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Lectures from the Allen Room & Wertheim Study: Francisco Vicente Aguilera : The Diary and Death of a Cuban General in New York


October 24, 2013

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The first war for Cuba’s independence broke out in October 1868, creating a flow of refugees that came primarily to New York.  By 1870, Cuban New York had become the largest community of Latin Americans east of the Mississippi.  As the war raged on and resources dwindled, the financial backing from the expatriate community for the Cuban rebels became even more critical.  Yet, New York’s Cubans were sharply divided and incapable of uniting to effectively support the insurgents.  In August of 1871, in a last-ditch effort to organize the émigrés, General Francisco Vicente Aguilera, the highly respected patrician and Vice President of the Cuban Republic in Arms, arrived in New York, where he struggled valiantly and unsuccessfully for nearly six years to bring the fractious exile community together before dying of throat cancer in his Manhattan home.  The recent publication in Cuba of his New York diary throws a new light on the dynamics of Cuban New York and the forces that led to the failure of the 1868 conflict.
Lisandro Pérez, a writer in residence in the Library’s Wertheim Study, is Professor and Chair of the Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.  During his recent stint in the Wertheim he focused on Aguilera’s diary and biography, both found in the NYPL’s collection, as part of his larger research project on the Cuban community in New York during the 19th century.  Most of the research on that project was done while he was a fellow at the Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.  His manuscript, Cubans in Gotham Exiltes, Immigrants, and Revolutionaries in Nineteenth Century New York is under contract with New York University Press.