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WUWM is honoring the lives of Latinos in Milwaukee and their contributions to the community during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Wisconsin Latinx History Collective works to preserve Cuban history in Milwaukee

Raul Galvan being welcomed to the U.S. by parish priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Moline, IL.
Raul Galvan
Wisconsin Latinx History Collective
Raul Galvan being welcomed to the U.S. by parish priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Moline, IL.

As celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month continue across Milwaukee, the history of Hispanic people in Milwaukee is being remembered by many. Raul Galvan, manager of program production at Milwaukee PBS and a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is working to highlight the history and impact that Cuban individuals have had in the Milwaukee area.

One of the ways Galvan is working to preserve the history of Cubans in Milwaukee is through the Wisconsin Latinx History Collective — which he is a part of. This is a group of scholars and community researchers in communities across Wisconsin who have committed to documenting Latinx history in the state.

“The Latinx collective is something Tess (Andrea-Teresa) Arenas created … she had just finished writing a book documenting histories, oral histories, of Latina women,” says Galvan. “And so this is an opportunity to tell new stories to document the entire history of the Latino population — which has been an integral part of Wisconsin.”

Galvan himself moved to Milwaukee in 1975. He explains that most Cubans who found themselves coming to Milwaukee were sponsored by Catholic and Protestant churches.

Galvan pointed out that Miami in the 1950s was not what it is now, and with over 400,000 Cuban immigrants flooding into the city at the time the infrastructure didn’t exist to take them all in. As a result, they started to get relocated to places like Milwaukee.

“One hundred, two hundred families settled in the Milwaukee area. In fact, like 81 Cubans arrived on a national airlines charter flight to Mitchell Field in June of 1962,” says Galvan.

Galvan did say that after experiencing the frigid winters in Wisconsin, many Cuban immigrants left and went back to Miami. However, there was a large number that stayed in the Milwaukee area. Of that number that stayed Galvan has started doing research to document and preserve the history of Cubans in Milwaukee.

“I’m at the initial stages of my research, but I’ve basically got the foundation done because I found a treasure trove of documents at the archdiocese archive,” says Galvan. “They’ve got a number of scrapbooks and I happen to know a number of the first batch of Cubans who came to Milwaukee that have put me in touch with a number of folks.”

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Beck Andrew Salgado was a producer with Lake Effect.
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