Emilio Cueto Sends Us to Cuba by Mail

Under the title Delivering Cuba Through The Mail: Cuba’s Presence in Non-Cuban Postage Stamps and Envelopes, edited by the Library Press of the prestigious University of Florida (UF), Emilio Cueto has just published a unique book. Cueto, a lawyer and independent researcher, has dedicated his life to collecting and studying the presence of Cuba outside the Island, as evidenced, among others, by the works Cuba en USA (1998), Inspired in Cuba: A Survey of Cuban-Themed Ceramics (2019) and Frédérik Mialhe’s La Cuba Picturesque (2010).

Emilio Cueto
Emilio Cueto with a copy of Delivering Cuba Through the Mail: Cuba’s Presence in Non-Cuban Postage Stamps and Envelopes

This new volume continues that line of research. The subject, however, is surprising. These are the stamps dedicated by other nations to leaders, athletes, writers, musicians and other outstanding figures of Cuba, as well as to our flora and fauna, places, historical events, participation in activities abroad and international relations. The author has found 1,232 stamps and envelopes printed between 1896 and 2021, issued by 161 postal authorities of countries, political subdivisions, international institutions, etc. There is no similar book about any other place in the world.

You have to meditate for a moment on the amount of correspondence that circulates daily in the world, and how much more it did before the virtual era in which we live. The stamps have always been ambassadors of their countries, bearers of their shields, their history, the faces of their kings, rulers and personalities, the commemoration of their national dates. Much rarer is that they show or honor other nations and even more so one as small as Cuba.

Without a doubt, beginning with the 1959 Revolution, many socialist and non-aligned countries had close ties with Cuba, which is reflected on the stamps. It is not surprising, then, that there are a large number of stamps dedicated to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Also, however, in more than 60 Desi Arnaz appears, in such unexpected places as Chad, Gambia, Mongolia, Sierra Leone, among others.

Many stamps are of extraordinary beauty that are also highlighted by the very professional, colorful and cheerful design of the book, and the success with which the material is organized. It delights to turn its pages slowly, as if we were sipping an exquisite liquor, to discover the hidden gems, those representations of the Cuban that we are most amazed to find in a remote place. Sometimes it gives me the same feeling as when I have unexpectedly bumped into a dear compatriot during a trip. Some examples: The face of Francisco Javier Cisneros, the patriot from Santiago who contributed so much to the development of the railroad in the 19th century, appears on stamps of four different colors issued in Colombia in 1949. Those dedicated to Carlos J. Finlay, the scientist, are not surprising, who discovered the transmission of yellow fever through mosquitoes, but it is moving to see the face of Clara Maas, an American nurse who died in Cuba when she was barely 25 years old, a victim of experiments to eradicate the terrible disease. I have no memory of having seen the image of our first First Lady before, but Honduras, where Doña Genoveva was born, reproduces it in a beautiful 1956 postal edition.

Sometimes it’s like enjoying a family album, when endearing patriots like Máximo Gómez and José Martí jump off the pages; the chess champion José Raúl Capablanca; the writers Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda and José Joaquín Palma; the singers Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan and Olga Guillot; the musicians Antonio Machín and Benny Moré; the works of painters Mario Carreño and Emilio Sánchez; and other world-renowned figures such as the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg María Teresa Mestre Batista.

Translated from Spanish on blog post by uvadearagon posted on January 12, 2022.

In case you missed his presentation at the University of Florida on November 15, Cueto will discuss his book on January 24 at noon sponsored by Florida International University. The live streaming event registration is at https://www.crowdcast.io/e/emilio-cueto/register.