Cultural Center

Colonial Florida

Cultural Heritage Center

   The first building in the Colonial Florida Cultural Heritage Center complex is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced (La Merced), located on the campus of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Allapattah, a district of Miami-Dade County, Florida.  A second building on the site, the former parish convent and then a retreat center, now contains meeting and reception rooms, a library, display areas for the Heritage Center’s Collections, and offices. La Merced is envisioned to be the focal point of four buildings that will create a village square and meeting place.  They will house the majority of the existing – and expanding – collection that includes Spanish Colonial Art featuring works from throughout South and Central America and the islands, particularly the art centers of Cuzco and greater Peru, and Mexico City; an original document and ephemera collection focusing on very early Florida related documents as well as documents and ephemera from Cuba from its beginnings through the early twentieth century; extensive digitalized documents related to the early Americas, in particularly Cuba; original books emphasizing social and political history of Florida, the islands and the Americas, with specialized collections such as the Spanish American War and Black America; early religious vestments made or used in the Americas.  The facilities will expand the ceremonial and concert possibilities of the Chapel of La Merced and the Iglesia Madre of Corpus Christi parish, utilizing both a major commissioned harpsichord and a world-class piano, plus meeting and educational facilities.


   The dream of Corpus Christi’s long-time pastor, Father José Luis Menéndez, the first building of La Merced is created in the spirit of an old Peruvian church.  It is intended, in Father’s words, “to give back something to the United States for what it has given us.  It accepts us and gives us a chance to build a new life.  We in turn give the gift of our culture.”  It is also in particular a gift to South Florida and to the people of the transitional neighborhoods.  “Just because many of our neighbors cannot donate the dollars needed for such a project as this does not mean that they do not deserve to live with art and culture, that their children should not benefit from a community reflecting the culture and history of so many of its people – or that persons from outside this neighborhood should not be welcome to visit us, and to learn about this history and how all of us can appreciate it together as one diverse but united community.”


   Construction of La Merced was begun in 2005.  It has continued as resources have become available.  As construction has continued, and donors of both time and talent and treasure have come forward, Father has increased the quality and detail of construction and the size and quality of the collections that are and will be housed.  Recently, the Spanish Colonial Art collection almost doubled with the acquisition, over a period of years, of a significant portion of the William Morgenstern Estate collection. 


   Today, the design of La Merced retains its Peruvian colonial soul, while the artisans and materials reflect the world that has come to South Florida over the centuries.  The windows of the Chapel are made of onyx from Pakistan.  The floor is marble from Turkey.  The interior step facing is from Alicante, Spain.  Outside walls include coral rock from the Dominican Republic.  The outside steps are made of stone from Brazil.  The exterior paint – and, someday, the interior paint – is made in the water-based style typical in Europe and the Spanish colonies at the time of the artwork in the collection.  On the front altar, the small columns and side niche areas are made by craftsmen from Cochabamba, Bolivia, inspired by local traditional Indian carving.  A coffered ceiling, also hand carved in Cochabamba, is in storage awaiting funding for its installation.  Other altars are made by Colombians, by Mexicans in the style of Peru, and by Costa Ricans assisted by Hondurans and Guatemalans – “It exemplifies Miami!” says Father. 




Contact Us


3221 N.W. 7th Avenue,

Miami, Florida 33127



Archdiocese of Miami,

Trustee and Chairperson

Rev. José Luis Menéndez,

305 635 1331

Trustee, Vice-Chairperson

and Treasurer

Rev. Federico Capdepòn,

305 635 1331

Trustee and Secretary

Julie A.S. Williamson,

305 458 0111

Project Director

Ray Zamora,

305 303 5855


Spanish Colonial Art Collection

Carol Damian, Ph.D.,

305 607 5160

Music Consultant

Frank Cooper

305 444 7810

Cooperating Organizations:

Martha/Mary Concerts,

Concerts in Residence


305 458 0111


Events & Activities



If you wish to be part of the group of benefactors who want to make this project possible, you can donate through the following links:
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