Nostalgia for Cuba: an exhibition, an installation, school visits, a fair, vintage automobiles, a film-noir thriller, and more…

All this month, I have had Cuba ever on my mind. Immediately on the heels of the opening of Promising Paradise: Cuban Allure, American Seduction in the seventh floor gallery of The Wolfsonian–FIU museum, I began working with our intern Barbara Bollini Roca. Barbara put together a complementary sports-themed exhibit from the gift of Vicki Gold Levi to be installed in the library foyer of our rare book and special collections library.


Boxeo y Béisbol: The Cuba-U.S. Sports Exchange examines how the experiences of such legendary athletes as Jack Johnson and Kid Gavilán, Jackie Robinson and Minnie Miñoso were shaped both by the close ties between the two nations, but also by evolving race relations in the United States.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

After a couple of rounds of reviewing and editing the interpretive and descriptive text, the art handlers arrived and began the installation, completed just in time to accommodate a succession of tours by more than 170 Miami-Dade high school students who came in to see the museum’s exhibitions.




CubaNostalgia held its eighteenth annual show this past May 20th through May 22nd, and the museum put up a booth to let the fair-goers know about our own exhibition.



Visitors to the Fair Expo Center like my wife and I had an opportunity to listen and dance to contemporary and nostalgic Cuban music, enjoy Cuban food and drinks, pose in front of vintage 1950s automobiles and a replica of the seawall overlooking Havana’s El Morro Castle, and peruse or buy Cuban art, postcards, photographs and other memorabilia on display.


I would have loved, for example, to have been able to include this Carteles magazine cover on display at Marco Ansia’s Havana Collectibles Booth at CubaNostalgia in our Boxeo y Béisbol installation!


My wife, like many other of the fair-goers, took time also to pose in front of the antique 1950s automobiles on view in the CubaNostalgia exposition.


I couldn’t help but reflect on the irony of the association of Cuba with these gorgeous and pristine vintage relics, with their fancy bumpers and fins. Most of their actual counterparts in Cuba, however, are not showroom beauties but working cars and cabs, kept running after more than fifty years of embargo by Cuban mechanical ingenuity and a creative splicing of spare parts for cars built in former-Soviet bloc countries. But if today we imagine a Cuban car culture as forever stuck in the fifties, these cars are also historical evidence of how the very newest and latest models of American automobiles once rolled off the Detroit assembly lines—(now mostly shutdown or relocated across the border in Mexico)—and were loaded into ferries and immediately sold in the “adjacent territory” of the island nation of Cuba.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

Cubans have always loved American-made cars, and the visitor to the Promising Paradise exhibit can see evidence of this in a photograph in which the prideful owner of a brand new 1952 Kaiser sedan parked and posed for the camera in front of the landmark Hotel Nacional.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

But there are many more photographs, postcards, advertisements, and other materials from Vicki Gold Levi’s gift in the collection that couldn’t be included in the show for want of space, but which also support this conceit.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection







The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

In conjunction with the Promising Paradise exhibition, The Wolfsonian partnered with the Miami Beach Cinematheque to offer a free tour of the show, followed by a Cuba-themed film shown just across the street in the old City Hall building.

This last Sunday night I had the pleasure of introducing Joseph Lewis’ A Lady Without Passport, a film-noir thriller released in 1950 about a human smuggling ring operating in Havana, Cuba. The film stars Hedy Lamarr as a concentration camp survivor desperate to enter the United States by any means, and John Hodiak as an INS investigator torn between duty and love.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

The next free tour and film screening in the Havana Nights series will take place Sunday, June 19th, at 5:00 and 6:00 pm respectively. Our Man In Havana stars Alec Guinness as a vacuum cleaner salesman turned spy in an espionage thriller shot in Cuba just after the revolution in 1959, but before relations had soured between the United States and Castro’s government. The lobby card below is a colorized film still from the movie shot inside Tropicana night club’s “Crystal Arches”.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Stay tuned for further Cuba-themed Wolfsonian museum events, like book club readings and talks about the Havana Habit, a New Tropicana event, dominoes with abuelos, and more!

~ by "The Chief" on May 31, 2016.

One Response to “Nostalgia for Cuba: an exhibition, an installation, school visits, a fair, vintage automobiles, a film-noir thriller, and more…”

  1. Not a stone unturned !! Bravissimo!! Micky

    EeeeSent from my iPad


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