Issues affecting Cuba and the Florida Keys are the subject of a free lecture open to the public this evening, Monday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 p.m. at Island Community Church auditorium, mile marker 83 bayside in Islamorada, presented by the Matcumbe Historical Trust.
The speaker is Rafael Penalver, president of Key West’s historic San Carlos Institute. In highlighting the history of the San Carlos. he’ll present issues affecting Cuba and the Florida Keys. A native of Cuba, Penalver came to the United States in 1961. He graduated from the University of Miami Law School and practices law in Florida and Washington, DC.
An avid historian and preservationist, Penalver has led the effort to save the San Carlos Institute as an educational and patriotic center. For Penalver, saving the San Carlos has been a 25-year labor of love. The San Carlos Institute, founded in 1871 in Key West, is one of Florida’s most beautiful and historic landmarks. The Institute served as the cradle of Cuba’s independence movement in the 19th century and is considered “sacred ground” by the Cuban people.
Jose Marti, Cuba’s legendary patriot and poet, spoke at the San Carlos in 1892, in his effort to gain the support of Key West’s exile community in his effort to free Cuba of Spanish rule. Marti so loved the San Carlos that he called it “La Casa Cuba.”
The present San Carlos building, designed by prominent architect Francisco Centurion and completed in 1924, housed the Cuban consulate and the San Carlos’ school, one of the first bilingual and integrated schools in the South. The building was closed and fell into disrepair after diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba was severed in 1961. Some called for the building’s demolition after part of its façade collapsed in 1981. In 1985, Penalver led a statewide effort to save the San Carlos. He was assisted in this effort, among others, by Islamorada resident Irving Eyster, noted Keys’ historian and former chairman of the Historic Florida Keys Preservation Board, who still sits on the San Carlos’ Board of Directors.
A beautifully-restored San Carlos Institute opened on Duval Street in 1992 after a $4 million renovation. The building serves as a museum, library, art gallery, and theatre and conference center. Today the San Carlos is one of Key West’s preeminent cultural centers and a symbol of freedom and hope for the Cuban people.
For more information about the lecture or Matecumbe Historical Trust, please contact Barbara Edgar at 305-393-0940 or visit www.MatecumbeHistoralTrust.com.
For more on what’s new in 2012 in Islamorada, see http://modenook.com/florida-keys-travel-in-miami/what-s-new-2012-islamorada-florida-keys