Caribbean Sea Migration collection, 1959-2014

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Materials from (or related to) the migration by sea of Cubans, Dominicans, and Haitians, including the refugee camp for Cuban and Haitian rafters that existed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, largely dating from 1991-1996. Collection includes camp newspapers and artwork created by refugees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; materials from the U.S. Coast Guard and other military sources, such as newspapers written in Haitian Creole, photocopies of camp rules and refugee intake procedures, and a transcript from an introductory video shown to refugees arriving at the camps; magazines and media coverage of refugee situations, including some material on Elián González; photographs and slides of refugees, Coast Guard personnel, and conditions in the camps in Cuba. Refugees arriving in Miami are included as are photographs of the work of the Guantanámo Refugee Assistance and Services Program in Miami and in the camps in Guantánamo Bay.
3 Linear Feet
600 Items
Material in English, Haitian Creole, Spanish
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Materials include newspapers, artwork, clippings, U.S. military publications aimed at camp residents, camp notes, reports, and photographs from a variety of sources. Newspapers are one of the largest formats within the collection, which includes the complete run of éxodo, a newspaper with color issues printed from November 1994-September 1995 from Camps Kilo and Charlie Village in the Guantánamo Bay camps; issues of El Bravo, El Balsero, and El Futuro from 1994-1995; Sa K'pase, N'ap Boule, and Qué Pasa, newspapers printed by the U.S. military in Creole and Spanish and designed for Haitian and Cuban refugees at the camps; as well as newspaper clippings and some magazine issues covering the refugee crisis of 1994-1995 and the plight of Caribbean refugees in general.

Photographs are another significant component of the collection. U.S. Coast Guard photographs and slides of rafters and rescuers date from 1980 to the 1990s or 2000s, and are accompanied by photocopies from the U.S. Coast Guard's Historian Office detailing refugees assistance as early as 1959. The collection also includes unsorted and largely unlabeled photographs from the camps; those that are labeled date from 1994.

Other materials in the collection include some refugee artwork, publications about Cuba, a folder of Cuba information including some materials on Elián González, and other ephemera mentioning Cuban refugees. In addition, 8 CDs with photographs and other materials have been transferred to Duke's ERM server and are in the custody of the Electronic Records archivist.

Biographical / historical:

Materials in this collection largely deal with the years 1991-1996 as the U.S. coped with large numbers of Haitian and Cuban rafters who were held in Guantánamo Bay refugee camps. Beginning in 1991, the U.S. naval base was designated as a receiving point for Haitian migrants who had been intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard in the Caribbean Sea. Guantánamo Bay was outfitted with semi-permanent camps for the refugees while they waited for a decision from U.S. Immigration on whether they would be returned to Haiti or allowed to enter the United States. This program was expanded in 1994, when Cuban president Fidel Castro retired his Frontier Guards, resulting in a wave of Cuban rafters who were also intercepted by the Coast Guard and brought to Guantaánamo Bay. Between 1994 and 1996 about 50,000 people lived in the Guantánamo Bay camps. Cuban refugees in the camps were granted admission to the United States in 1995-1996, while most Haitian refugees were eventually returned to Haiti.

Acquisition information:
The Caribbean Sea Migration Collection was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift beginning in 2009. The 2010-0041 accession was a gift from Mariela Ferrer Jewett. Other portions of the collection were gifts from Holly Ackerman, Lourdes Zayas-Bazán, the Cuban American National Council, Elizabeth Campisi, the Miami Medical Team, and Stephen Brown.
Processing information:

Processed by Holly Ackerman, December 2010

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, December 2010

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 2009-0280, 2010-0041

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Caribbean Sea Migration Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.