New York, 28 February 2018. In the corridors of the United Nations, peculiar and beautiful exhibitions of nations across the globe can be found every day. In this case "The Irish in Latin America", by the Republic of Ireland, will be on display until 2 March. This touring exhibition illustrates the fascinating story of adventurers, soldiers, missionaries and simple Irish immigrants who shaped the culture and politics of Latin America. It is then that Cuban celebrities including National Hero José Martí, Father Félix Varela, Ricardo O' Farrill y O' Daly and Alejandro O' Reilly stand out as an important part of the exhibition.
Father Félix Varela is portrayed as a Cuban educator, philosopher and patriot, whose mentor during childhood in Florida was Irish father Michael O' Reilly. Later on, during his exile in New York, he became a parish priest of the city's Five Points Church, located in a poor neighborhood with a representative number of Irish immigrants. As featured on the exhibition, Varela was very popular among Irish people who came to the city for his defense of the rights of the poor and support he used to provide.
Another poster is dedicated to our Apostle José Martí, noting that although he did not have roots with the European island, he had lived in New York and written about the similarities between Cuban revolutionaries, who wished a break with Spanish rule, and the Irish, who fought against English rule. The poster suggests that in his chronicles, Martí characterized prominent Irish figures such as Michael Davitt, Charles Stewart Parnell and O' Donovan Rossa. The poster also highlights his literary work, by mentioning his writings about Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and John Boyle O' Reilly, and his translation of Lalla-Rookh, a romance by Thomas Moore, into Spanish verse.
The stories of Ricardo O' Farrill y O' Daly and Alejandro O' Reilly, who give name to famous streets in Havana, have also been included in the exhibition. Ricardo O' Farrill and his family were involved in the slave trade and sugar production on the island, while his descendants in the 20th century are part of Cuba’s musical history. Marshal O' Reilly, for his part, arrived in Havana after the British occupation and he was entrusted, among others, with the task of strengthening the city's system of fortifications - which led him to build the current Morro-Cabañas fortress. He also reformed the local army and militias, which included raising the Black and Mulatto militias.
The last story of Irish in Cuba featured at the exhibition refers to the European workers who, being recruited in New York, shared with the Canary Islanders the construction of Havana-Güines railroad, in a Spanish attempt to use workers in developing the island. History indicates that they were treated with the same cruelty as was being used on the black slave labor force. Other families were taken to Cienfuegos, in the central region of Cuba, to counteract natural growth with white population and the trade of black population, major labor force in the island until the 19th century.
The exhibition "The Irish in Latin America" shows that, as Don Fernando Ortiz would say, "Every culture is creative, dynamic and social. (...)[and it is formed with] the experience of the many human elements that have come to this land called Cuba and still continue to come in flesh or life to merge into their people and co-determine their culture..”
Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations