Calibanesque Revolution in Reinaldo Arenas' Writing

Enrique Morales-Daz, Hartwick College


While Roberto Fernndez Retamar, in his post-colonial essay "Caliban: Notes toward a Discussion of Culture in Our America" (1989) poses the question, "Does a Latin American culture exist?" (3), Reinaldo Arenas asks and attempts to answer the following: Does a homosexual exist in the Cuban culture that promotes non-divergence from the established male/female gender dichotomy? More importantly, he will ask "do I exist?" Fernndez Retamar's argument emphasizes the postcolonial conditions under which many Latin American countries continue to exist, focusing his discussions on the differentiation between the center and the periphery. It can be argued, then, that Reinaldo Arenas' writing stems from the nature of Fernndez Retamar's deduction regarding questions of postcolonial existence, which will lead Arenas to analyze the place of the homosexual subject within the center/periphery dichotomy.

Another contention discussed in Fernndez Retamar's essay focuses on the issues of language, its connection to the colonizers and the impact it has had on the "developing" cultures of Latin American nations (5). Notwithstanding, his debate also corresponds to the demands placed on Cuban artists and writers to utilize their craft to promote the development of a revolutionary social consciousness by adapting the "language" of the revolution. As Fidel Castro stated, those who supported the revolution had every right within the system, those that did not had no rights at all. Castro's feelings were also echoed by Samuel Feijo who stated that "No homosexual represents the Revolution, which is a matter of fists and not feathers; of courage, not trembling; of certainty, not intrigue; of creative valor and not of sweet surprises" (quoted in Leiner 25).

To understand the struggles that Reinaldo Arenas attempted to overcome through his writing, having rejected the regime's demands for conformity and "existing" as a homosexual writer, the iconic symbol of the post-colonial movements, Caliban, can best symbolize the writer's own agenda, particularly emphasizing the development of a counter-discourse that sought to de-construct the "official story" that marginalized and oppressed all non-conformists whom a "colonizer" deemed inferior, thus creating a "colonized subject." The discussions regarding the "other"/Caliban lead to further scrutiny of the native's relationship in the process of decolonization to the post-colonial moment. It has been argued that the idea that a universalistic approach to literature or history as the best way to explain the human condition is misleading. Such an idealistic and fixed approach is erroneous because it overshadows the differences that exist among groups and individuals: it overlooks gender and class struggles, religious and sexual persecution, and idealizes the world. It is a Euro-centric explanation, a colonizer's view of the "universe." Post-colonial theory seeks to dismantle these assumptions and categorizations by allowing the voiceless to speak. It urges the marginalized to reclaim his "past"; a past, though, that may not exist.

However, critics such as Ella Shohat stipulate that a term such as "post-colonialism" implies a lack of knowledge and understanding of the impact that the European colonial enterprise had on the transformation of the colonized cultures. Thus, colonialism, despite decolonization, continues to pervade in former colonies (326). Her argument parallels Ania Loomba's (1998) regarding what post-colonialism should be and is applied to the study at hand. Loomba states that post-colonialism should be analyzed and interpreted as a form of contesting the colonialist process and the imprint it has left behind (12). In terms of the counter-discursive approach by decolonized societies, Bill Ashcroft adds that

Post-colonial discourse is the discourse of the colonized, which begins with the colonization and doesn't stop when the colonizers go home. The post-colonial is not a chronological period but a range of material conditions, and a rhizomic pattern of discursive struggles, ways of contending with various specific forms of colonial oppression. (PCT 12)

Counter-discourse, by "definition" and practice, stems from the ideology that the established and positivist notion of colonial discourse presents a one sided and hierarchical/heteropatriarchal understanding of the colonized world. The idea constituted by counter-discourse is that it dismantles, re-appropriates, re-constructs and thus re-historicizes "identity" for/by the colonized. Prior "understanding" of the colonized native stems from the perception that "colonialism" is discursive since it appropriates and becomes the agency through which the colonized subject is interpreted and represented (Loomba 95). The colonizer, or the West, has objectified the native, establishing itself as the focus of history. Colonial discourse has the power and opportunity to label and control, and these characteristics have the ability to destroy and make disappear anything that opposes it. To summarize, according to Iain Chambers (1996), historicism believes that it maintains complete control and domination of the colonized so long as the center/periphery dichotomy do not come into contact. While these two worlds remain distant, the colonizer's culture will remain "unchanged" because the "other," the colonized, comes into existence through the colonizer's interpretation of history and civilization (54-55).

This idea regarding colonial discourse has been held as "truth" up until the post-colonial moment when barriers begin to disappear and margins begin to blur into one another. What has been categorized as all encompassing dissipates into voices that begin to blend into one another; it cries for a "truth" that has not existed after centuries of conquest and colonization. Counter-discourse allows for an attempt to re-write a "lost" past, for an understanding of "history" from various perspectives. What has been identified as the periphery, the margin, challenges the established center, the metropolis, appropriating the "Other" into the "other." As Rey Chow states:

As we challenge a dominant discourse by resurrecting' the victimized voice/self of the native with our readings ... we step, far too quickly, into the otherwise silent and invisible place of the native and turn ourselves into living agents/witnesses of her. This process, in which we become visible, also neutralizes the untranslatability of the native's experience and the history of that untranslatability. (37-38)

Hence, the colonized subject, who is gazed upon by those who accept colonial history become visible and gazed upon by the colonized themselves.

Reinaldo Arenas' counter-discourse, his anti-revolutionary stance against the established order is also his own "revolutionary" agenda. His goal is to re-establish his voice so that through him others can find "agency" and can have their lives re-told to denounce the oppression and marginalizing they have endured. One of the strategies that Arenas will establish in his counter-discursiveness is to set Cuba as "the primary referent in theory and praxis" (Mohanty 172). Thus, the Cuban writer's adoption of this post-colonial mode of resistance to re-historicize a world that had been denied a historicity by Fidel Castro and his government can be interpreted, according to Chandra Talpade Mohanty, as a "political praxis which counters and resists the totalizing imperative of age-old legitimate' and scientific' bodies of knowledge" (173). His exilic experience would foster and enhance this active resistance by developing a counter-discourse that would de-construct and re-construct the "true" aims, as he understood them, of the Cuban revolutionary struggle.

Luis de la Paz explains that Arenas' time away from the island allowed him the freedom to expand his counter-discourse without the constant fear that the revolutionary police would search for him and confiscate his manuscripts. This feeling of freedom and control also assisted in the search to find himself in order to recapture his voice and identity. As Arenas himself stated in a 1980 gathering of intellectual dissidents at Columbia University,

Por primera vez soy un hombre libre, por lo tanto, por primera vez existo. Mi vida hasta ahora ha transcurrido entre dos dictaduras: primero la de Batista; luego la dictadura comunista. Precisamente por estar por primera vez en un pas libre puedo hablar. Y como puedo hablar, puedo decir cosas que seguramente no gustarn a muchos ciudadanos de este pas libre, y mucho menos a sus gobernantes. Claro, si estuviera en un pas totalitario (en la Cuba actual) tendra que decir lo que le pareciera al dictador, o no decir nada. He aqu las ventajas de estar en un pas libre... (Arenas)[1]

The characters that Reinaldo Arenas utilizes to reconstruct the marginalized, the "colonized" subject, Caliban, can be studied through a post-colonial venue. The "post-colonial" deconstructs what has been labeled as "universal" to allow for the introduction of regional interpretations and representations. Dennis Walder (1998) will attest to this ideology by stating that "Rewriting history involves a more comprehensive, a more objective perspective. This is achieved by presenting not simply the alternative stereotype, of precolonial society as somehow not prey to the usual ills that flesh is heir to" (15). It is a way to counter-attack and disclaim the established norms by the colonizers. Although Gayatri Spivak has stated that the subaltern cannot speak, a post-colonial approach allows the former colonized subject, the marginalized homosexual, to find the means, the agency by which to be heard. In the case of Reinaldo Arenas, he will create characters associated with both the revolution and his personal life as a form of mimicry in order to criticize and ridicule the absurdity of the revolution, its attitude toward homosexuals, its hypocrisy and repression. Much like Caliban, Arenas places a "curse" on Castro and the revolution for having forced on him its language.

