In the fall of 2003, we realized that almost ten years had passed since the 1994 Cuban rafter crisis. It seemed natural to organize a research project to update knowledge about the rafters and publicly commemorate their first decade through a conference, archival exhibits and a multi-media website. The Cuban Rafter Project organized by the University of Miami (UM), Florida International University (FIU) and St. Thomas University (STU) is the result.
Our plans would not have materialized without a series of institutional awards. We were able to plan and conduct the conference, The Balseros 10 years Later: No Longer Adrift?, through the financial generosity of: University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala, Provost Luis Glazer, Interim Director Steve Stein and the Executive Committee of the U.M. Center for Latin American Studies; a Ford Foundation grant to the FIU Cuban Research Institute and the support of President Mitch Maidique at FIU; a generous grant from Bob Butterworth, Dean of the St. Thomas School of Law.
The website and exhibits hosted at the University of Miami Libraries were made possible by an award from Mr. William Walker, University Librarian at the University of Miami. With continued faculty and library support, the website will be a globally available, living archive on post-1980 Cuban migration that grows with time.
Particular appreciation goes to Rev. Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale, President of St. Thomas University for the inspiration, support and encouragement to develop his original idea (in 1995!) of recording for history and subsequent generations as many of the balsero-related events as possible.
At all three institutions, staff and faculty supported us in gathering and analyzing data; planning the conference and designing and constructing the website. Special recognition goes to Dr. Ray Uzwyshyn at the University of Miami Libraries for the weeks of creative and technical expertise he dedicated to producing the website.
We also thank the people named below for kind assistance in various phases of the data gathering, conference, exhibits and The Cuban Rafter Phenomenon: A Unique Sea Exodus:
Dr. Felíx Altarás, Robert Ashley, Carlos Aulet, Juán Avilés, Adele Bagley, Jeff Barry, Gladys Blanco, Pedro Botta, Lelen Bourgoignie-Robert, Dr. Filiberto Carbot, Siro del Castillo, Cayman Islands Government Information Service, Cayman Islands National Archive, Cayman Net News, Cuban Heritage Collection of the Otto G. Richter Library, Guillermo Cueto, Guarioné Díaz, Maria Estorino, Dr. Hugh Gladwin, Guillermo Grenier, Lourdes Guerra, Raúl Hernández, Alfredo Hernández-Froment, Bryanna Hertzog & the students in the U.M. Libraries’ Digital Media Lab, FIU Institute for Public Opinion Research, Bryan Jones, Sergio Lastres, Eloisa López, Catherine Marsicek, Lizbet Martínez, Armando Mejías, Fr. Devon Nash, Lourdes Navarrette, Susi Penley, John Renaud, Jane Schillie, Hillary Scott, Tammi Selzer, Lourdes Simón, Frances Speigel, U.S. Coast Guard Seventh District, Esperanza de Varona, Lesbia Varona, Janet Ray Weininger.
We are especially indebted to the many rafters who have entrusted us with their personal accounts and documents. We dedicate the website to them and to all those who seek freedom at a high cost.
- Holly Ackerman, Ph.D., Asst. Professor, Otto G. Richter Library, University of Miami
- María R. Domínguez, J.D., Executive Director, Human Rights Institute, St. Thomas University
- Damián Fernández, Ph.D., Professor & Director, Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University