Juan José Valdés: Mapping Cuba

Juan José Valdés: Mapping Cuba

Video. Juan José Valdés, a child refugee from Cuba, relates how he became the cartographer of the National Geographic Society and produced its first map of Cuba in over 100 years.


5 - 12


Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Human Geography, Physical Geography

NG Live

This video was filmed on April 13, 2012 as part of the National Geographic Live! Lecture series at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., United States.

As National Geographic's official geographer, Juan José Valdés guides and assists the Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for National Geographic. Through his role as National Geographic's Map's director of editorial and research, Valdés is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products.


  • Introduction and early life in pre-revolutionary Cuba (start-02:52 min.)
  • How Valdés became a geographer (02:53-04:20 min.)
  • The Cuban Revolution (04:21-05:40 min.)
  • La Coubre explosion and the importance of Cuba (05:41-06:19 min.)
  • Destroying the "Macy's of Havana" (06:20-07:13 min.)
  • Bedtime stories, the Bay of Pigs, and kids leaving Cuba (07:14-09:35 min.)
  • Immigration to the United States (09:36-10:34 min.)
  • Lost in Miami (10:35-11:52 min.)
  • How do you make a map? Creating a new map of Cuba (11:53-15:12 min.)
  • News and new administrative divisions (15:13-16:23 min.)
  • Editing, finalizing, and publishing (16:24-18:36 min.)

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Page Producers
Nina Page, National Geographic Society
Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

November 28, 2023

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