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Brother  Marie-Victorin on the Varadero beach, with his sisters and a friends, 1939
Exposition Sous le soleil de Cuba [Jardin botanique de Montréal]
Under the Cuban Sun Cuba Marie-Victorin Itineraries Cuba's Provinces

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Beginning of the virtual exhibit

Under the Cuban Sun with Marie-Victorin: The exhibit

Travel plans

1937: Brother Marie-Victorin dreamed of accepting the invitation from his fellow botanist and great friend Brother Léon to join him in Cuba. The two men had been corresponding for thirty years about its exotic and unique flora. How could he resist the call of this vision of paradise and its intriguing plants? Yet he had so many obligations here that made it difficult for him to leave.

Cuba, here I come!

1938: his dream came true! Marie-Victorin was truly enchanted during his first trip there, which he made at Christmastime with his sisters. Other trips would soon follow – he made seven in all. During his expeditions, he roamed the island from one end to the other with two travelling companions, Brother Léon and his assistant, José Perez Carabia. These botanist-explorers travelled across Cuba using every possible means of transportation, from planes to cars, horses and boats, their curiosity constantly taking them ever farther in search of new discoveries. Marie-Victorin found this spectacular environment endlessly fascinating.

Travel plans

1937: Brother Marie-Victorin dreamed of accepting the invitation from his fellow botanist and great friend Brother Léon to join him in Cuba. The two men had been corresponding for thirty years about its exotic and unique flora. How could he resist the call of this vision of paradise and its intriguing plants? Yet he had so many obligations here that made it difficult for him to leave.

Travel highlights

The Under the Cuban Sun with Marie-Victorin exhibition presents a series of Brother Marie-Victorin's favourite Cuban destinations and discoveries. From West to East:

Map of Cuba from Itinéraires botaniques

The province and city of HAVANA
Discoveries: the royal palm, Cuba's national tree

The province of PINAR DEL RIO
Discoveries: mogotes (steep, rocky cliffs), bohios (peasant homes made from royal palms), tobacco fields and belly palms, with their distinctive swollen trunks

ISLA DE PINOS (the Isle of Pines, today known as the Isle of Youth)
Discoveries: tropical pines

The province of MATANZAS
Discoveries: in the North, sugar cane and agaves, and in the South, carboneros, men who burned mangroves to make charcoal for cooking food

The province of CIENFUEGOS
Discoveries: the wealth of Cuban flora and its unique species.

The province of SANTA CLARA
Discoveries: the many uses of royal palms in daily life and the work done by a mochador, a very special kind of tree trimmer

The province of ORIENTE (Santiago de Cuba, Sierra Maestra, Pilon, Guantanamo, Sierra de Nipe and Baracoa)
Discoveries: food plants like coconut palms, coffee plants and cacao trees.

E for ECOLOGY

Brother Marie-Victorin travelled completely around the island of Cuba. As one of the earliest ecologists, he helped tell people about Cuba's splendid flora. He also brought a large number of his finds back to Quebec with him – over 3,000 herbarium plants collected with Brother Léon in Cuba (placed in the Marie-Victorin Herbarium at the Université de Montréal's Institut de recherche en biologie végétale) and several Cuban plants that are still thriving at the Botanical Garden, 70 years later!

It is interesting to note that this attention to preserving the unique Cuban flora (which he also published a series of three publications, Itinéraires botaniques de l'île de Cuba) can still be seen today: the Cuban government has created national parks and biosphere reserves in some splendid natural settings. Some of them are open to visitors – definitely worth a detour on your next trip!

Marie-Victorin, photographer

The Botanical Garden's founder was not only a highly regarded botanist, but also an excellent photographer. Under the Cuban Sun with Marie-Victorin presents some fine examples of his work, from black and white photographs to colour glass slides and hand-coloured glass plates.

A host of other items are also displayed: personal possessions (his passport), typical Cuban articles (tobacco leaves, a tool used by a torcedor) and handicrafts (wood carvings).

Unless otherwise stated, all images for this exhibit have been taken by Marie-Victorin and are from Division des Archives - Université de Montréal.

Marie-Victorin, author

Brother Marie-Victorin will guide us through Cuba:


courier font

will be used to identify texts written by Brother Marie-Victorin.

Under the Cuban Sun : the film

In addition, some brief excerpts from the Under the Cuban Sun lecture given by Brother Marie-Victorin at the Montréal Botanical Garden when he returned from his first trip will also be screened: a timeless tribute to the island's treasures!


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Under the Cuban Sun with Marie-Victorin [Jardin botanique de Montréal]


Last Update: 2014-06-18
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