

Historia Negra de Cuba  Instagram page of blogger and Afro-Cuban advocate Marley Pulido, includes archive of articles and other links. 

Let’s Mambo!: Machito and His Afro-Cubans Library of Congress archival collection of Latin jazz musician and bandleader Machito, formally known as Francisco "Frank" Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, (circa 1908-1984), active on the New York City jazz scene with his innovative band the Afro-Cubans from 1940 to the early 1980s, forming an influential legacy that includes salsa music and Afro-Cuban jazz. The collection contains approximately 150 manuscripts and published compositions and arrangements performed by the ensemble, as well as clippings, papers, a concert poster, and maracas.
 The Harlem in Havana Project A multimedia documentary project honoring one of America's most successful traveling shows that influenced Black and Latin entertainment in ways that still resonate with wonder today.
Journals and Articles
Del Caribe (Revista publicada en Santiago de Cuba)

Knight, Franklin W. "Migration and Culture: A Case Study of Cuba, 1750–1900." The Journal of the Historical Society (Boston, Mass.) 8.4 (2008): 545-66.
Oshun, Gran Palenque, Havana, 2018
Music & Audio
Antología De La Musica Afrocubana = [Anthology of Afro-Cuban Music]. Habana, Cuba: EGREM, 2006.

Rodríguez, Arsenio, and Justi Barreto. Arsenio Rodriguez Primitivo: Sonido, 1999.

Cruz, Celia, Merceditas Valdés, Bienvenido León, Eugenio De La Rosa, Coro Yoruba, Performer, and Tambores Batá De Jésus Pérez, Performer. Santero: Afro-Cuban Cult Music. Cuba]: Panart Records, 1960. 

Carbonell, Luis. Estampas De Luis Carbonell. Miami, Fla.: Kubaney, 1988.

Celia Cruz, Cuban singer. Cuban Photograph Collection. 

Catteau, Manuel, Queyrat, Jean, and Mann, Sharon. The Tumba Francesa. Paris, France: ZED, 2006. Living Cultures.

Sara Gomez: An Afro-Cuban Filmmaker. ArtMattan Productions, 2005.

Gómez Yera, Sara, and Tomás González Pérez. De Cierta Manera. La Habana, Cuba: Ediciones ICAIC, 2018. Colección Guión Cubano; 03.

P Rez Betancourt, Lvaro. Voices of the Orishas. Berkeley, Calif: Berkeley Media, 1994. Academic Video Online: Premium.




CHC Lectures and Presentations
Journey to the Origins: Lydia Cabrera’s Laguna Sagrada: A presentation by Madeline Cámara

Orisha Aesthetics: A presentation by Michelle González Maldonado

Worldview, the Orichas, and Santería: A presentation by Mercedes Cros Sandoval

The Contradictions of Afrocubanismo Nationalism by Robin Moore

Afro-Cuban Religions: Race, Gender, and Politics. "Female Archetypes and Stereotypes of Santeria," Elaine Penagos and "Criminalization of Afro-Cuban Religions: Urban versus Rural," Thomas Terrill
'Cane Talks: Masking the Virgin Mary: La Caridad del Cobre and Religion’s Resiliency in Cuba

Luis Carbonell, actor Cubano. Cuban Photograph Collection. 

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