Museum Exhibit Shares Cuba's Culture with the World

Steve Adubato talks to Dr. Ana Luz Porzecanski, co-curator of the Cuba Exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, to find out surprising things about the island nation, its people, culture and an astonishingly diverse and unique natural environment.

2/7/17 #2015






"Doctor Ana Luz Porzecanski is co-curator, the Cuba exhibit, American Museum of Natural History. How are you doc? I'm terrific. It's so good to have you Ana. It's great to be here. Talk about this Cuba exhibit and why it's so important. Oh I think it's just the first time that Cuba has been seen in this way, in this country. Really. It's about nature and culture of Cuba. And I think it's for people from any age, you know. All families, everybody. I think everybody will find something interesting to learn there. We're gonna be showing some video, some pictures, from the exhibit. But let me ask you this. What's the biggest misconception you think most of us in the New York/New Jersey region have about Cuba? Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Oh gosh. There are many, I would say. There are...? [laughter] That's why I asked! [laughter] I think, well you know, there were a couple of things there were three key things, I think, in terms of misconceptions that we wanted this exhibit to dispel perhaps. The first one, Cuba is very large, and it's very close. And because it's so large, it's actually really diverse and has a lot of environmental variety. And there comes the second. It is biologically completely unique. It's like the Madagascar of the Caribbean. It has all these things that are found in Cuba nowhere else. And people don't know about them. Hmm. And the third one is that the Cuban people are, you know, diverse as well. There's a diversity of voices in Cuba, and we show that through the exhibit. So, you know, as we do this program at the end of 2016, it will be seen after. Fidel Castro? Mm hmm. His passing? Yes. Means what to Cuba and about Cuba? Well, that's not really my area of expertise, as you know. The museum is... What about the culture, let's say? The culture? Well I think, you know, it is definitely a watershed moment for Cubans. They've lived with this leader for their lifetimes. And so I do think it's a watershed moment. They knew he was aging, but still, it's not the same. And so we shall see. But I think they've also been preparing for this for a long time. Clearly. The scientific collaboration... Yes. ...between the United States and Cuba? It's been going on for years. In spite of the political issues. Yes. You know in particular, our museum had has a very long collaboration... Talk about that. ...with Cuban scientists. Over 100 years. And you know, our first joint expedition with Cuban scientists in Cuba was 1892. And there's been on average..."