Jaime Suchlicki achieves a lifelong goal by creating the ultimate Cuban database.
Like many other Cuban-Americans in South Florida, Dr. Jaime Suchlicki is an immigrant. The former University of Miami professor came to the United States in 1960 and has since dedicated his life to his one true passion: Cuba.
After receiving three degrees, two of which came from the University of Miami, Suchlicki founded the Research Institute for Cuban Studies in 1978 and served as its director for 14 years. He held the same position at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies for another 18 years, all at UM. His latest project, however, is perhaps even more impressive.
Cubans in America is a vast online database of information that details everything from the country’s history to its famous cuisine (cafecito has its own tab) to, most importantly, every prominent Cuban-American you can think of – from pop culture stars like baseball player Jose Canseco and the late actor Desi Arnaz, to Dr. Eduardo Alfonso, director of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. Other prominent Cubans in the database who call Coral Gables home include Tony Argiz, Facundo Bacardi, Armando Codina, Frank Del Rio, and Mike Fernandez.
Dr. Suchlicki spent two years putting the project together as the head of the Cuban Studies Institute, a research group in Coral Gables. It started off with only Cubans in Florida before expanding to include all of America, and it continues to grow with the help of funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Bacardi, Inc.
“This is my legacy,” says Suchlicki. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for many, many years. It will be there forever, and it will be augmented as we go along.”
The scope of the project is already immense, with almost 300 Cubans and Cuban-Americans having been profiled. Each person is categorized according to what industry they contributed to, including entertainment, business, academia, law, and politics. All have photos and biographies detailing their backgrounds and contributions to American society. The website further explores the history of Cuba and the events that led to the mass exodus of the Cuban people to America, as well as what their “journey to exile” was like in other sections.
“It’s a place to appreciate the impact of Cubans in this country,” Suchlicki says, adding that he hopes young academics will use the database to further their studies. “When I retired from the university, I had a lot of time. I thought, what can I do that will make a real contribution in American society? I feel that this is probably the most valuable thing that I could’ve done.”
Like many other Cuban-Americans, Suchlicki has never forgotten his roots. And he intends to ensure that their history never be forgotten either.