Jorge Pérez. Photo: Vanessa Ruiz.

Miami-Dade County Cuts Grant to Pérez Art Museum over Cuban Art Exhibition

Cristina Ruiz of the Art Newspaper reports that Jorge Pérez, the billionaire real estate mogul for whom the Pérez Art Museum Miami (or PAMM), is named after, has accused Miami-Dade County’s commissioners of cutting $550,000 of a promised $4,000,000 grant to the museum as “punishment” for its current group exhibition, “On the Horizon,” which has work from and scheduled events by artists still living in Cuba. The excised monies are going to the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, a smaller institution in Coral Gables. Some would say the conflict sheds light on the historic divide in Miami’s Cuban-American community, between parties that back the US trade embargo placed on Castro’s government and the groups who are against it (seven of the thirteen Cuban American county commissioners voted to take some of the funding away from PAMM for the Coral Gables museum). Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who voted not to cut PAMM’s grant, believes that Cuban-American politics indeed shaped the vote. “[Though] . . . nobody gave it as the reason for the funding [being docked] . . . Cuban diaspora issues are highly sensitive, particularly for people whose families suffered at the hands of the Castro regime, and that does affect the voting.”

But a spokesperson for the diaspora museum, Carisa Perez Fuentes, said, “After Obama began normalizing relations with Cuba in 2014, Miami’s cultural calendar quickly filled up with exhibitions, concerts and cultural exchanges with [the country] . . . our museums and, most importantly, our tax dollars are being used to introduce Cuba’s cultural and political agenda to the US.” Jorge Pérez, who has been accused of sympathizing with the Communist country, said that, “Anybody who knows me knows that I totally criticize the Castro system and that my family lost all its money and was displaced because of Castro. But you still need to be proud of the culture that is yours. And that’s what this exhibition is about.” He was part of the delegation that visited the country with former US President Barack Obama last year.

Trump’s reversals of diplomatic relations with Cuba, however, have only exacerbated the strife within Miami’s Cuban-American community. “The continuing of the embargo and the rhetoric from Cuba and the US against each other have not resulted in anything but the suffering of the Cuban people,” said Pérez. “President Trump is giving credence again to the very radical right-wing part of the Cuban community. And politicians are using that.” Nonetheless, Michael Spring, the director of Miami-Dade’s department of cultural affairs, says that Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez wants to work with PAMM to cement the funding it requires so that the museum feels properly supported.