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American Folklife Center Collections: Cuba

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting Cuban expressive culture in Cuba and the United States in the collections of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.


Sesteto Encanto, author. El caballo de palo [transcript]. A popular Cuban song from Florida. Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections, 1937 to 1942. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center collections from documenting Cubans in Cuba and the United States represent the diversity of their expressive culture. Among its unique collections are recordings of Afro-Cuban music made in Cuba in the 1950s by Tarafa, Josefina; Luiz Heitor Corrêa de Azevedo publications and papers on Cuban music; a recording of a special concert in the American Folklife Center 1994 concert series presenting the great Cuban mambo composer Cachao; and W.P.A. era recordings of Cuban music and riddles in Florida, described in more detail below.

Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections, 1937 to 1942

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 1937-1942. This online presentation provides access to 376 sound recordings and 106 accompanying materials, including recording logs, transcripts, correspondence between Florida WPA workers and Library of Congress personnel, and a proposal to survey Florida folklore by Zora Neale Hurston. An essay by Stetson Kennedy, who worked with Hurston and other WPA collectors, reflects on the labor and the legacy of the WPA in Florida; and an extensive bibliography and list of related Web sites add further context about the New Deal era and Florida culture.

The example in the image at the top of this page is a song collected by Stetson Kennedy and Robert Cook that was a very popular Cuban American song in Key West at the time of their research in 1940. Here is the recording of the song,"El caballo de palo" (the hobby horse):

Additional Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Podcasts and Blog Posts

Public Programming

Founded by tres guitarist and vocalist Gabriel García, Changüí Majadero was the result of García's pivotal pilgrimage to the Guantanamo region of Cuba, where he learned the changüí from the living masters of the style and was inspired to spread the spirit of Cuban folkloric music mixed with a dash of East Los Angeles grit. Changüí is the predecessor of son cubano and salsa, a style of music specifically from the region of Guantanamo, Cuba. Its origins can be traced back to the 1800s, during the days of slavery in Cuba. Changüí is to Cuba and Latin America what the blues and early jazz is to American music. Changüí Majadero has played their modern take on changüí in such disparate settings such as Lincoln Center, SF Jazz, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Dodger Stadium. (Event date: September 30, 2020)

Additional Public Programming