For 56 years, Fidel and Raúl Castro have been in power in Cuba. Life before the Castro brothers is a distant memory that has been overshadowed by their notoriety. Orestes Chavez, a 52-year-old who emigrated from Cuba at age 4, has been trying to look to Cuba’s past – one not shaped by the Castros – for the last 30 years.
When he was a 20-something student at the Miami Dade College Police Academy, Chavez bought a baseball card that began a 30-year hobby of collecting items from pre-revolution Cuba. Today, he has more than 2,500 items from Cuba’s history, and last week, he presented “The Heartbeat of Cuba” at a Miami Dade College gallery, according to the Miami Herald.
The one-day exhibit was an exciting moment in Chavez’s life, but he has his eyes set on a more permanent spot. “The exhibit is the closest I’ve been to having my collection exposed in a museum,” he said to the Herald. “But my dream is that one day it is permanently exhibited in the Freedom Tower, in which they processed all the Cubans who came to Miami in the 1960s, including me.”
The Ellis Island of Miami needs to make this happen ASAP because with items belonging to Cuban treasures Celia Cruz and Kid Chocolate, his collection houses important pieces of Cuba’s identity. (Plus, people from Miami will love this because it’s a big eff you to the Castros).
At the end of the 90s, someone tried to offer Chavez $1 million for his 20 Cuban baseball jerseys, but he turned it down.