Through the use, specifically of narratives, histories are being retold. The outside world, the "First World," the West, is now being confronted with that which it has created: the "other." This "other," for the colonizer signifies a series of binarisms: "envy/contempt, desire/derision" (Bhabha 67). The peripheries begin to move toward the center, a series of voices murmuring in the background, resonating like an echo, wanting to be heard, wanting to be freed. This is part of the post-colonial process. This attack, this counter-discourse, is possible because of the links that bind the colonizer to the colonized. There is now doubt in the totalitarian power of the dominant discourse. Post-colonial theory, then, serves as the basis for the re-appropriation of history, of life and self-ruling. It allows the voiceless to speak, the ignored to shine. It questions the distinction, the dichotomy between the center and the periphery by allowing one to come into the other. The marginalized homosexual subject in Cuba, as depicted by Reinaldo Arenas, lived a distinct life from others. The lives they led stemmed from their lack of support for the ideals of the Revolution, and thus for their refusal to succumb to the established norms.

This article seeks to answer the following question: What is the ideological commonality that connects Caliban and Reinaldo Arenas, the homosexual writer?

The Transformative Other

Caliban, the savage and deformed slave in William Shakespeare's The Tempest (1611), is a post-colonial iconic symbol, representative of the oppressed, the persecuted and the de-territorialized individual. As part of the post-colonial moment, Caliban may be considered a diasporic/migratory subject belonging nowhere and everywhere simultaneously. Caliban, then, is transitory, with no connection to time or space, seeking to establish a sense of self that is long gone. Since the 1950s, Caliban has been re-appropriated as the emblem for the worldwide decolonization processes that sees in him the spirit of freedom and justice against the tyrannies of colonial empires. As a result, his image has also become synonymous with the quest of the decolonized subjects who attempt to re-establish a connection with a past altered by the process of colonization.

The concept of Caliban as representative of the New World native is appealing, as presented by Shakespeare, because it signaled the breakdown of cultural and territorial boundaries. This explanation points to the various interpretations of the play as performed during and after Shakespeare's time. The audience, if astute enough, could decipher that the play was an interpretation of European colonialism in the New World (Takaki 895-896). Thus, The Tempest could be considered an interesting and fascinating story about the colonization and development of an empire in the Americas (892). George Lamming (1992) describes the importance of Caliban in relation to the future descendants in the Caribbean islands and their conditions as exiles from their original culture and homeland, stating that Caliban, although a man, represents something beyond that, something other than man. According to Lamming, Caliban has been "converted," transformed from his "original" self because of Prospero's intervention. Prospero, as any colonialists, manipulated the native inhabitants, "civilizing" them, "saving" them from themselves. Lamming postulates that "Caliban is his convert, colonised by language, and excluded by language. It is precisely this gift of language, this attempt at transformation, which has brought about the pleasure and paradox of Caliban's exile" (15). Thus, Caliban's de-territorializing is conducive to the debate regarding the dichotomy of center/periphery; it delineates the positions and conditions of marginalized subjects within a colonial state, which also reflects Arenas' writing - an indictment against the forced assimilation of the individual to the ideals of a supposed "collective" revolution.

The study of Shakespeare's last play as an anecdotal account of 17th century first-contact protocol served as the basis for understanding human relations, and as a consequence, the establishment of power hierarchies that endured for centuries. Nevertheless, the boundaries that were established through binaries were broken down through the process of decolonization and the re-appropriation of an identity ripped from the native at the moment of conquest and colonization. As stated by Walder, it was this process of "conquest, colonization, and destruction" of the native in the New World which created binary patterns of identification that separated not only the colonized from his roots, but distanced any understanding between the colonizer and the colonized subject (31). In identifying India as the precursor to the process of decolonization Walder states that this initiation signaled the deconstruction of colonial control and the attempt at reconstructing a future without a native past (39). This "liberation" signaled the beginning of a re-historicizing of the self and an attempt at recreating the past, aiming its process of re-appropriation and re-construction toward the present and establishing hope for the future.

Consequently, there is an understanding of the consequences to any colonialist process: the colonizer (Prospero) usurps the colonized (Caliban), appropriating land, language and identity. The colonizer sees the colonized as he would view the land, and anything else native to the colony but foreign to the colonizer; it is the wilderness, nature, uncivilized, dirty, unproductive, it is a beast. This beast, this wilderness, must be civilized, tamed, cleaned up, made productive, and put to work for his own good and for the good of the greater society. Here is where the conflict between the colonized and the colonizer arises: the values of the colonizer are seen to be superior to the values of the colonized; thus, the history, values, culture and identity of the colonized must be discarded and the colonized forced to adopt the values of the colonizer. He also internalizes these values that make the transition into postcoloniality difficult.

The colonizer never accepts the colonized regardless of how well he "adapts" to the colonizer's ways, and therefore is forced to replace his own "culture." This non-acceptance by the colonizer leaves the colonized out of the loop. While through colonization the cultures of the colonizer and the colonized are affected, evidently the culture of the colonized/oppressed is transformed at a larger scale. Not being able to become what the colonizer wishes the colonized to be, Caliban defends the old ways, the "inferior" ways, as legitimate and equal to Prospero's. Had Caliban been accepted by Prospero, would "he" have given himself totally to the colonizer's ways (culture)? It is Prospero's own inability to believe in Caliban's capabilities that makes the native aware of the fact that the colonizer will never give him anything, let alone his freedom. Thus, the colonized is a figure that feels rejected, hated, exploited and not allowed to fully participate in society at large. The colonized is kept on a short leash, and will face greater retribution from society. He must re-appropriate the colonizer's gaze in order to relearn what and who he was before colonization. The colonized must rediscover himself and shape his identity through this discovery possibly reaching a moment where he is on the verge of post-colonialism.

Nevertheless, what happens when the colonizer is no longer there, when the process of decolonization has taken place and the native is left to fend for himself? In the case of Cuba, although the colonizer is gone, there is a continuous presence of the "neocolonial power" that is alluded to (i.e., the United States), and used by the revolutionary government to control the country. Under these circumstances, how does the marginalized/colonized subject define himself? More importantly, how can this process of "defining" oneself connect Reinaldo Arenas to Caliban?

In considering Shakespeare's representation of Caliban, and taking into account Caliban's numerous reincarnations throughout history, the best way to present the commonalities between him and Reinaldo Arenas is through the study of Aime Csaire's (1968) own version of the Shakespearian play. There are various differences between Shakespeare's and Csaire's "stories," particularly in the formation of Ariel and Caliban as characters, and their interaction with each other and Prospero. For example, Ariel is not Prospero's willing servant as presented in The Tempest, but is instead a mulatto slave who reluctantly serves his master. Although both interpretations focus on his desire for freedom, Csaire's Ariel also seeks to instill in Prospero a conscience, one that will make him see the "errors of his ways." In Act II, scene I for instance, Ariel visits Caliban in his cave, where their conversation reveals the differences that exist between the two characters:

ARIEL: Greetings, Caliban. I know you don't think much of me, but after all we are brothers, brothers in suffering and slavery, but brothers in hope as well. We both want our freedom. We just have different methods.[2]

CALIBAN: Greetings to you. But you didn't come to see me just to make that profession of faith. Come on, Alastor! The old man sent you, didn't he? A great job: carrying out the Master's fine ideas, his great plans.

ARIEL: No, I've come on my own. I came to warn you. Prospero is planning horrible acts against you. I thought it my duty to alert you (20-21).

