Articles / About Camagüey / Patrimony / Camagüey's Provincial Archive, Custodian of the Memory
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Camagüey's Provincial Archive, Custodian of the Memory
By Yolanda Ferrera Sosa/ Radio Cadena Agramonte
The antecedent of Camagüey's Provincial Archive dates back to the early 20th century, exactly to 1906.
Then-senator of the pseudo-Republic of Cuba and a notable of the former village of Puerto Principe, Salvador Cisneros Betancourt claimed then-president Tomás Estrada Palma opening the office to safeguard all documentations and papers dealing with economy, social, political, administrative and juridical matters .
Once his suggestion was adopted, they began to work very hard to rescue the society's passive memory which is the main merit of this office, centrally located at the crossroads of Marti and República Streets.
An old colonial house is already small to treasure the precious and huge amount of information that is callously protected by a qualified staff, run by Marta Margarita Morales Pérez.
"Thirty nine people work in the place, among them technical institute and college graduates", she informs.
"They work in different departments and areas, like the so-called Technical Process, where the papers are described and classified before setting them in the warehouse; the Conservation and Restoration Area, where our personnel repair the damages caused by time and biological agents; and the Utilization Department that provides researchers and common people who need a specific data, with the information and even the originals, if needed."
Nelly León Rodríguez, who is in charge of the Utilization Department, explains that once the documentation is not longer useful in the State bodies, they are transferred to the Archive where they are restored, classified and stored in files and bundles.
"Here we preserve –says Marta Margarita- 3 127 linear meters of documents, that is more than three kilometres, a considerable amount of documents that keeps on growing. We try to keep a suitable environmental condition, so we are always fighting against humidity."
Camagüey's Provincial Archive saves thousands of documents with extraordinary heritable values, like the Judiciary Act made by Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz before a notary on September 1868, in which he bestowed some of his properties, prior to joining the revolutionary war against the Spanish colonialism.
"There are documents which are evidence of how Joaquín de Agüero freed several slaves from the chains of servitude in 1840, an event that preceded the stance adopted by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes when he granted all his slaves unconditional freedom, 28 years later."
The Oldest Document
The Spanish village of Puerto Principe was several times burnt down by corsairs and pirates who used to attack it. It was useless for the founders of the village to move it away from its original location in the northern coast of the territory to midland, where it would presumably be more protected from such raids.
From those times, first half of the 16th century, there is no written evidence in the archive. In fact, the oldest manuscript in the hands of the people of Camagüey today - callously kept in the Archive - dates back to the 17th century.
"It is a Notarial Protocol by the Council's Notary, Silvestre de Balboa Troya y Quesada, who had come from the Canary Islands to settle down in Puerto Principe. He also wrote the first literary piece of work written in Cuba: his epic poem “Espejo de Paciencia” (Mirror of Patience).
Juts forty years ago Camagüey's Provincial Archive changed its structure and, since then, it has been celebrating a new anniversary of the institution each November 4th, a date coinciding with the uprising of Las Clavellinas (25 days after Céspedes’ cry of La Demajagua) that sparked the rebellion for the independence back in 1868.
The fertile activity of its qualified staff made possible the creation of a system that comprises all the municipal archives.
“From the social point of view we also safeguard very important documents for the citizens that come here to ask for copies of legal documents like marriage certificates, divorce decrees and others.” – notes Marta Margarita who applauds those organizations and institutions that gather and send their valuable documentations to the Provincial Archive. “You never know which one of them could be historically transcendent”.
The anonymous work of these professionals is rewarded by those who, using their services, write books or conduct researches of extraordinary importance for the rescue of significant moments where Camagüey has left its mark, or by those who make use of it for particular purposes.
In all cases, the Provincial Archive and its municipal branch offices are indispensable in the daily life of Camagüey. (Translated and photos by: Gualveris Rosales)
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