In Memoriam: Esperanza Bravo de Varona, 1927-2023

Esperanza Bravo de Varona, who had a 45-year career at the University of Miami as a librarian and archivist, died last month at her home in Miami. She was 95 years old.

Born in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, Dr. de Varona was the third of four children of Romulo Bravo and Armantina Lopez Calleja. In her early years, she studied at the Colegio del Apostolado and later attended college at the University of Havana, where she earned a Ph.D. in philosophy.

In 1955, Dr. de Varona moved to the Dominican Republic and in 1965 to the United States. In Miami, while raising her three children, she obtained a master of library science degree from Florida State University.

Dr. de Varona began working in the University Libraries division of the University of Miami in the late 1960s. Along with other Cuban Americans who worked for the libraries, Dr. de Varona collected documents, posters, newspapers, maps, books, and anything that had to do with Cuba and the Cuban exile experience. These were later assembled into the University of Miami Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection. The Cuban Heritage Collection has become an archive with a global reputation as the largest collection documenting Cuban history outside of the island and the largest record anywhere of the global Cuban diaspora.

The collection houses close to 50,000 volumes of both rare and contemporary books chiefly in Spanish and English published anywhere in the world about the Cuban experience and the Cuban diaspora. In addition, there are thousands of periodicals, correspondence, historical and literary manuscripts, personal papers, organizational records, photographs, posters, postcards, ephemera, and sound and video recordings.

Dr. de Varona served as president of the Society of Florida Archivists and as a member of the State Historical Records Advisory Board, appointed by three consecutive governors. She retired from the university in 2013. An endowed chair at the university has been named in her honor.

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