More than 100 community members, including distinguished local artists and advertising professionals, joined family and friends of Ricardo Arregui at a reception on Thursday, September 26 to honor one of Cuba’s original Mad Men and celebrate the donation of his archive to the University of Miami Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection.
The archive chronicles Arregui’s prolific career dating back to the 1950s. Known as the Ricardo Arregui Papers, it contains historic photographs, iconic magazine print ad clippings, LP jingle recordings, and signature market research publications.
“The work we do is possible because of people like Ricardo Arregui, who shared his personal history with us by participating in our Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project in 2012, and who has now entrusted us to care for his personal archive, the evidence of his long and storied career,” said Maria Estorino, the Esperanza Bravo de Varona Chair of the Cuban Heritage Collection.
The reception, themed Mad Men of Cuba, was held at The Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion, where poster-sized reproductions of original ads from memorable campaigns for products such as Diana Foods, Polar beer, and Perfumeria Gal decorated the walls. It was sponsored by the Amigos of the Cuban Heritage Collection, Grand Havana Rum, Versailles Restaurant, and Café Pilon.
Arregui’s son, Richard Arregui, spoke at the event, providing a narrative of his father’s journey that began in Havana, Cuba, where, with his brother Tirso Arregui and friend Tony Fergo, he opened Arregui-Fergo Advertising, known for its extensive research and marketing departments. “Before Google, Arregui-Fergo knew street by street how many dry cleaners, meat markets, and apartments there were across the city,” said Richard Arregui.
Arregui’s vision for understanding the consumer supported the team in rising to become one of the top five agencies in Cuba within ten years. “My father has always said you have to listen to what they are saying out in the streets,” said Richard Arregui.
When the brothers left Cuba in the early 1960s, they founded Arregui International Advertising, the first Hispanic advertising agency in South Florida. Some of their earliest clients included Café Bustelo, Kirby Foods, Diana Foods, and Balado Tires. Their clientele grew with the Hispanic community and went on to encompass El Dorado Furniture, Sedano’s Market and Pharmacy, Badia Spices, Café Pilon, Samuel Adams, and Sam’s Club.
“We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Arregui during the past year, and while most of you know him, too, I bet there’s a lot that you don’t know about his entrepreneurial spirit, his creativity, and his hard work,” Estorino told reception attendees. She believes many aspects of Arregui’s story are universal and hopes the donation of his archive inspires others to ask how their own stories will be remembered. “We are here to help you answer that question, just as we answered it for Ricardo Arregui,” Estorino said.
The Ricardo Arregui Papers will be accessible for researchers in the coming months at the Cuban Heritage Collection. Arregui’s oral history can be accessed through the Collection’s Oral History Project, archived online in the Libraries Digital Collections.
The Cuban Heritage Collection collects, preserves, and provides access to primary and secondary sources of enduring historical, research, and factual value relating to Cuba and the Cuban Diaspora from colonial times to the present. The collection supports the teaching, learning, and research needs of the University of Miami and the broader scholarly community.