The story of Emiliano Martinez, a Cuban refugee, was publicized as an example of the ingenuity and survival skills of recent immigrants to this nation. Martinez fled Cuba in one of the freedom flotillas of 1980. After a year in a refugee camp at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, he arrived in Washington, D.C. in April 1981. He shared apartments with other Cuban refugees until Oct. 1982. Using his carpentry skills, he constructed a hut on undeveloped land at the National Zoo, where he lived from Dec. 1982 until March 1984. He then moved into a boarding house in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood. He made his livelihood by selling aluminum cans to a Safeway grocery store for an average of sixty-five dollars a month.
Papers and photographs related to the immigration experience of Cuban refugee Martinez: a story from the Washington Post, March 12, 1984; a 45-minute cassette recording of an interview (in Spanish) by Richard E. Ahlborn with Martinez; a transcription in Spanish of the interview; six photographs of the hut taken by a zoo photographer; a covering memorandum from Ahlborn; a copy of Martinez's earnings from the sale of cans; and a diagram of his hut. Ahlborn, a curator in NMAH Division of Community Life, was assisted by Juana Martin, a social worker.
Emiliano Martinez Collection, 1984, Archives Center, National Museum of American History