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Cuba: Hispanic Reading Room Country Guide

Digital Collections and Services

The Library of Congress has over 20 centers that provide research space and guidance for users to interact with collection items based on subject or format. The Hispanic Reading Room curates materials from 61 countries and/or regions in 26 different languages and in varying formats such as books, maps, photographs, manuscripts, and digital objects. The Hispanic Reading Room staff provides access to materials from the General Collections and helps point researchers to relevant items in other reading rooms. Selected digitized primary source materials from the Library’s collections are highlighted below along with links for further exploration.

Jonas Dovydenas, photographer. Garden of [retired Cuban couple] Roberto and Amelia Leval, Chicago, Illinois. Chicago Ethnic Arts Project collection (AFC 1981/004). Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

Folklife, Ethnographic Materials

The Library's American Folklife Center houses one of the largest archives of ethnographic materials from the United States and around the world, which include extensive audiovisual documentation of traditional arts, cultural expressions, and oral histories offering researchers access to the songs, stories, and other creative expressions of people from diverse communities.

The following audio recording is an example of one of the many rich resources on Cuba and Cuban-Americans available in the American Folklife Center collections. Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections combines sound recordings and manuscript materials from four discrete archival collections made by Work Projects Administration (WPA) workers from the Joint Committee on Folk Arts, the Federal Writers' Project, and the Federal Music Project from 1937-42. The song, "La Bayamese (Himno Nacional Cubano)," was performed by a quartet of children at San Carlos Institute, Key West, Florida, on January 22, 1940.

Frank George Carpenter, collector. Broom and rug peddler, Cuba. [Between 1895 and 1923]. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Prints, Photographs, Visual Materials

The Library's Prints and Photographs Division is the repository for a rich collection of prints, photographs, and other visual materials on and about Cuba from significant artists and photographers. Many of these items have been digitized and are available to researchers online. Many other visual materials are available to researchers in the Library's Prints and Photographs Reading Room.

Law, Legal Materials

The Law Library of Congress includes a vast collection on foreign legal materials, such as Constitutions, Codes, Session laws, Commentaries and indexes to laws, rules and regulations, Judicial court decisions and reports, and Legal bibliographies.

Access to legal materials related to Cuba are provided by the Law Library, including:

Clara Barton Papers: Red Cross File, 1863-1957; American National Red Cross, 1878-1957; Relief operations; Spanish-American War; Field operations; Santa Clara Province, Cuba; Miscellany, 1899, undated. Clara Barton papers, 1805-1958 [series: Red Cross File, 1863-1957]. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Manuscripts, Archival Materials

The Manuscript Division holds approximately sixty million items in eleven thousand separate collections, including some of the greatest manuscript treasures of American history and culture and support scholarly research in many aspects of political, cultural, and scientific history. The Library's Manuscript Reading Room provides access to archival materials on and about Cuba, including primary sources from cultural figures, authors, and politicians.

Some notable collections include:

Archivo Nacional de Cuba collection pertaining to Spanish colonial rule in Louisiana and the Floridas, 1770-1911

Transcripts of material found in the Cuban national archives pertaining to Spanish colonial rule in Louisiana and the Floridas. Includes correspondence of the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, correspondence of British traders operating under Spanish protection, in particular William Panton, material concerning commerce and political relations with the local Indian tribes, Spain’s part in the American revolution and relations with the newly independent states, and miscellaneous documents, government orders, and land grants.

S. B. Howes & Co. to Abraham Lincoln. (Permission to take circus to Cuba). Saturday, February 04, 1865. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Domingo del Monte collection

Cuban historian. Correspondence, diaries, writings, reports, official documents, and printed material collected or written by Del Monte relating to the Spanish colonial history of Cuba, Mexico, Peru, South America, Philippines, and the West Indies. Includes material on copper mines, insurrections, labor, immigration, and slavery and the slave trade.


Papeles de Cuba (Carnegie Institution of Washington reproductions collection, 1686-1941)

Chiefly transcriptions and copies of documents in foreign archives and personal collections relating primarily to the history of the United States, especially the early Spanish period, and to British ministers to the U.S. from 1791 to 1812. Subjects include European treaties; Yucatan, Mexico; John C. Calhoun; and John White. Includes notes of Carnegie Institution members Francis S. Philbrick and Reuben Gold Thwaites. Collected for use in publication projects of the Carnegie Institution of Washington including the Descriptive Catalogue of the Documents Relating to the History of the United States in the Papeles Procedentes de Cuba Deposited in the Archivo General de Indias at Seville (1916) and Instructions to the British Ministers to the United States, 1791-1812 (1941).

Selected correspondence in the Abraham Lincoln papers

The papers of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), lawyer, representative from Illinois, and sixteenth president of the United States, contain approximately 40,550 documents dating from 1774 to 1948, although most of the collection spans from the 1850s through Lincoln’s presidency (1861-1865). The following two items pertain to Cuba.

Joan Vinckeboons, cartographer. Map of the complete island of Cuba. 1639? Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Cartographic Materials

The Library's Geography and Map Division has custody of the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world with collections numbering over 5 million maps, 100,000 atlases, 8,000 reference works, over 5000 globes and globe gores, 3,000 raised relief models, over 130,000 microfiche/film, and a large number of cartographic materials in other formats. Many of these materials have been digitized and are available online. Materials that have not been digitized are available from the Geography and Map Reading Room.

Film, Video, Television

The Library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division holds one of the largest collections of motion pictures in the world, spanning the entire history of cinema. Many of these resources have been digitized and are available online. Access to these collection items, if not digitized, and research assistance is available through the Moving Image Research Center.

In addition to news reels and other traditional films in the Library of Congress collections, recordings of talks that have taken place at the Library and at the annual National Book Festival are available for viewing on the site. Several of these talks pertain to various aspects of Cuban and Cuban-American life, from history to literature and culture - even baseball. A small sample of these videos is listed below.

Some video highlights include:

Emilio and Gloria Estefan: 2019 Gershwin Prize Winners. Library of Congress Music Division.

Performing Arts

The Performing Arts Reading Room (part of the Library's Music Division) provides access to classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, iconography, microforms, periodicals, musical instruments, published and unpublished copyright deposits, and close to 500 special collections in music, theater, and dance.

To hear recordings or interact with audio materials in the Library's collections visit the Recorded Sound Research Center which is part of the Library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

The Music Division has a robust outreach program with Latin American musicians, composers, and artists. In the Muse: Performing Arts blog has highlighted a number of events and activities related to Cuba:

Remirez de Estenòz, Antonio. Confession del Theniente Coronel Don Antonio Remirez de Estenòz, sargento mayor, que fue de la Plaza de la Habana, empezada à 12. de septiembre de 1763. 1763. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

Rare Books, Special Collections

Rare materials about and from Cuba in the Library of Congress collections are vast and filled with treasures. Some examples include a collection of unique works from the Ediciones Vigía collective and other artist's books from throughout the island, a selection of religious texts from the early 20th century, and several volumes of poetry. Researchers should visit the the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room to learn more about rare materials available online as well as special collections that contain significant resources on Cuba.

Selected photographs of Cuba by photographer Carol M. Highsmith