Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bay of Pigs Museum and Library (Part 3)

Robert Chisholm, founder and President of Chisholm Architects, helped design the plans for the "Bay of Pigs Museum and Library," but if you look at the Chisholm designs posted on the official website, you'll notice that the building is titled "Cuban Exile Museum and Library." According to the descriptions made on September 19th on Radio Mambi, this seems to be the correct title of the Museum.

Radio Mambi has a late night show called "La Noche y Usted con Marta Flores." It's a very popular Spanish talk show (from 9pm-12am) that regularly features many important local and political guests. Last week (Sept. 19th), Robert Chisholm and Jose E. Miranda (two members of the Museum Project Team) appeared on the show, along with other Brigade 2506 veterans, and spoke at great lengths about the Cuban Exile Museum and Library.

After the veterans condemned the recent TV appearance of Rafael Del Pino, the radio host Marta Flores finally began asking about the Museum. The original idea for the Museum was attributed to Miranda, who also said that he sought out Chisholm for help. Robert Chisholm is seen as "muy Cubano" (very Cuban) to the veterans.

The Project Team see themselves competing with the OTHER proposed museums of the future, neighboring Museum Park, which they see as first-class buildings. The Project Team estimates that the new Cuban Exile Museum will cost about $20 million to begin construction (a significant rise from the $10 million proposed last year). They are planning to have fund-raising events on Radio Mambi asking that Cuban exiles contribute at least one dollar for every year of exile they have suffered, but nevertheless don't see money as a problem.

The Project Team has argued that the original Bay of Pigs Museum in Little Havana is running out of space. They mentioned that the original museum has sought to incorporate more exhibits about Cuban exile history, and thus they would like to have more space in order to display "la realidad de Cuba" (Cuban reality). But, according to all on the radio show, the most important goal of the Cuban Exile Museum and Library would be to teach young Cubans about what they have lost, and what belongs to them.

The Project Team described the interactive Museum like being at Disney World, and also made mention of the Museum being a venue where the Cuban community could gather and have exclusively Cuban cultural gatherings. One of the guests believed it would be the first uniquely Cuban institution in Miami.

Nicolas Gutierrez' "quintessentially American" museum no longer applies in this case.

Back in 2001 it was reported that a Cuban Exile Museum would be built at Miami's Freedom Tower, an idea originating from the Cuban American National Foundation. Those plans collapsed as possible ownership of the Freedom Tower began changing hands from the Historical Museum of South Florida, to the Terra Group, and now to the Miami-Dade College. Today the Freedom Tower features art exhibits and sold-out history tours by the Historical Museum of South Florida.

The feasibility study by Miami-Dade County is expected to be released by December (or sooner). It's very likely to be a positive report, but its construction will no doubt be met by opposition, such as from the Urban Environment League. But, if the planners of the Cuban Exile Museum and Library begin fund-raising before December, then it would seem that they will be determined to hold on to Parcel B.

But, if Miami residents call for a county-wide referendum for Parcel B, then we can see a very different ending here. Possibly one where a Cuban Exile Museum and Library settles for its original $10 million plan, and where Miami residents enjoy public waterfront "not primarily for museums, or tourists, or as a profit making sports facility, but as one of the ten places that makes Miami great and the downtown worth living in."

[Part 1]

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