Ariel's goal is to convince Caliban that he is approaching his dealings with Prospero erroneously, as is Prospero when dealing with Caliban. This meeting provides for a better understanding of the two characters since it is at this time that their plans are revealed. While one wishes to approach his situation through more rational means, the other will take violent measures to achieve his goal, thus, following his "native instincts," the very characteristics imposed by the colonizer to justify the domination and control of the native. Csaire writes:

ARIEL: I don't believe in violence.

CALIBAN: What do you believe in, then? In cowardice? In giving up? In kneeling and groveling? That's it, someone strikes you on the right cheek and you offer the left. Someone kicks you on the left buttock and you turn the right ... that way there's no jealousy. Well, that's not Caliban's way...

ARIEL: You know very well that's not what I mean. No violence, no submission either. Listen to me: Prospero is the one we've got to change. Destroy his serenity so that he's finally forced to acknowledge his own injustice and put an end to it (22).

Ariel's methods mirror attempts to inculcate a false sense of security in Prospero. He seeks a peaceful solution to his predicament, consequently manipulating any feelings of diffidence and uncertainties of the unknown that the colonizer (Prospero) may have. It can be argued, then, that Prospero's treatment of both Ariel and Caliban is a reflection of his own insecurities and fears.[3] He sees in both of these "natives" what he may have been or can still become if he loses control. While Ariel approaches the situation with caution and rationality, Caliban empowers himself, believing that violence and aggression are the solutions to his problems. He believes, as does Frantz Fanon, that any de-colonization process must and will be met with violence. Fanon states that "Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a program of complete disorder" (WTE 36). This process entails the replacement of one group by another, posing the question of whether one system is any better for the native than the previous one.[4] Ania Loomba also joins in Fanon's discussion by stating that "Colonialism is not just something that happens from outside a country or a people, not just something that operates with the collusion of forces inside, but a version of it can be duplicated from within" (12).[5] Bill Ashcroft also postulates similar ideas that parallel Fanon and Loomba in that de-colonization is a chaotic process, not only due to the reactions of outside forces (colonizer) but also due to the actions from those within (colonized). He states that "Observing the way in which colonial control was often ejected by National Liberation movements only to be replaced by equally coercive indigenous elites, we might well ask: What does it really mean to resist?'" (PCT 20). Thus, can resisting be enough to remove the presence of the colonizer? Can that presence ever be dissolved?

This process of de-colonization will occur based on the relationships that have existed between the colonizer and the colonized. As far as Caliban is concerned, his interaction with Prospero has been a negative one; thus, he feels he must reject anything that is directly connected to this "master," including Miranda as the only woman on the island, who in Shakespeare's version he attempted to rape. While in Shakespeare's play Caliban admits to this, in A Tempest he is appalled by the accusations made by Prospero. He argues that such behavior is not in him, that the idea of taking and appropriating something that does not belong to him is a characteristic of the colonizer. Csaire writes:

CALIBAN: Do I lie? Isn't it true that you threw me out of your house and made me live in a filthy cave? The ghetto!

PROSPERO: It's easy to say "ghetto"! It wouldn't be such a ghetto if you took the trouble to keep it clean! And there's something you forgot, which is that what forced me to get rid of you was your lust. Good God, you tried to rape my daughter!

CALIBAN: Rape! Rape! Listen, you old goat, you're the one that put those dirty thoughts in my head. Let me tell you something: I couldn't care less about your daughter, or about your cave, for that matter. If I gripe, it's on principle, because I didn't like living with you at all, as a matter of fact. Your feet stink! (13-14).

Caliban's last statement demystifies and deconstructs the sexual powers of the Black man and the threat he represents for white women. He then defies the idea presented by Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks where he writes of the consequences to the "Negro" who beds a white woman. Fanon writes that "We know historically that the Negro guilty of lying with a white woman is castrated. The Negro who has had a white woman makes himself taboo to his fellows" (72). This idea, which Shakespeare's Caliban alludes to having wanted to accomplish, is therefore contradicted and deconstructed in Csaire's version.

Shakespeare's Caliban "curses" Prospero for having taught him his language.[6] Lamming writes that the relationship between Caliban and Prospero is imperative. It is important because at this point in the colonization process one comes to depend on the other. He states that "The gift is a contract from which neither participant is allowed to withdraw. Caliban plots murder against Prospero, not in hatred, and not in fear, but out of a deep sense of betrayal" (15). This idea presented by Lamming is also discussed by Ashcroft who declares that while some critics believe that the process of colonialism destroyed native cultures, specifically by not allowing them to develop naturally, he argues that what has occurred, in actuality, has been a transformation. Ashcroft affirms that "...colonized cultures have often been so resilient and transformative that they have changed the character of imperial culture itself" (2). Hence, while the colonizer seeks to convert the native, it is in fact the colonizer who is affected since his superiority complex is replaced by a dependence on the colonized subject. He does, however, state that this process has its problems, "...but it forces us to reassess the stereotyped view of colonized peoples' victimage and lack of agency" (2). Csaire's Caliban, in response to Lamming and Ashcroft, literally curses Prospero for his "influence" over him:

PROSPERO: Since you're so fond of invective, you could at least thank me for having taught you to speak at all. You, a savage ... a dumb animal, a beast I educated, trained, dragged up from the bestiality that still clings to you.

CALIBAN: In the first place, that's not true. You didn't teach me a thing! Except to jabber in your own language so that I could understand your orders: chop the wood, wash the dishes, fish for food, plant vegetables, all because you're too lazy to do it yourself. And as for your learning, did you ever impart any of that to me? No, you took care not to. All your science you keep for yourself alone, shut up in those big books (11-12).[7]

Caliban uses this "foreign" language, however, to re-appropriate that which has been taken from him. Although Caliban does not remember his real name, he decides that he will no longer respond to that which Prospero has named him:

CALIBAN: ... I've decided I don't want to be called Caliban any longer.

PROSPERO: What kind of rot is that? I don't understand.

CALIBAN: Put it this way: I'm telling you that from now on I won't answer to the name Caliban.

PROSPERO: Where did you get that idea?

CALIBAN: Well, because Caliban isn't my name. It's as simple as that.

PROSPERO: Oh, I suppose it's mine!

CALIBAN: It's the name given to me by your hatred, and every time it's spoken it's an insult.

PROSPERO: My, aren't we getting sensitive! All right, suggest something else ... I've got to call you something. What will it be? Cannibal[8] would suit you, but I'm sure you wouldn't like that, would you? Let's see ... what about Hannibal? That fits. And why not ... they all seem to like historical names.

CALIBAN: Call me X. That would be best. Like a man without a name. Or, to be more precise, a man whose name has been stolen. You talk about history ... well, that's history, and everyone knows it! Every time you summon me it reminds me of a basic fact, the fact that you've stolen everything from me, even my identity! Uhuru! (14-15).

Caliban's refusal to respond any longer to the name that Prospero gave him is important because it establishes the native's search for his own identity through resistance and rebellion. The reflection that he sees in the mirror is recognized as not his own, thus creating that questioning process which will lead to an encounter with an image of a "true" self. At the same time this acknowledgement of being victimized by the colonizer is a form of counter-discourse, which leads to the rejection of any force or control imposed on him. Prospero makes light of Caliban's wishes because he sees the loss of control. He can no longer maintain a hold on his "slave" who seems to be developing a sense of self, an identity apart from the one imposed on him. Prospero's reaction to Caliban's demands must be "taken lightly" because if he accepts that his subject is rebelling it will mean admitting that his enterprise has failed. This act of "barbarism"[9] in the eyes of the colonizer deconstructs what O. Mannoni has classified as the "Prospero complex," "the sum of those unconscious neurotic tendencies that delineate at the same time the picture' of the paternalist colonial and the portrait of the racist...'" (quoted in Fernndez Retamar 12). By ordering Prospero to call him X, Caliban opposes all that Prospero represents. Caliban will no longer do Prospero's bidding, unlike Ariel who believes that by working alongside Prospero he will gain his freedom.

