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.

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.)


Strategies for Using Video in a Variety of Learning Environments

  • Have students preview several of the videos and choose the one they find most inspiring. Have students describe in writing a conversation they might have with the speaker(s).
  • Freeze the video on a relevant image. Have students observe details in the still image and jot down predictions of what the full video might address. Discuss students’ ideas before and after watching the video.
  • Pose an open-ended question before students watch the video, and have them discuss their ideas before and after in small groups.
  • Have students determine what they think the key message of this video is. Was the speaker effective in getting his or her message across?
  • Show a short clip to engage students during class, and then have students watch the full video at home and write a paragraph responding to the content or a question you give them.
  • Have students note statements that represent facts or opinions, including where it’s difficult to tell the difference. What further research might help distinguish facts and opinions? How might the speaker’s viewpoint compare with others’ viewpoints about a topic?
bathymetric data

information on the depth of the ocean, lakes, or other bodies of water.


measurement of depths of bodies of water.


person who makes maps.


art and science of making maps.

Cuban revolution

(1959) revolt that led to the overthrow of the dictator Fulgencio Batista in Cuba.

Cuban sandwich

sandwich made with pork, ham, and cheese.


symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface.


the difference in elevation between areas of a specific region.


the shape of the surface features of an area.