Essays on Cuban History: Historiography and Research

By Louis A. Pérez Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 13
The Archivo Nacional de Cuba

The Archivo Nacional de Cuba is an imposing public building in an otherwise modest residential neighborhood in La Habana Vieja--a juxtaposition that confers on it something of sovereignty over this section of the capital. The depository of the nation is located at Compostela and San Isidro, only blocks from the docks on the Ensenada de Atares in Havana Bay and the Central Railroad Station, and virtually around the corner from the birthplace of José Martí. Monday through Friday, from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., the main reading room fills with investigators, largely Cubans from the Instituto de Historia, the Academy of Sciences, the university, and writers and researchers from various government agencies. On any given day, the scene in the main reading room is one of scholarly serenity, with a courteous and competent staff working in close collaboration with researchers.

But it was not always so. Indeed, the Archivo Nacional has had a rather infelicitous history. During the early years of the republic, the archival administration remained under Joaquín Llaverías. For years, he was an indefatigable director, making up with zeal and commitment what he could not obtain through government funds and public support. And while these were not good times for the Archivo, worst were to come. By the 1940s and through the 1950s, the Archivo Nacional fell victim to the wholesale political graft and administrative corruption that had come to characterize Cuban public life. During these decades, the Archivo languished somewhere between disregard and desuetude, important only as a source of political appointments and

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