Skip to main content

Ernesto Chávez Collection

Identifier: MSS 0360

Scope and Content

As a young revolutionary, Chávez amassed an important collection of underground publications, propaganda materials, manifestoes, and documents relating to insurgent organizations such as Movimiento 26 de julio (26th of July Movement), Acción Cívica Cubana, and Movimiento de Resistencia Cívica. Following the promising ideas of Fidel Castro, these groups were organized to plot a coup d'état against President Fulgencio Batista's government and, as a result, launch the Cuban Revolution. The collection is organized in fifteen series. Materials within Series 1 through 6 are about events, people, and the insurgent organizations plotting the Cuban Revolution that culminated on January 1st, 1959. Documents and materials from these series are dated from 1951 to 1959. Havana, Cuba, New York City, NY, Miami, FL, and Caracas, Venezuela are the cities documented in these series.

Underground publications within Series 1 form a rare collection of zines and periodicals pre-dating the Cuban Revolution. The zines titled Revolución and Aldabonazo were published by Vicente Baez and Carlos Franqui. Dr. Lillian Guerra received this confirmation from Baez. The series also contain 28 issues of Carta Semanal, the semi-clandestine publication of the Cuban Communist Party or PSP, dating from 1951 to 1958. It was semi-clandestine because Batista tolerated it and allowed it to circulate even though the party was technically criminalized after 1953. The reason for Batista's tolerance is apparent in the publication's message: while it says much about Batista being a tyrant, it actually condemns the strategies of the Movimiento 26 de julio, its counterparts, and the Directorio Revolucionario in toppling the Batista regime.Series 2 to 6 include material related to Fidel Castro's revolutionary Movimiento 26 de julio.

Ernesto Chávez's own experience as a maestro rural and the city of Matanzas's political and social life are documented in Series 7 through 11, which contain personal items, ephemera, official documents, ID cards, ration cards, correspondence, and photographs. Letters sent and received by Chávez dating from 1960 reflect his relationship with family members and friends. The correspondence also sheds light on the harsh living conditions endured by Chávez during his months of training as a maestro voluntario. Photographic material taken by Chávez with a Kodak Baby Brownie 127 camera document his experience as a rural teacher in the Cuban countryside. Some of these images are included in two of Chávez recent publications: Maestro rural and Maestro voluntario. The photographs series also includes a substantial amount of images depicting social and political scenes in Matanzas and military relations between Cuba and the US, all prior to the Cuban Revolution.

Series 12 includes Ernesto Chávez' own research on the Cuban War of Independence. He documented information about the Spanish citizens and military personal who migrated from Spain to Cuba, such as their names, residence in Spain and in Cuba, dates of birth and death. He also collected the names of citizens who had been executed by the Spanish Army. Series 13 includes the books that Ernesto Chávez used as a maestro voluntario and also as a civilian military instruction. Series 14 and 15 include collections created by Chávez's friends, such as the personal correspondence of Sahara Geraldo Paz, another Cuban voluntary teacher, and researcher Aída García Alonso's notecards and photographs regarding life in the Cuban slums or yaguas.


  • Creation: 1887-2018
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-2014


Language of Materials

Includes materials written in Spanish , English, and Catalan.


The collection is open for research with some restrictions.Box 6, Folder 16 contains restricted materials. For more information, please contact the collection curator or archivist.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ernesto Chávez Álvarez was born in Havana in 1942. In 1960, a young eighteen year old Chávez joined the first graduating class of Minas del Frío, a training school in Sierra Maestra for volunteer teachers. During the early years after the Cuban Revolution, these teachers were sent to teach literacy to adults and children living in remote rural areas of Sierra Maestra, la Sierra de los Órganos in Pinar del Río, and El Escambray. The enlisting of these teachers was part of the revolutionary government's mission to eliminate illiteracy among the peasant class. While teaching Chávez witnessed the peasant uprisings and was a victim of a slanderous campaign by communist Félix Torres, which sought to defame the teachers and literacy campaign workers as counterrevolutionaries. Chávez was discharged of his teaching duties in 1964.

Chávez completed a B.S. in geography at the Universidad de La Habana in 1972. From 1977 to 1981 he studied a specialization in demography and successfully defended his thesis in 1981. As a graduate student, he worked at the Centro de Estudios Demográficos (CEDEM) of the School of Economy at the Universidad de La Habana. Chávez is also a respected scholar of Cuban anthropology with active participation in symposiums in Cuba and Spain. He has an extensive list of published books in topics such as children's literature, Cuban folklore, anthropology, and economics. He currently lives in the city of Matanzas, Cuba.


3.48 Linear feet (6 Boxes)


Ernesto Chávez Álvarez (b. 1942) is a Cuban writer and scholar who worked as a rural teacher during the early years of revolutionary regime. This collection documents events and subversive movements in Cuba, Chávez's own experience as a voluntary and rural teacher, the research he conducted on the Cuban War of Independence, and documents related to his writings and publications. It also includes collections created by his friends which shed light on life in Cuba during the twentieth century. Significant items in this collection include a rare collection of zines and periodicals, and photographs depicting various social and political scenes.


This collection is arranged in 15 series based on subject matter and type of material.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Finding Aid

This guide is available in Spanish at

Acquisition Information

One part of this collection was purchased in 2012. The other was donated by Ernesto Chávez via Dr. Lillian Guerra and Rebeca Fundora in 2017 and 2018.


  • Alonso, G. and E. Chávez Álvarez, eds. Memorias inéditas del censo de 1931. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1978. (HB3549 .M45)
  • Chávez Álvarez, Ernesto. El crimen de la niña Cecilia: la brujería en Cuba como fenómeno social (1902-1925). La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1991. (BF1584.C9 C331 1991)
  • Chávez Álvarez, E., ed. La población de Cuba: Centro de Estudios Demográficos. La Habana: Universidad de La Habana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1976. (HB3549 .H38 1976a)
  • Chávez Álvarez, Ernesto. Maestro rural. Gainesville, Florida: MilianBooks, 2014. (LA2353.C92 C429 2014)
  • Chávez Álvarez, Ernesto. Maestro voluntario. Gainesville, Florida: MilianBooks, 2014. (LA2353.C9 C43 2014)
A Guide to the Ernesto Chávez Collection
Finding aid created by Ana D. Rodriguez
July 2016 (Updated February 2021)
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America