By: Rafael L. Robayna, PE

The “Sociedad Cubana de Ingenieros” which dates to the end of the nineteen century was the umbrella organization for all engineering disciplines which included electrical mechanical, agronomic, industrial, etc.  From that organization, in the 1940’s, sprung the “Colegios” for the different disciplines.

The “Colegio de Ingenieros Civiles de Cuba” was founded in the Republic of Cuba in July 13th, 1945.  It fully functioned as a free organization representing all the civil engineers in Cuba, until the early 1960’s.  Its official publication “Ingenieria Civil”  was published until at least July of 1961.

In the period of 1959-60 the president of the Colegio de Ingenieros Civiles was Gustavo R. Sterling Alvares, Professor Jose A. Vila Espinosa was the second Vice President, and Jorge L. Quadreny Garcia was the delegate for the HabanaProvince.  Along the names of the directors there are many more illustrious names, too long to mention.

In the Cuban exodus of 1959 through the 1960’s many prominent engineers, members of the Colegios, left Cuba due to the communist regime established in Cuba by Fidel Castro.  The lives of these professionals and their families, the same as many other freedom loving citizens of Cuba, were shattered and their dreams became a nightmare overnight.  The tragic loss of their homeland, where they had grown and prospered, forced them to rebuild their lives in exile, and re-create their careers under a new environment, and a new language.  Their lives filled with hope and the professional knowledge they had, found a welcoming reprise from the American government and its people.  Miami was the arrival point for many of these engineers, which found themselves in a foreign country with no work in their profession.

The first arrivals found it very difficult to adjust to the changes in the professional systems, coupled with lack of opportunities in their respective fields.   But as they adjusted to the professional requirements of the new land, they somewhat prospered and found little by little employment in their professions.  Some of then had to migrate to other cities in the US where employment was more abundant.  Toward the end of 1959 several civil engineers, which were already somewhat established, got together to help others which were arriving.  The help consisted of some money, which was not plentiful, orientation and at times recommendations for local firms or firms in other localities.  What the Cuban engineers had in common was their knowledge and experience. In 1961 the group had grown to the level that the “Colegio de Ingenieros Civiles de Cuba en el Exilio” was founded and incorporated as the official organization of the Cuban Civil Engineers.  At first the membership in the Colegio was limited to Engineers that had graduated and practiced in Cuba before going into exile and who were participants of its  goals, which were to unite its members with the purpose of restoring the democratic government of Cuba and to assist arriving members in incorporating themselves to practice their profession in the United States.  Many moved to other cities in the Northeast of the country while other left for Puerto Rico where the language and the customs were similar to Cuba.  That generation maintained their membership on the organization that guided their success in this borrowed land.

Members of the Association were very influential in obtaining approval of the Florida Board of Engineers and were delegated to certify the university courses taken in Cuba as Civil Engineers.   The Association helped hundreds of arriving engineers in this task.  In other matters the Association maintained strong ties with local political figures that influenced our profession and placed members on committees and task forces that shaped the growth of the state.  Engineers that fled Cuba to other countries, like Spain, also received the help of the Colegio, who certified their knowledge and attested to their civil engineering status based on their curriculum at the University of Habana.  The US Department of Immigration accepted this certification for the purposes obtaining residence in the United States to work as civil engineers.  Some of our most prominent members arrived in Miami via Spain with this certification.  One such certification dated in May of 1988, on our possession, shows that it was signed by Antonio Tella as President and Delfin Molins as Secretary of the Colegio.

As time has passed, younger Cubans, some born outside of Cuba, have earned their place on the Association, and has joined forces with the old generations to maintain the flame of our heritage alive. The Association, which originally had a president for several years has had a succession of new blood, with new presidents elected every other year.  A list of past presidents is shown at the bottom of the page, they have done honor to our heritage as Cuban Civil Engineers.

The Association has grown in prestige and reputation.  The Association’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws were changed in the decade of 2000-10 to reflect the status of a non-profit corporation.  It no longer reflects any political purpose, but what is reflected by the origin of the majority of our members, it maintains its pride in its Cuban Heritage.   Membership is now open to other nationalities, and to civil engineers born in the United States.

The Cuban American Association of Civil Engineers, as it is now known, promotes the highest level of professional conduct, promotes knowledge by its scholarship program, named after Jose A. Vila  Espinosa, and rewards those members who have attained prestige and reputation through their careers and involvement in technical committees and boards, and community involvement with its Awards program.  Following are the awards that are given every year to deserving civil engineers:

  •             Francisco de Albear Award
  •             Luis P. Saenz Award
  •             Plinio Villanueva Award
  •             Young Engineer of the Year Award
  •             Several Meritorious Project Awards

It is worth mentioning the Premio Francisco Albear has its roots in 1950’s Cuba. The Cuban American Association of Civil Engineers celebrates 50 years of its glorious existence in the United States, 1961-2011. The proud accomplishments of the civil engineers of the Cuban Diaspora in the United States and throughout the world are a testimony to the talent that left Cuba in 1959 and the 1960’s with only their knowledge and perseverance.  Today and every day we must pay tribute to those that founded this association.