In The Tempest Prospero's dependency on Caliban is depicted in the following words: "We cannot miss him: he does make our fire,/ Fetch in our wood, and serves in offices/ that profit us" (I.ii. 314-316). To this Homi Bhabha adds Fanon's words, "There is a quest for the Negro, the Negro is a demand, one cannot get along without him, he is needed, but only if he is made palatable in a certain way. Unfortunately, the Negro knocks down the system and breaks the treaties" (quoted in Bhabha 78). Csaire, on the other hand, presents a Caliban that is not willing to continue the farce that Ariel does:

CALIBAN: ... In the beginning, the gentleman was all sweet talk: dear Caliban here, my little Caliban there! And what do you think you'd have done without me in this strange land? Ingrate! I taught you the trees, fruits, birds, the seasons, and now you don't give a damn... Caliban the animal, Caliban the slave! I know that story! Once you've squeezed the juice from the orange, you toss the rind away! (13).

This argument that Csaire emphasizes via Caliban can be concluded with Fanon's words in Black Skin, White Masks where he states that "The white man wants the world; he wants it for himself alone. He finds himself predestined master of this world. He enslaves it" (128). The idea, then, is that Prospero, the "white man," manipulates Caliban in order to accomplish his goals: dominate the land and the native so that his authority is not questioned, but asserted and accepted. Hence, this statement parallels Rey Chow's concept of "image-identification."

Roberto Fernndez Retamar also argues that what Shakespeare has done is present Caliban, the deformed and savage slave, from the point of view of the bourgeois society. So, Caliban is a wild animal who "cannot be degraded enough" (8). He also states that as long as there is no one else to do Prospero's bidding, Caliban cannot be eliminated, but the humiliation must continue in order for the slave to recognize his role on the island. This, again, reflects Chow's "image-identification." Caliban is the "negative" reflection that Prospero sees - it is the justification for the treatment of the native. This view differs from Csaire, who instead presents a strong minded and decisive Caliban, one who will not bend to the whimsical desires of the new "master" of the island.

Fernndez Retamar will also proclaim Caliban as "his" own; he will identify with him, announcing that without the existence of Caliban the Latin American could not possibly exist: "what is our history, what is our culture, if not the history and culture of Caliban?" (14). He accuses Prospero of being the colonial and brutal force that invades, kills, and enslaves Caliban; he has reconstructed that which was familiar to "X"/Caliban and reinvented an existence that he must now accept.

Caliban's reaction to Prospero, both in The Tempest and A Tempest, is understood and accepted. According to Fernndez Retamar, "Prospero invaded the islands, killed our ancestors, enslaved Caliban, and taught him his language to make himself understood. What else can Caliban do but use that same language - today he has no other - to curse him..." (14).[10] Accepting Caliban as "our symbol" means rethinking everything that has been taught and believed to be the "truth." Fernndez Retamar states that "To continue to assume our condition as Caliban implies rethinking our history from the other side, from the view point of the other protagonist" (16), to develop a counter-discourse that would therefore deconstruct the established "official" story.

At this point we may ask, what connects Caliban's struggles as presented by both Csaire and Fernandez Retamar to Reinaldo Arenas' written revolution? Since Reinaldo Arenas was a homosexual writer whose literary works represented homosexuality, Fidel Castro's reaction to this particular marginalized group, and the Revolution's treatment of said people, how is one to define himself when his own government denies his existence? To understand Arenas, both the person and the writer, we must refer to Guillermo Cabrera Infante's essay "Reinaldo Arenas or Destruction by Sex," where he writes that

Three passions ruled the life and death of Reinaldo Arenas: literature not as a game but as a flame that consumes, passive sex and active politics. Of the three, the dominant passion was sex. Not only in his life, but in his work. He was the chronicler of a country ruled not by Fidel Castro, already impotent, but by sex. (412)

Therefore, according to Cabrera Infante, Arenas' representation of the homosexual, with great emphasis on his personal experiences, enhances his opposition to a society "impotent" for not being able to accept deviation from the established "norm." The statement made by Samuel Feijo with regards to the role of the homosexual/marginalized subject in a revolutionary society will also make clear Arenas' goals of re-appropriating language in order to interpolate himself with the notion of deconstructing the institutionalized marginalizing that existed in Cuba. Feijo's assertion has created a series of stereotypes that encapsulate the homosexual, and that will be accepted by Cuban society in general, both on and off the island. A response to both the statement and the question will help us understand Arenas' literary endeavors. However, as already stated, one of the techniques adopted by Arenas was to counter-attack Castro's "official story," to deconstruct what Prospero had made Caliban believe, using the very language imposed on the "native," and thus attack the imposed male/female dichotomy promoted in Cuba.

Cuban Machismo = No Homosexuals

Cuban society is dominated by the ideology of machismo[11], of being machista. This idea arises from the understanding that men must behave in a certain manner, and its roots can be traced to the Spanish, African and Catholic influence, asserted by Lois Smith and Alfred Padula (1996), that would provide the necessary aggregates in the formation of the Cuban and its society. According to Ian Lumsden (1996),

At the outset of the Cuban Revolution, machismo was deeply ingrained in the fabric of Cuban society. Gender roles were clearly identified and sharply differentiated. Men were expected to be strong, dominant, and sexually compulsive. Women were expected to be vulnerable and chaste. (55)

Mirta Mulhare de la Torre adds that "the dominant mode of behavior for el macho, the male, [was] the sexual imperative ... A man's supercharged sexual physiology [placed] him on the brink of sexual desire at all times and at all places" (quoted in Lumsden 31)[12]. Evelyn P. Stevens categorizes societal attitudes toward women in terms of the traditionally accepted marianista role. According to Stevens, the characteristics imposed on women ranged from "semidivinity" to "spiritual strength" (91). The notion that women must accept their "lot" in life and perform self-sacrificing acts only reflects the machista belief and adoration of the "cult of virility" (4). It can be concluded then that a macho generally believes in the idea of being in control, acting rather than thinking first. Patriarchal societies must adhere and accept the role of men and their behavior, their domineering nature and "insatiable sexual appetite". In summary, a man is a real man based on his adaptation and performance of the established role: the man is always on "top"[13], always in control of any and every situation. Therefore, because he possesses the "phallus," he names and labels. Thus, the phallus becomes the representation of the center, the representation of patriarchal law.

This phallus, which plays an important role in the enforcement of the machista mentality in Cuban society by establishing the "order of culture," according to Susan Bordo, is a "cultural icon which men are taught to aspire to" (94). The phallus, she states, must "rise to the occasion," thus sustaining Ilan Stavans' notion that in Hispanic cultures the phallus is associated with the crucifix and therefore with the gods and the heavens (91). Bordo argues that "The master body must signify an alliance with the gods rather than the masses, the heavens rather than the earth. He gazes outward and upward, undistracted, penetrating some higher truth" (91). It can be concluded that the phallus, based on Bordo and Stavans' interpretation, is juxtaposed to a higher culture, a civilized world and not with nature (89). Rafael L. Ramrez interprets the role of women in a patriarchal society in the following manner: "The woman is for pleasure, penetration, para comrsela (to be eaten). The macho seduces, conquers, and takes, and uses his sexual power in keeping with an old saying: Yo suelto mi gallo, los dems que recojan sus gallinas" (45). Bordo, Ramrez and Stavans believe, therefore, that the male is dominant, controlling and "just" for his acts are promoted and supported by the rest of society. Anything feminine is seen with negative connotations, or as Luce Irigaray states, "female sexuality has always been theorized within masculine parameters," perpetuating the concept of a phallogocentric society (99). According to Jacques Lacan's analysis of the phallus, the notion of the "phallic stage" echoes the belief that because women are not the signifier they are judged by their "lack," thus becoming the signified. He writes,

For the phallus is a signifier, a signifier whose function, in the intrasubjective economy of the analysis, lifts the veil perhaps from the function it performed in the mysteries. For it is the signifier intended to designate as a whole the effects of the signified, in that the signifier conditions them by its presence as a signifier. (285)[14]

The idea is that man is at the center of the universe and everything and everyone else revolves around this belief. The penis (phallus) dominates, controls, "rips" and women and homosexuals must accept it and succumb to its power. Women and homosexuals, therefore, are complementary in debates regarding their role in a machista society, particularly because the treatment of each, as it relates to Cuba, cannot be separated from the other. In order for the homosexual to overcome the obstacles presented, in order to claim his own existence, he must, as Reinaldo Arenas does, rewrite the self, re-discover that which has been taken away by denouncing the imposition and limitations of these beliefs.

