Discovering Cuban Heritage

By Dulce Ros

The St. Augustine Historical Research Library is home to all the documents and books regarding St. John’s County and city history. Located on Aviles street, its Spanish colonial building blends right in with the rest of the buildings. Although camouflaged, it is open to the public and anyone who wishes to conduct research through genealogical records, maps photographs, printed books, and of course, newspapers.

At first, my internship consisted of deciphering and translating 16th and 17th century letters that focused on imports and exports to Cuba. However, because of the illegibility of the letters, I decided it was a task better left for professionals and calligraphy experts. Determined to continue working with a Cuban source as an homage to my heritage, my coordinators informed me of  an unfinished project concerning the Habana newspaper.  From then on, my main task for the internship was to index the Diario de La Habana newspaper from the years 1817-1818 and the Diario Habana from 1820, from its extensive microfilm collection. This meant organizing them by date and providing a quick summary of each edition.

The newspaper itself was fascinating, and being Cuban myself, I was able to work with a crucial piece of this nation’s history. The most intriguing aspects were the different topics about which literate people were educated, including science, astronomy, and education. Besides the typical announcements from the Spanish crown and governor of the city, the newspaper consistently covered world affairs from Europe, New Spain, and South America, including announcements regarding every day goods, lottery winners, price changes, immigration, emigration, and even daily theater acts. There were times however, when I had to research certain idioms because they had changed meaning over the years. Overall, the newspaper is a crucial source of information for daily life in Habana and by indexing, future generations can easily find their topics of interest.

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