Previoius Award Recipients        
1999Distinguished Engineer AwardTo:Servando Parapar , PE
Distinguished Engineer AwardTo:Andres Garganta, P.E
2000Millennium AwardsTo:Federico J. Lean, PE
To:Oscar Perez Zabala
To:Plinio M. Villanueva, PE
2001Professional Excellence AwardTo:Gabriel Romanach, PE
2002Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Ysrael A. Seinuk, PE
Engineer of the Year AwardTo:John Martinez, PE
2003Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Rafael L. Robayna, PE
Engineer of the Year AwardTo:Maria Porrata
2004Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Jaime Mitrani. PE
Engineer of the Year AwardTo:Esther Calas, PE
2005Francisco de albear AwardTo:Carlos F. Bozon PhD,PE
Engineer of the Year AwardTo:Javier Rodriguez, PE
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Plinio Villanueva. PE
2006Francisco de Albear AwardTo:John W. Renfrow, PE
Engineer of the Year AwardTo:Gustavo Felix Pego, PE
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Loreto Humberto Casariego, PE
Project of the YearTo:The Miami Intermodal Center (MIC)
2007Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Maria P. Carasa, PE
Engineer of the Year AwardTo:Albert A. Hernandez, PE
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Oscar Perez Zabala
Project of the YearTo:Miami Carnival Center
2008Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Ramon Soria, PE
Luis P. Saenz AwardTo:Eduardo A. Vega, PE
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Rafael L. Robayna, PE
Special President's AwardTo:Yzela Llort
Projects of the YearTo:US 27/SR 25/Okeechobee Rd. “Depressed Section”
To:SR 836 Extension
2009Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Armando I. Perez, PE
Luis P. Saenz AwardTo:Alice Bravo, PE
Young Engineer of the Year Award To:Javier Manso, PE
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Jose Garrido, PE
Special President’s AwardTo:Rene Rodriguez
Projects of the YearTo:MIA South Terminal
To:NW 17th. Avenue Bridge over the Miami River Rehabilitation Project
2010Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Sergio Alfonso, PE
Luis P. Saenz AwardTo:Jorge S. Rodriguez, PE
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Andres Garganta, PE
Special President’s AwardTo:Association of Study for the Cuban Economy
Projects of the YearTo:Miami-Dade WASD; Ultraviolet l Light Disinfection Facility for Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) water at the West and Southwest Wellfield Facilities.
MDX; SR-874 Flyover Ramp at Kendall Drive
2011Francisco de Albear Award To:Robert J. Carballo, PE
Luis P. Saenz AwardTo:Herminio F. Gonzalez, PE
Young Engineer of the Year Award To:Jose L. Acosta, PE
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Delfin Molins, EI
Projects of the Year To:CI – MDC PW Dept South Side of Rickenbacker CWY Breach Re-Nourishment and Roadway Restoration
To:CII – NW 14 th Street from NW 107 th Ave to NW 87 th Ave – Roadway
To:CIII – Miami International Airport – Rental Car Center East of MIA
2012Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Esther L. Casas, PE
Luis P. Saenz AwardTo:Julio Brea, PE
Young Engineer of the Year AwardTo:Josenrique Cueto, P.E.
Projects of the YearTo:C2 – 72” FM – Miami-Dade County
C3 – NW 25 th Street Via Duct (FDOT) – Miami-Dade County
Luis P. Saenz AwardTo:Alfred Lurigados, PE
Young Engineer of the Year Award To:Nelson Perez-Jacome, P.E.
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Pedro P. Giralt, P.E.
Projects of the YearTo:CI – M-Path from Datran Drive to SW 67 th Ave – Miami, FL
CII – 24” WM Relocation under Fisherman’s Channel - Miami
2014Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Jorge L. Quardreny, Sr.
Luis P. Saenz AwardTo:Rafael A. Terrero, PE
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Rodrigo O. Rodriguez, PE
Young Engineer of the Year AwardTo:Cristina Ortega-Castineiras, E.I.
Projects of the Year Category ITo:Old Cutler Road Roadway Improvement Project Town of Cutler Bay
Projects of the Year Category IITo:City of Miami Belle Meade Phase II Drainage Improvements
Projects of the Year Category IIITo:Miami Dade Water & Sewer Department Government Cut 54” Forcemain Replacement
2015Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Felix Blanco, P.E.
Luis P. Saenz AwardTo:Harold Desdunes, P.E.
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Maria Fernandez Porrata
Young Engineer of the Year AwardTo:Erik Sibila, P.E.
Projects of the Year Category ITo:Cuban Memorial Monument – Miami Dade County
Projects of the Year Category IITo:Perrine Basins A, B and C Water and Sewer Improvements, Miami-Dade
Projects of the Year Category IIITo:Bear Cut Bridge Rehab - Key Biscayne, Florida
Projects of the Year Category IV (Mega Project)To:Tunnel from I-395 to Port Miami - Miami, FL
2016Francisco de Albear AwardTo:Antonio Acosta, P.E.
Luis P. Saenz AwardTo:Debora Rivera, P.E.
Plinio Villanueva AwardTo:Victor Pujals, P.E.
Young Engineer of the Year AwardTo:Yulet Miguel, P.E.
Project of the Year Category ITo:NW 36th Bascule Bridge
Project of the Year Category IITo:Brickell PS8/PS3 48" Interceptor
Project of the Year Category IIITo:Alton Road Improvements - Miami Beach

Note: This article could not have been possible without the information provided throughout the years by Professor Manuel R. Vilaret, Federico J. Leon, Humberto Casariego, Plinio Villanueva, Jose Garrido, Delfin Molins and others.


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