Mirta Ojito, Pulitzer Prize-winning Author of "Finding Mañana" To Speak

September 27, 2012

Cuban American will give a free, public talk Friday, Oct. 19, 6 p.m.

TACOMA, Wash. – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mirta Ojito, known for her memoir of the daring exodus of 125,000 Cubans when Fidel Castro threw the doors open in 1980, will give a free, public talk at University of Puget Sound.

The author of Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus (2005) will present a talk titled “Cuba in My Mind: Memory, Exile, and Revolution” at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19 in Schneebeck Concert Hall. The lecture is part of Puget Sound’s 8th Annual Hispanic Film Festival (Sept. 12–Nov. 15) and of the Telling Stories/Recovering the Past series (Sept. 26–Nov. 15). More details on the film festival are below.

Ojito, a journalist, author, and assistant professor of journalism at Columbia University in New York, left Cuba 32 years ago—one of the thousands of Cubans who escaped the island on boats from the port of Mariel in 1980 headed for the United States in hopes of a better life.

The exodus began after social tensions caused by a dire Cuban economy and a bid by thousands of Cubans to gain asylum in the Peruvian embassy led the Cuban government to declare that anyone who wanted to leave could do so. The ensuing, massive boatlift from Mariel Harbor to Miami became a political hot potato for U.S. President Jimmy Carter when it was discovered that Castro was emptying the Cuban jails and mental health facilities, allowing the inmates to head for the boats.

In Finding Mañana, Ojito tells a story of loss and survival that transforms the 125,000 Cuban refugees from harsh newspaper headlines into a single family facing a wrenching departure from home and a journey into the unfamiliar. Publishers Weekly commented:

“Her book is both a history of the exodus and a restoration of the reputations of the thousands who ‘quietly slipped into the fabric of the city that had reluctantly welcomed them.’” In telling her own tale, Ojito details major figures from the exodus: the powerful Miami banker who negotiated the 1979 liberation of Cuban political prisoners; the used-car salesman and Bay of Pigs veteran who helped organize the flotilla; and the captain of the boat the Ojito family sailed on.

The lecture at Puget Sound will cover the events that changed Ojito’s life and that of other Cubans, and reveal what they found in their new English-speaking country where they had to start over again.

A newspaper reporter since 1987, Ojito has worked for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, and The New York Times. She has received awards including the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ writing award for best foreign reporting in 1999 for a series of articles about life in Cuba, and a shared Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2001 for a New York Times series about race in America. Her work has been included in anthologies including To Mend the World: Women Reflect on 9/11 and How Race is Lived in America. Ojito is a graduate of the mid-career master's degree program at Columbia University. Ojito received the 2006 Distinguished Alumna Award from the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

The lecture by Mirta Ojito is sponsored by the Hispanic Studies Program, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and  the Seattle Latino Film Festival.

The 8th Annual Hispanic Film Festival:

Wednesday, Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m.: Lemon, a film about one man’s struggle to escape the past, in Rausch Auditorium, McIntyre Hall, Room 003.

Wednesday, Oct. 10, 6:30 p.m.: Voices from Mariel, a film following the Mariel boat lift from Cuba, in Rausch Auditorium, McIntyre Hall, Room 003.

Friday, Oct. 19, 6 p.m.: Mirta Ojito speaks on “Cuba in my Mind: Memory, Exile and Revolution,” in Schneebeck Concert Hall.

Wednesday, Nov. 14, 6:30 p.m.: The Mexican Suitcase, a film about the journey of a suitcase of lost photographic negatives taken during the Spanish Civil War, in Rausch Auditorium, McIntyre Hall, Room 003.

Thursday, Nov. 15, 5 p.m.: Trisha Ziff, director, curator, filmmaker, and Guggenheim scholar speaks on “The Maleta Mexicana: Image, Memory, and Exile,” in Wyatt Hall, Room 101. Sponsored by the Hispanic Studies Program, Catharine Gould Chism Fund, and the Seattle Latino Film Festival.

For directions and a map of the campus: www.pugetsound.edu/directions.xml
For accessibility information please contact accessibility@pugetsound.edu or 253.879.3236.

Press photos of Mirta Ojito (pictured) can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos

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