Florida Memory is administered by the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services, Bureau of Archives and Records Management. The digitized records on Florida Memory come from the collections of the State Archives of Florida and the special collections of the State Library of Florida.
Interview with comparsa dancers Irene and Emelia Fernandez
Personal experience narratives
Clothing and dress
Two audio cassettes. Emelia Fernandez and her daughter Irene discusses their lives and the comparsas tradition. Fernandez founded a comparsas dance troupe in Key West. Danny Acosta led the band that accompanied the dances. The Cuban dance has African roots, and is usually performed in long conga lines. Dancers dress in elaborate, ruffled outfits. The tradition began in Key West in 1938. Emelia herself arrived in Florida in 1959. She and her daughter Irene revived the dance tradition in the early 1990s. For images of their performance, see S 1577, v. 60, slides S92-557 - S92-567. The Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program began in 1983 with a NEA grant of $22,000. The program provided an opportunity for master folk artists to share technical skills and cultural knowledge with apprentices in order to keep the tradition alive. Apprentices must have had some experience in the tradition and agreed to train for at least six months. The first project director was Blanton Owen, later replaced by folklorist Peter Roller. The program was continued each year through 2004.