27 July 2016
KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The Mariana, a 21-foot makeshift vessel that carried 24 Cubans from their homeland to Key West, highlights a Mel Fisher Maritime Museum exhibit on the Cuban migrant phenomenon that opens to visitors in late August.
Titled “Voyage to Freedom: Cuban Rafters,” the permanent exhibit is to debut at the 200 Greene St. museum with a film and symposium Friday and Saturday, Aug. 19-20. The museum is home to artifacts and treasure recovered from two shipwrecked Spanish galleons, Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita, which departed Cuba in 1622 and later sank off the Florida Keys.
“While much of our past research has focused on the galleons, as well as their journey and its Cuban connection, we felt the current Cuban migration and its vessels were equally worthy of exploration,” said museum director Melissa Kendrick, who spearheaded the Mariana’s acquisition.
Constructed primarily of 14 steel drums and an 8-cylinder truck engine, the Mariana landed in Key West in August 2015 after a 111-mile voyage from Cardenas, Cuba. Its passengers, called “balseros” or rafters, were granted asylum after their arrival.
Now standing in the museum’s courtyard, the Mariana will anchor the open-air exhibition, which features panels in English and Spanish exploring the ever-increasing Cuban sea migration to American shores. Topics include motives driving the “balseros” to embark on the dangerous journey, the role of the U.S. Coast Guard, the path to U.S. citizenship and the story of the Mariana.
The exhibit opening is to be marked Friday, Aug. 19, with a 6:45 p.m. screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “Balseros” at the Westin Key West Resort, across from the museum at 245 Front St.
Saturday is to feature an 11 a.m. symposium at the Westin with presentations by Raul Rodriguez, the museum’s board chairman; Mei Mendez, librarian for the University of Miami Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection; U.S. Coast Guard Commander Clint Prindle, the chief of response for Coast Guard Sector Key West; photographer Rob O’Neal, who has spent many years chronicling contemporary Cuba; and Dr. Holly Ackerman, author of “The Cuban Balseros: Voyage of Uncertainty.”
Exhibit information: www.melfisher.org
Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY 
Social: Facebook · Twitter · Instagram · Youtube · Keys Voices  

<< Back