Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Civic Innovator: [i]Bibliotecas Independientes[/i], Cuba

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Thre are no banned books in Cuba; there just isn’t any money to buy them,” Fidel Castro famously said at the 1998 International Book Fair in Havana. Later that year, Ramón Colás, a psychologist and journalist, and his then-wife, economist Berta Mexidor, took up Castro’s challenge. They opened their home library to the public, thereby establishing Cuba’s first Biblioteca Independiente (Independent Library). Ten years later, there are 162 “independent libraries” in over 15 towns throughout the island.

With the aim of creating free spaces for intellectual exploration by providing access to a broad range of books, the libraries are each expected to visibly display a minimum of 300 volumes, representing all ideologies and political perspectives, which means they are not simply a center for anti-Castro polemics. Books and reading materials, including magazines, are donated by foreign embassies—the Spanish and French are among the largest donors-—as well as NGOs who work in Cuba…

Tags: Berta Mexidor, Bibliotecas Independientes, Cuba, Ramon Colas
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