"Enemy of the State"

Francisco Soto (1994) declares that "When the Cuban Revolution triumphed in January of 1959 most Cuban writers eagerly took part in the common effort to promote the new social, economic, and political order that was being instituted in the country" (Pentagona... 13-14). Many of the literary works of the 1960s began to reflect the events that were transforming Cuban society. Soto also states that "The renovating spirit of the Revolution initiated a fecund period of literary production unknown on the island until then; at the same time intellectuals received support and status..." (14). However, not all who wrote or considered themselves literary figures "enjoyed the same recognition in Cuban revolutionary society; those individuals who value the imaginative over the historical or who do not represent the ideal hombre Nuevo ... of the Revolution have not been given a voice within the state for they represent a threat to the established order" (41). Reinaldo Arenas would become one among many writers that would not accept nor conform to the concept of the "New Man." His fears of what the revolution would eventually become are echoed in Antes que anochezca (Before Night Falls) when he writes that "La Revolucin castrista comenz despus de 1959. Y, con ella, comenzaba el gran entusiasmo, el gran estruendo y un nuevo terror [...] Ahora moran muchas ms gentes que las que murieron en aquella Guerra que nunca se celebr"(AQA 69)[15].His accounts present a series of concerns as he reflects on the events that would change his life.

According to Soto, Fidel Castro expected that intellectuals, more importantly writers, participate enthusiastically in the revolutionary struggle, that they promote the institutionalization of a homogenous revolutionary social consciousness. Although Reinaldo Arenas would not publish his first novel until 1965, it was a "request" that he would decline. Soto states that

The Revolution called on the writer to take on a new sense of social responsibility; he or she was to be an exemplary member of society, working and living within the Revolution, contributing to building and defending Cuban sovereignty and liberty. Cuba needed the support of its intellectuals, and as a result, the cultural policies of the nascent revolutionary government favored all classes of literary production that served the cause of the Revolution. (14)

However, not all artists and writers complied with the new goals of the revolution toward their craft.

Reinaldo Arenas became an outsider, denied an identity and a voice due to censorship. As a consequence, he lived his life in a series of prisons - physical as well as psychological and professional. He became a marginalized individual, a subject "without a history," non-existent in a world that scrutinized the behavior of people like him - homosexuals and writers who were "immoral" and opposed the ideals of the revolution. According to Stephen Clark, "Arenas cuenta que a causa de su homosexualidad (y el hecho de que haba publicado libros de temas homosexuales en el extranjero), fue vctima de la vigilancia y persecucin constantes del gobierno revolucionario" (214-215).

In his farewell letter, published on August 1990 in newspapers across the United States, Spain, as well as in his autobiography Antes que anochezca, Arenas wrote:

Queridos amigos: debido al estado precario de mi salud y a la terrible depresin sentimental que siento al no poder seguir escribiendo y luchando por la libertad de Cuba, pongo fin a mi vida. En los ltimos aos, aunque me senta muy enfermo, he podido terminar mi obra literaria, en la cual he trabajado por casi treinta aos. Les dejo pues como legado todos mis terrores, pero tambin la esperanza de que pronto Cuba ser libre. Me siento satisfecho con haber podido contribuir aunque modestamente al triunfo de esa libertad. Pongo fin a mi vida voluntariamente porque no puedo seguir trabajando. Ninguna de las personas que me rodean estn comprometidas en esta decisin. Slo hay un responsable: Fidel Castro. Los sufrimientos del exilio, las penas del destierro, la soledad y las enfermedades que haya podido contraer en el destierro seguramente no las hubiera sufrido de haber vivido libre en mi pas. Al pueblo cubano tanto en el exilio como en la Isla los exhorto a que sigan luchando por la libertad. Mi mensaje no es un mensaje de derrota, sino de lucha y esperanza. Cuba ser libre. Yo ya lo soy (343)[16].

This letter addresses some important issues. First, until his last moment Arenas saw in Fidel Castro the personification of all the suffering and difficulties he endured, from incarceration in both a prison and UMAP camp, to forced labor and censorship. After being released, he "traveled" trying to find a "home" in La Havana. As he states in the film based on his life, during a conversation with Juan Abreu, his second novel El mundo alucinante (The Ill-Fated Peregrinations of Fray Servando) had won the award for best foreign novel in France while he had no place to live. His writing also suffered persecution and marginalization, enabling him into a "helpless" victim. The lack of freedom of creativity and expression as well as the control on his sexuality concluded in the "disappearance" of one more Cuban intellectual that opposed the revolution - one whose being and creativity was often associated with the typewriter, his most prized possession:

... el objeto ms preciado con que yo poda contar. Sentarme a escribir era, y an lo sigue siendo, algo extraordinario; yo me inspiraba ... en el ritmo de aquellas teclas y ellas mismas me llevaban. Los prrafos se sucedan unos a otros como el oleaje del mar; unas veces ms intensos y otras menos; otras veces como ondas gigantescas que cubran pginas sin llegar a un punto y aparte. (AQA 134)[17]

This description expands on the importance writing had in Arenas' life, which at the same time explains why for him having contracted AIDS and not being able to continue writing led to his suicide: just as he had lost his freedom, the inability to continue his creative process symbolized for him the end of everything he loved. For example, sex, expression of his sexuality and writing complemented each other, often feeding into one another inspiration and ideas for his literary production: "ese ritmo me acompaaba siempre; aun en los momentos de mayor intensidad amorosa o en los momentos de mayor persecucin policial. Era como la culminacin o el complemento de todos los dems placeres y tambin de todas las dems calamidades" (AQA 135)[18]. George Lamming, in reference to The Tempest, makes a similar observation, explaining that "Time, Magic and Man are the inseparable trinity" of Shakespeare's last play. It can be argued that time in The Tempest symbolized what the sea was for Reinaldo Arenas: never stable, always transitory and transformative. Magic, for Prospero, resembled writing for the Cuban writer for it allowed him to creatively express his feelings, developing and establishing worlds that served as a form of escapism from his harsh reality. This case is best illustrated in Celestino antes del alba through the creation of Celestino by the nameless child-narrator. Finally, Man for Arenas encompassed two very important aspects of his life: sexual exploration and adventure, and the oppressive/marginalizing figure that was for him Fidel Castro. Thus, sex, writing and the sea would represent the "trinity" that gave meaning to Arenas' life.

