Museum as battleground: Exile and contested cultural representation in Miami’s Cuban Museum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter presents a critical history of Miami’s Cuban Museum from its inception in 1973 to its folding in 1996. Located in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, the Cuban Museum was founded to conserve and promote Cuban culture in the new space of exile, and its underlying vision was to rescue Cuban culture from the throes of Castro’s communism. In spring 1988, a faction of the board narrowly voted in favor of including artworks by artists living in Cuba in a fundraising auction. The ensuing divisions within the board and the increasingly volatile controversy set in motion a debate not just about the limits of freedom of speech but also about the very definition of freedom, which for the exile community became contingent upon where cultural expression was exercised. The museum became a battleground for competing ideologies over cultural and political representation, articulations of cultural legitimacy, and claims of patrimony for Miami’s Cuban exile community. The merging of ideology and culture rendered any chances of representational or political pluralism impossible and thus undermined the museum’s potential civic function. The exile community’s staunch anti-communist position, which included aspirations for the toppling of the Castro regime, foregrounded the broader rhetoric of the Cold War at a national level in the United States during the Reagan years. The debate was dominated by expressions of an anti-Castro dogma; at the same time, challenges to that dogma emerged, and the museum persisted, beyond and despite the battle of ideas that caused its demise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArt Museums of Latin America
Subtitle of host publicationStructuring Representation
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781351777919
ISBN (Print)9781138712591
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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