UC Berkeley and the Jose Marti National Library of Cuba proudly announce a unique and historic pact in which, retrieved from the depths of the Cuban archives, the University has received – grocery bags.
“From a publishing house called Avigia in the city of Matansas, we have handmade books,” said Carlos Delgado, librarian for Latin American collections at UC Berkeley. “They were made with whatever materials they had. Some are made with grocery bags. That’s what they had, so that’s what they used. It’s an example of doing creative things with very little resources.”
The grocery bag books are but a small selection of the Cuban literary and cultural paraphernalia on display in UC Berkeley’s Doe Library in celebration of the first-of-its kind research pact. Delgado brainstormed the partnership two years ago, when he met with Cuban national library director Eliades Acosta at a conference for heads of national libraries in Venezuela.
While UC Berkeley has a similar partner ship with the Chilean national library, Delgado says the Jose Marti National Library of Cuba has never before entered into a research pact with an overseas library.
“We get books and posters. The idea is, we get access to their collection by what we call a ‘duplicate collection,’ materials they already have several copies of. I went down there in December and selected almost 2,000 titles and shipped them to Berkeley.
“For them, we’re going to be buying U.S.-printed books about Cuba by Cuban authors in exile and shipping those to them,” continues Delgado. “Those are books that Cubans can’t buy directly from the U.S. because of restrictions on commerce.”
The partnership with the Caribbean nation’s national library is a “perfect fit” for Berkeley scholars, says Delgado.
“Here in Berkeley, there is an increasing interest in studying the Caribbean. Several years ago we started a Ph.D. program called ‘Diaspora Studies’ about the immigration of Africans to America: the slave trade,” explains the librarian. “You can’t study this movement without bumping right into the Caribbean.”
The influx of rare Cuban documents and items during the pact’s agreed three-year course promises to give UC Berkeley researchers a truly unique opportunity.
“This means that we have access to materials that are simply not available anywhere else in the country,” says Charles Faulhaber, head of the Bancroft Library. “If you’re doing scholarly research on anything relating to Cuba; its relation with the U.S., relations with Latin America, socio-economics, Cuban literature – it’s kind of like asking what kind of research about the U.S. could be aided if you had materials published in the U.S. I mean – everything!”
Despite the century of contentious relations between the United States and Cuba, and the politically charged atmosphere most recently ignited by the Elian Gonzalez debacle, UC Berkeley librarians insist that the pact is not a political statement but a scholarly one.
“One of the things libraries do as part of their core value is collect materials that reflect all sides of an issue, as many sides as you can,” says Patricia Iannuzzi, an associate university librarian and the director of Doe and Moffit libraries.
“I believe an individual needs the right to access an issue and draw his or her own conclusions. Because of the embargo, libraries in the U.S. have limited access to materials. We’d like to be able to provide the research community with access to those materials.”
While details of the pact are largely agreed upon, it has not been completely finalized because of possible copyright issues emanating from UC Berkeley’s intended posting of Cuban revolutionary posters on the Web. Delgado says he believes these sticking points will be ironed out within a few months, and that these details will not disrupt the exchange of materials between the libraries.
Today’s celebration will feature a speech on the Spanish-American War by Jose Marti National Library of Cuba director Eliades Acosta near the north entrance to Doe Library at 4 p.m. The 17 cases of Cuban historical materials will be on public display there until October 15. To view the posters on the web go to http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/~lcush/CubaGen.html.