1997 Padre Felix Varela
- Honors “the Cuban saint,” Padre Felix Varela
- Portrait is entirely made up of “USPS microprinting
- Issued to kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month
32¢, First Class Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:
September 15, 1997
First Day City:
Printed for Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd. By Sterling Sommer of Tonawanda, New York
Panes of 20 (Vertical 5 across, 4 down)
Why the stamp was issued:
Commemorates Cuban-American priest, scholar, humanitarian, and journalist Padre Felix Varela.
About the stamp design:
Pictures a detailed pencil drawing by Keith Birdsong (he previously designed the 1996 Indian Dance stamps) based on a photograph of an engraving from 1878.
Special design details:
According to art director Carl Hermann the stamp was printed in purple “because it’s a good priestly color.” When the stamp design was revealed, Tirso del Junco said the stamp was “like its’ subject: modest, understated, powerful in its simplicity.”
The entire portrait of Varela consists of the microprinted letters “USPS” repeated over and over again. The letters cannot be seen without magnification. It is just detectable using an 8x magnifier, but can be seen more clearly with more powerful tools. The shading is created by using different shades of purple to print the letters. They are also italicized and vertically staggered to create a crosshatching effect. The frame lines and typography are printed in solid color instead of microprinting.
First Day City:
The First Day of Issue Ceremony was held in Miami, Florida, home to one of the largest Cuban-American communities in the United States. It was held at Miami’s Biltmore Hotel and marked the beginning of the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
History the stamp represents:
Born in Cuba in 1788, Félix Varela attended the College and Seminary of San Carlos in Havana. By 1811, he was ordained as a priest and, despite his youth, named a Professor of Philosophy at the college. He also taught physics, chemistry, Latin, and rhetoric.
An innovative educator, Varela was a firm believer in giving women the same education as men, and he actively lobbied for the abolition of slavery. He also published many philosophical pamphlets and books.
With the return of absolute monarchy to Spain in 1823, Varela fled to New York City. In the United States, he helped the poor and worked for racial, ethnic, and religious tolerance. Varela founded churches, orphanages, nurseries, and the country’s first Spanish-language newspaper. In 1832, he organized the New York Catholic Temperance Association for the care of cholera victims. During this terrible epidemic, he virtually lived in hospitals and nurseries caring for the ill.
Varela spent the final years of his life in St. Augustine, Florida, where he died in 1853. His former students honored his memory by building a chapel in the cemetery there. Two foundations bearing Padre Varela’s name, based in New York and Miami, continue his noble work.