The Braga Brothers Collection is the gift of George Atkinson Braga and B. Rionda Braga to the University of Florida's George A. Smathers Libraries. Donated to the Libraries' Department of Special Collections in 1981, the collection is one of the richest archival sources on the modernization and expansion of the Cuban sugar industry. As the archive of a large North American company that did business in Cuba it provides insights to the unique commercial relationship that once existed between Cuba and the United States. The collection is, as well, an unavoidable historical source on topics pertaining to the social and political aspects of sugar production in pre-Castro Cuba.
The principal holdings in the collection are the records of the Czarnikow-Rionda Company of New York and its subsidiaries and affiliates. From the beginning of the 20th century until the early 1960s, Czarnikow-Rionda was one of North America's largest importers of sugar and molasses. Although it traded in sugar from around the world, its principal source was Cuba. From its offices on Wall Street the company bought and sold ship loads of raw sugar, provided sugar mills with equipment and supplies, and negotiated short term crop loans to Cuba's sugar producers. Czarnikow-Rionda's affiliated companies in Cuba and the United States included cane farms, sugar mills, storage and weighing facilities, a sugar refinery, alcohol distilleries, and cattle ranches.
The Braga Brothers Collection also documents a family network that has been involved in the sugar industry since the mid-1800s. The collection begins in 1860 with the records of Lewis Benjamin, a commission merchant in New York City. The link to Cuba and sugar begins in 1873 when Benjamin formed a partnership with Joaquín Rionda y Polledo, a Spanish immigrant with family ties to a Cuban sugar producer. From there, the collection journeys through almost one hundred years of sugar history.
The collection consists primarily of administrative correspondence - letters, memoranda, and cables. Production data and records related to the technology employed in the manufacture of raw sugar, molasses, alcohol, and other cane products are evident as well. Ledgers and other accounting books, blueprints, and maps are also found in the collection. The latter includes original maps of the sugar estates and aerial photographic surveys of the Francisco and Manati sugar mills.