His suicide also reflects his state of mind with regards to his health. In the "prologue" to his autobiography, "El fin," ("The End") Arenas makes various references to his health in addition to his impending death. He uses phrases such as "Yo pensaba morirme en el invierno de 1987 ... decid morir cerca del mar..." (AQA 9)[19] in order to establish control over the outcome of his life. This attitude was an indication of his unwillingness to let his life be controlled by outside forces, whatever those may have been. He writes:

En realidad no voy a decir que quisiera morirme, pero considero que, cuando no hay otra opcin que el sufrimiento y el dolor sin esperanzas, la muerte es mil veces mejor ... O se vive como uno desea, o es mejor no seguir viviendo. En Cuba haba soportado miles de calamidades porque siempre me alent la esperanza de la fuga y la posibilidad de salvar mis manuscritos. Ahora la nica fuga que me quedaba era la muerte. (AQA 9)[20]

The feelings expressed by Arenas in this passage mirror those that he felt as a child, feelings of displacement and a sense that one's view and attitude of life are controlled by others: "Siempre he credo que mi familia, incluyendo a mi madre, me consideraba un ser extrao, intil, atolondrado, chiflado o enloquecido; fuera del contexto de sus vidas. Seguramente, tenan razn" (AQA 36)[21]. This explains why suicide meant grasping control of his life. Also, the consistency with which the subject permeated his writing reflected the persistence that suicide played in the lives of all Cubans. In 1983, Jess J. Barquet states, Arenas discussed this issue at a conference at Tulane University, where questions by audience members were directed at the dilemma of political suicide in his "novel" El central (The Central). Arenas commented that

... Creo que en lo que yo escribo hay frecuentemente dos alternativas: la situacin llega a tal grado de desesperacin que provoca la destruccin o provoca la liberacin. Porque una situacin desesperada solamente tiene dos alternativas: o pereces o la sobrevives y de hecho te liberas. Es la misma situacin actual de los cubanos frente al mar: o el mar aquel te traga o pereces dentro de la Isla, o a lo mejor la abandonas y vuelves a renacer en el extranjero o te rebelas y derrocas un sistema ... El suicidio en la historia de Cuba ... es una constante que se manifiesta desde los indios hasta la poca actual. (112)[22]

Juan Abreu, in Arenas' biography, expresses the same feelings of desperation that often controlled and ruled his life. Just as Arenas had stated, Abreu felt a need to end his life whenever that overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that the revolution fostered came over him: "Cada vez tengo ms deseos de lanzarme al agua y desaparecer ... Siento unos deseos inmensos de morirme. Y una curiosidad oscura por la muerte ... nuestro conflicto es con la muerte" (128, 131, 172 respectively)[23].

Arenas' suicide, an act of both destruction and liberation can be interpreted as a catalyst for the re-appropriation, not only of his writing, but of his life as well. Through his writing the Cuban author attempted and succeeded in reclaiming his "marginalized voice" by breaking away from the norms that Castro established for his "intellectuals." The writer's suicide was not an act of cowardice but an affirmation of his life, his experiences and struggles. The one obstacle that he could not overcome and yet was able to manipulate and cheat was his illness: AIDS.

Roberto Valero, a long time friend of Reinaldo Arenas, explains that the Cuban writer led a very difficult life filled with hardships both on and off the island. Valero writes that the unifying themes in Arenas' work were humor and desolation (29). This sense of "lacking," that according to Frantz Fanon the colonized always felt existed because someone had stolen something from him, resurfaced throughout Arenas' writing. The sense of loneliness and lack of identity that Arenas experienced in his life surfaced as a dominant theme, and thus, his writing foreshadowed his impending death. Liliane Hasson adds that death in general was another recurrent theme in his work, referring back to the moment when his own mother asked a young Arenas whether he would miss her if she died: "Me pregunt si yo no me sentira muy triste en el caso de que ella se muriera" (AQA 19)[24]. He would later reflect on this moment, realizing that he had thwarted his mother's plans to commit suicide. Later in his autobiography, while describing his thoughts standing in front of a river, he contemplates suicide: "Por qu no lanzarme a esas aguas? Por qu no perderme, difuminarme en ellas y hallar la paz en medio de aquel estruendo que amaba" (AQA 36)[25]. This river, or the sea to be more precise, would be a constant in Arenas' life, as has already been stated. J.E. Cirlot explains that the sea represents not only a return to the origin, but to the mother as well; it symbolizes death (281). Death, another theme dominated by the writer, also dictated the lives of Arenas' characters. As stated by various critics of Arenas' work, with the exception of the nameless protagonist of El asalto (The Assault), the last novel that comprised the pentagona (Pentagony), all his characters perished. Cirlot's idea of the return to the mother/origin, however, also played an important role since once a character would perish in one novel, he would be reborn in the next one.

Stephen Clark states that Arenas used his repressive status on and off the island to explore certain aspects of his life: his creativity as well as his sexuality. For instance, as he describes his childhood in Oriente, Arenas believed that the environment he was forced to live in provided the necessary tools to create fictitious and imaginative worlds to escape his reality: "Creo que la poca ms fecunda de mi creacin fue la infancia: mi infancia fue el mundo de la creatividad. Para llenar aquella soledad tan profunda que senta ... pobl todo aquel campo ... de personajes y apariciones casi msticos y sobrenaturales" (AQA 23)[26]. This same idea is expressed in his first novel, Celestino antes del alba (Singing from the Well), when he discusses his cousin's literary endeavors out in the countryside:

Pobre Celestino! Escribiendo. Escribiendo sin cesar, hasta en los respaldos de las libretas donde el abuelo anota las fechas en que salieron preadas las vacas. En las hojas de maguey y hasta en los lomos de las yaguas, que los caballos no llegaron a tiempo para comrselas. Escribiendo. Escribiendo. Y cuando no queda ni una hoja de maguey por enmaraar. Ni el lomo de una yagua. Ni las libretas de anotaciones del abuelo: Celestino comienza a escribir entonces en los troncos de las matas. (CAA 20)[27]

In the cinematographic depiction of his autobiography, the director, Julian Schnabel combines this event with Arenas' descriptions of the imaginative worlds he describes in Celestino antes del alba. In the film, Reinaldo Arenas' teacher visits his home where she then reveals to the writer's family his sensitive nature toward poetry. His grandfather, in response, cuts down every tree where Arenas/Celestino had carved his poems. This scene reflects not only the idea that Celestino is in fact Arenas' alter ego, but it reveals an essential connection between writing and sex, since this "sensitivity" implied his lack of masculinity/machista attitude. Therefore, writing in the film becomes a protagonist as it begins with Arenas' voice just as much as it was in his writing. In an interview between Julian Schnabel and Nedda G. de Anhalt, the director declares that "Es como si el lenguaje se convirtiera en el protagonista de la pelcula ... Este es un aspecto interesante en Antes que anochezca: la multiplicidad de lenguajes al contar una historia" (1)[28].

In an interview conducted in 1985 with Liliane Hasson, Arenas confirms the importance that his childhood experiences represented in the creation of his literary endeavors. Arenas asserts to Hasson that

Mi niez es el nico mundo del que todava tengo un recuerdo vital y es el que me hace escribir; es como una fuente casi inagotable de recuerdos, terribles algunos y muy bellos otros, pero de todos modos son la materia prima desde la cual yo he construido los libros que he escrito. Mi niez es un mundo muy humilde en un ambiente campesino; vivamos en un campo en los alrededores de una provincia que se llama ahora Holgun, un campo totalmente primitivo donde no conocamos ni la luz elctrica ni el agua corriente ni los servicios sanitarios ni nada de eso, y en ese ambiente absolutamente primitivo yo me cri hasta los doce aos. Mi madre es quien me ense a leer y a escribir. (35)[29]

Whereas the author's voice is heard throughout Antes que anochezca, it is his alter ego that surfaces in his first novel. By introducing Celestino, authenticity is given to the importance of artistic expression for the Cuban writer. Thus, according to Francisco Soto, while the child-narrator always remains nameless and is characterized with humor, Celestino, the only character with a name "is presented as a fragile and delicate creature who cannot be ridiculed for he is the only authentic object of value in this world of violence and brutality" (Pentagona... 55). Just as writing for Arenas is a form of escapism and resistance from a brutal and repressive reality, for the child-narrator/Celestino it represents a resistance not only of his family but the guajiro society he was a "part" of. While dissident writers like Reinaldo Arenas opposed any support of their craft toward the development of a revolutionary social consciousness, Flix Lugo Nazario, in his study of Celestino antes del alba, states that Celestino's poetry threatened the guajiro's (peasant) way of life. His poetic activity, writes Lugo Nazario, went against everything that manhood and masculinity stood for in the countryside (88).

