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Lydia Cabrera

1992 Florida Folk Heritage Award

Lydia Cabrera (Miami) was an internationally recognized scholar who wrote numerous works on Afro-Cuban folklife and culture. From a prominent Havana family, her father was interested in Afro-Cuban narratives and she became fascinated by the stories told by the family’s black servants. Cabrera went to Paris to study art in 1927, and ultimately expanded her field to religion and other cultural phenomena. After her return to Cuba in 1938, she conducted substantial research in the environs of the city of Matanzas. She subsequently wrote many ethnographic and literary works on Afro-Cuban culture. After the Cuban Revolution, she lived briefly in Madrid and then settled permanently in Miami.

Through a lifetime devoted to the study of Afro-Cuban culture, Cabrera earned the respect of both scholars and the general public. Her ethnographic studies were regarded as important as her fiction and collections of folk narratives. Moreover, her book El Monte is regarded as an important resource by santeros, practitioners of the Afro-Cuban orisha religion. Overall, her work demonstrates that African culture is an essential element in Cuban national culture and identity.

Cabrera received several honorary doctorates for her work, including one from the University of Miami. The Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami Richter Library currently holds an extensive collection of her papers and works.