Beginning February 1, 2024, visitors to Mobile, Alabama’s Exploreum Science Center will have an opportunity for a virtual exploration of the exotic and controversial island nation of Cuba, through the exhibition ¡Cuba! Organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, ¡Cuba! provides a close look at the dynamic country’s unique environment along with its history and traditions. The bilingual exhibit incorporates contemporary Cuban voices to inspire novel perspectives on a nation located just 94 miles from Florida’s shores.
Cuba is more than an island. Technically an archipelago of more than 4000 islands and keys, it is one of the Caribbean’s most ecologically diverse countries. About 50 percent of its plants and 32 percent of its vertebrate animals are found nowhere else. The exhibition ¡Cuba! includes live animals, specimens and lifelike models representing the island’s distinctive wildlife—everything from a venomous mammal to the world’s smallest bird.
Cuba has been impacted in a variety of ways by the trade embargo with the United States, in effect since the revolution of 1959 which ushered in Fidel Castro, and by the fall of the Soviet Union. ¡Cuba! uses displays which illustrate the effect of these political issues on daily life. A display featuring a classic American car—the iconic 1955 Chevy Bel Air– like the ones, kept in tip-top shape, which still purr through the streets of Havana, demonstrates the effects of the trade embargo along with Cuban restrictions on car imports and how Cubans coped with the resulting shortages. The years since the fall of the Soviet Union have seen the advent of small-scale businesses such as the bicitaxi—part bicycle, part cab—which forms part of another display.
The natural environment has also been affected by politics. One fortunate, if unintended, effect of Cuba’s limited tourism is the preservation of its coral reefs; a display featuring Gardens of the Queen Marine Reserve spotlights one of the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean. ¡Cuba! also speculates on what’s next with a display on Cuba Tomorrow which features photos and quotes from Cubans about the future of their country.
Major sponsors of ¡Cuba! include Title Sponsor City of Mobile and Premier Sponsor, Sweet Home Alabama. The Exploreum Science Center, located in downtown Mobile, is open Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, check the website at www.exploreum.com.
Photos Courtesy Exploreum Science Center