The destruction of the trees where Celestino had written his poetry represented a fetishistic tactic extended to the castrating image of the poems, a phallocentric extension of the power and dominance exerted by the grandfather. The actions taken by the grandfather are re-enforced by the accepted behavior of "man" in a patriarchal society. The illiteracy that dominates guajiro society is representative of the fear regarding the unknown. As such, the acceptable behavior on the part of the grandfather, the destruction of the trees and plants, exerts Castro's attitudes toward those in the periphery that do not conform to societal norms promoted by the center. By the same token, this sad, lonely and misunderstood poet reflects those characteristics already discussed by Roberto Valero in regards to Arenas' life and behavior.

The very environment that gives birth to his creativity also awakens his sexuality, as seen in his autobiography when he encounters a group of nude men bathing together in the river. Arenas describes that

Fue ese ro el que me regal una imagen que nunca podr olvidar ... Yo iba caminando por la orilla ... cuando descubr a ms de treinta hombres bandose desnudos ... Ver aquellos cuerpos, aquellos sexos, fue para m una revelacin: indiscutiblemente, me gustaban los hombres; me gustaba verlos salir del agua, correr por entre los troncos, subir a las piedras y lanzarse; me gustaba ver aquellos cuerpos chorreando, empapados, con los sexos relucientes. (AQA 25)[30]

This sexual freedom would be another concern among the revolutionary government because it went against everything that was being established. According to Joane Nagel's (2003) research on race, ethnicity and sexuality, all wars or political struggles are based on a "hegemonic masculinity" which she describes as

...a form of masculinity often associated with nationalism, patriotism, and manly codes of honor. Real men' fight wars, and they often fight them against pansies and perverts. During times of wars enemy men commonly are depicted either as wimps or rapists, and they are hypo-, homo-, or hypersexualized ... Good citizenship relies on appropriate sexual behavior and proper gender performance. Good citizens are heterosexual, valiant (in the case of men), and virtous (in the case of women). Sexuality and gender, thus, are important building blocks to the nation. (30)

The image of the men bathing in the river is brought to life in the film Before Night Falls (2000), where the spectator can visually participate in the graphic description found in Arenas' written autobiography and other works. What also stands out about this particular scene is that no words are uttered; we see young Arenas watching, and it is the expression that appears on his face (a smile and a sigh) that allows the words written in his autobiography to echo in the spectator's mind. Clark argues that "...el ambiente represivo de su niez condujo a una liberacin sexual y artstica" (214)[31]. The representation of his childhood experiences, although repressive, serves as the steppingstone for his life in La Havana. Arenas insisted that his repressive years in the capital were in fact productive, focusing particularly on the sexual exploration and explosion that he participated in. Referring to the sexual oppression in Cuba, Arenas writes,

Creo que si una cosa desarroll la represin sexual en Cuba fue, precisamente, la liberacin sexual. Quiz como una protesta contra el rgimen, las prcticas homosexuales empezaron a proliferar cada vez con mayor desenfado. Por otra parte, como la dictadura era considerada como el mal, todo lo que por ella fuera condenado se vea como una actitud positiva por los inconformes, que eran ya en los aos sesenta casi la mayora. Creo, francamente, que los campos de concentracin homosexuales y los policas disfrazados como si fueran jvenes obsequiosos, para descubrir y arrestar a los homosexuales, slo trajeron como resultado un desarrollo de la actividad homosexual. (AQA 132-133)[32]

Notwithstanding, in interpreting Nagel's statement, it can be argued that because Reinaldo Arenas refused to "fight," specifically to conform to the ideals of the revolution, he and many like him were ostracized because his sexuality and sexual performance did not adhere to the values being imposed by the revolution with regards to the island's gender dichotomy.

According to Tzvi Medin, when Fidel Castro declared in 1961 the inception of Marxist-Leninist ideology as part of the goals originally promoted by the revolution, he established the parameters for a dichotomy that foregrounded the extrication of any form of middle ground. Thus, Medin states, the new "socialist" government adopted and promoted a "Manichean division of the world" (42). Medin postulates that

Around the positive pole of Manichean axis are clustered Cuba, the Cuban Revolution, anti-imperialism, socialism, communism, the Soviet Union, the socialist bloc, the Third World, and humanity. At the negative pole are counterrevolutionaries, capitalism, imperialism and its local supporters, and the United States. (40)

At the same time the binary homogeneity/heterogeneity became common practice on the island. Deconstructing the status of one of the "Manichean axis" promoted an "exclusive self-image" of the "Other." Cuban consciousness had to adopt the notion that everyone believed in the ideals their leaders were promoting. Hence, according to Medin, the stereotyping of everything that opposed the revolution promulgated the idea at home, "in its own camp," of the way things had to be (42). This concept echoes Brad Epps' analysis of the abandonment of the "I" for the "we" that had to be reflected in Cuban letters.

Within the new Cuban revolutionary social consciousness another dichotomy emerged which promoted the "angelic" perception of the Soviet Union and everything it represented versus the "satanized" image of the United States (which the United States itself did by labeling the Soviet Union as the "Evil Empire"). To continue promoting and perpetuating this dichotomy, Marxist-Leninist ideology was introduced to the Cuban people "by grafting it onto the images, symbols, values, and concepts of Cuban nationalism" (Medin 53). The association linking Cuban nationalism and the Marxist-Leninist regime was the image of Fidel Castro as the "ultimate" patriot and nationalist, the "integrative symbol" (Medin 54), and as Marifeli Prez-Stable states, there was no "claim on power independent of Fidel Castro" (63)[33]. Therefore, the promulgation of Fidel Castro as the "integrative symbol" of nationalism and thus, the justification for accepting a Marxist-Leninist ideology can be described as "internal colonialism."

Jrgen Osterhammel's definition of colonialism can best describe the relationship between the Cuban ideals reflecting an opposition to imperialist/capitalist propaganda that existed in Cuba during Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship. Osterhammel explains that

Colonialism is a relationship of domination between an indigenous (or forcibly imported) majority and a minority of foreign invaders. The fundamental decisions affecting the lives of the colonized people are made and implemented by the colonial rulers in pursuit of interests that are often defined in a distant metropolis. Rejecting cultural compromises with the colonized population, the colonizers are convinced of their own superiority and of their ordained mandate to rule. (16-17)

Consequently, Marxist-Leninist ideology in Cuba was promoted through what Medin describes as a Manichean view of the world where there are no "in-betweens," but instead the binary "good and evil", and any convergence from that norm creates the "gusano" (worm), the counterrevolutionary that must be expunged from among the masses so as to not corrupt the process of developing a homogenous revolutionary social consciousness. The notion of "counterrevolutionaries" and the connection to capitalist/imperialist nations epitomizes the revolutionary government's contempt "for anyone who is not on the side of the communist revolution" (Medin 40). According to Reinaldo Arenas' interpretation of the Cuban Revolution and its ideals, the promotion of "unifying" Cuban society came at the expense of marginalizing part of the population that already existed in the periphery, in an "underground" world that promoted a way of life un-Cuban by the time the revolutionaries took over the island in January 1959.

The "colonization" of homosexuals in post-revolutionary Cuban society was reflected in the condition of women. According to Simone De Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1989), in a patriarchal/phallogocentric society woman, and her "rise" in "status", was defined by her relationship to man which stems from the "first sex's" decision to permit a union through matrimony of the two. It is important to note that in Spanish American colonies, patriarchy served to enhance machista qualities that continue to exist in contemporary Latin American society. De Beauvoir states that does not make his appeal directly to woman herself; it is the men's group that allows each of its members to find self-fulfillment as husband and father; woman, as slave or vassal, is integrated within families dominated by fathers and brothers, and she has always been given in marriage by certain males to other males. (426)

Therefore, women become the "other" in the patriarchal order because there is a hierarchy between the sexes supported by - among other things - religious ideologies[34].

