By Eliott Rodriguez

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HAVANA (CBSMiami) – A Miami filmmaker is taking his audiences back 167 years to explore the history of Cuba.

Luis Perez Tolon is working on a documentary scheduled for release in November. The film, titled “Emilia,” is about the woman who sewed the first Cuban flag in 1850. Her name was Emilia Teurbe Tolon, and she happens to be the filmmaker’s great-great aunt.

“Emilia Tuerbe Tolon was my grandfather’s great aunt,” Perez Tolon said. “I had always heard stories about her from my grandfather. I also had a stamp with her picture on it issued in Cuba in 1950 commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the flag.”

Perez Tolon traveled to Spain, New York and Cuba to tell the story of his famous ancestor.

A fighter for Cuban independence from Spain, Emilia was deported from Cuba by Spanish authorities in 1850.

She joined her husband in New York, where a group of Cuban freedom fighters had designed a flag and coat of arms for the new republic of Cuba. In 1850, Emilia sewed the first flag, making her Cuba’s Betsy Ross.

Cuba won its independence from Spain in 1898, the same year Cuba adopted Emilia’s flag as its national banner.

“I don’t use the line ‘Cuba’s Betsy Ross’ because I don’t like to compare her to another person, but, yes, she would be considered the Betsy Ross of Cuba,” Perez Tolon said.

Perez Tolon points out that the Cuban flag, like the Stars and Stripes sewed by Betsy Ross, was made in America.

“The Cuban flag was made in the USA,” Perez Tolon said. “So this film is a Cuban-American story.”

Emilia died in Spain in 1880, but it wasn’t until 2010 that her tomb was located in Madrid and her remains sent to Cuba for burial in her homeland.

“When I heard that her remains had been located after being missing for so many years, I decided to make this film,” Perez Tolon said. “I am bringing Emilia into the limelight because she has been forgotten for so long.”

For more information on the documentary Emilia, visit

Eliott Rodriguez