This idea presented above is further discussed by Silvia Nagy-Zekmi's (1996) study of the parallelism between North African (Maghreb) and Latin American feminine narratives. She states that the ideal role of women in Latin America stems from the concept of marianismo, the notion that women must rise to a status beyond that of the earthly pleasures connected to the sins of the flesh. Hence, the image of the Virgin Mary stands as the epitome of purity, virginity, motherhood and self-sacrifice (88). She further explains that control over women is based on her reproductive capabilities and thus perpetuates man's monitoring over female sexual behavior (89). According to Smith and Padula, women in post-revolutionary Cuban society continued to exist within the traditional behavioral norms established by patriarchal mentality during Spanish colonization. Her treatment by her male counterpart will stem from the notion of machismo which Ramrez describes as masculine behavior based on the belief that men "are categorized as beings who are aggressive, oppressive, narcissistic, insecure, loudmouthed, womanizers, massive drinkers, persons who have an uncontrollable sexual prowess, and who are ... parranderos de parranda larga" (7).

Nagy-Zekmi's approach coincides with Smith and Padula as to the treatment of Cuban women. She writes that " fuente de la subordinacin femenina en el ordenamiento patriarcal basado en dogmas religiosos, en los cuales se acenta la relacin jerrquica entre Dios y el hombre, y esta jerarqua se extiende a la relacin entre el hombre y la mujer" (87)[35]. The established dichotomy between men and women, which can be identified as a colonization of one gender that believes itself superior to the "other" explains as well the colonized existence of the homosexual. Based on the idea of patriarchy and a machista attitude in Cuban society, homosexuals diverge from the traditionalist expectations regarding masculine behavior. Reinaldo Arenas defies that structuralization by writing to oppose not only the status of homosexuals on the island but to write against the grain in order to deconstruct the established image of "dissidents" who do not accept the ideals nor promote the agenda of the revolution.

Arenas', and his "character's" marginalization, is both sexual and literary, according to Nagy-Zekmi's analysis pertaining to feminine narratives in Latin America and North Africa. The model in her study echoes the status of both women and homosexuals postulated by Smith, Padula and Lumsden:

relaciones matrimoniales
(marital relations)
relaciones “anormales”
(“abnormal” relations)


adulterio masculino
(male adultery)


(incesto, homosexualidad)

adulterio femenino
(female adultery)

(Not Prohibided)
(Not Prescribed)


Consequently, sexual orientation, its relationship to the "loss" of Cubanidad, and an understanding of the concept of "machismo" is important because of its connection to the treatment of women and by extension, homosexuals on the island. Lumsden writes that "Discrimination against homosexuals has also been bolstered by the machista devaluation of women" (51). Smith and Padula add that the question regarding the role of women in the revolution comes under scrutiny if female qualities in homosexuals are seen as inferior. They asseverate that the traditional beliefs regarding female sexual behavior were adamant in Cuban society which was reflected in the treatment, and hence the imprisonment of homosexuals (173). This sentiment with regards to homosexuality stems from the machista roots that permeate the island. Accordingly, Reinaldo Arenas' writing criticizes the nation as a whole due to its absorption by the government of its individuality.

Carmelo Esterrich writes that one of Arenas' goals was not to reconstruct the nation, but instead it focused "...en la crtica de una nacin absorbida por el Estado, una nacin, en parte, estancada. Contra esto, Arenas propondr una comunidad consciente de la imposibilidad comunitaria" (180)[36]. Francisco Soto identifies Arenas' goals through Hector, the protagonist of Otra vez el mar (Farewell to the Sea). Soto states that "Hector wishes to express his' truth, not a' or the' truth, that someone ... will receive. Hence, the realization that the work only comes into existence when it becomes the intimacy shared by the person who writes it and the person who reads it is revealed" (65)[37]. The idea is that Arenas sees his writing as an opportunity to surpass the obstacles presented by the revolutionary government. He will reject the expectations that those like him must neither be seen nor heard at all cost.


Reinaldo Arenas' own desire of de-colonization was emphasized in his writing, just as Caliban's would be reflected in his adamant opposition to Prospero's presence on his island. The process Arenas undertook to free himself of the "colonialism" he had endured stemmed from his "homosexual status" within the confines of a "center" that had equated what he was with the feminine in its hierarchical system based on patriarchal values; the homosexual was categorized below women, colonizing him, as it were, through patriarchal norms. Homosexuality was seen among the revolutionary establishment as another imperialist/capitalist influence. The homosexual subject, among other "dissidents," posed an oppositional stance to the ideals of the Cuban revolution, thus establishing himself as a non-conformist who did not fit governmental/revolutionary/patriarchal norms.

Iain Chambers' analysis of the "stranger" parallels Arenas' existence because he posed a threat to a process that sought to "unify" an entire society. Chambers writes that "...the stranger threatens the binary classification deployed in the construction of order,' and introduces us to the uncanny displacement of ambiguity" (MCI 6). The "binary classification" that Chambers alludes to can be deconstructed in terms of the goals set forth by Arenas. Cuba, based on the study of Arenas' literary works, can be classified in the following manner: communism/capitalism, society/individual, male/female. The Cuban writer promoted a re-ordering/re-writing of these classifications: individual/society, freedom/totalitarianism, "maricn"/"New Man." This re-organizing was a priority for Arenas, not in order to enforce an acceptance, but rather to acknowledge a presence and existence. Therefore, his methods could be interpreted as an alternative to the behavior expected by the regime on the part of its "subjects."[38]

Arenas, however, would not conform to the notion of a "passive subject," but instead would "adopt" certain characteristics promoted by the revolutionary government in order to counter-attack from within the system. His actions parallel Bill Ashcroft's analysis of "cultural capital." Ashcroft writes that "The alternative to a passive subject unable to escape the formative pressures of imperial ideology is a subject who consumes the dominant culture in a strategy of self-fashioning and self-representation" (PCT 40). To break from the idea that he had to be a passive subject in a society that denied his existence, Arenas employed the representation of characters that reflected the notion of colonization by the Cuban state.

In an analysis of his writing, Arenas' opposition to Che Guevara's notion of the "New Man" is evident. According to Guevara's ideology by writing against the grain the non-revolutionary was promoting the establishment of barriers to the goals set forth by the revolution[39]. The opposition represented by the non-conformist artist created obstacles, among them not being allowed to publish in Cuba by decree of the state that would continue to plague Arenas in exile. Thus, writing about his experiences allowed him the opportunity to liberate himself. At the same time, the writing process he undertook was an attempt at reconstructing his life, at reestablishing the voice that was taken away from him for two reasons: 1) for not subscribing to the ideals of the Revolution and for not promoting them; and 2) for being a homosexual. Therefore, Arenas' "existence" can be designated as part of a "third space," a place outside time and yet within it that was parallel to his own reality.

Arenas' claim that an individual in Cuba exists in various planes of time and space was reflected in the representation of characters that appear in his writing, and as Bejel states, resurfaces constantly in his creative endeavors. Bejel writes that

This living in the "in-between" zone is characteristic of all the works of Arenas, not just in his autobiography. He lives not only between life and death but also between light and darkness, between country and city, between sanity and insanity, between the search for truth and the absolute disdain for all reality, between realistic detail and fantastic hyperbole, and between the struggle for liberation and suicide (or suicide as liberation). (305)

Hence, from this "third space" Arenas interpolated himself into the dominant culture to create an oppositional stance to the ideals that condemned him to a life of persecution, marginalization and displacement. Arenas' literature presents the reader, through the protagonist-narrator, a description of "himself as an individual in crisis, a crisis that is almost exclusively the result of external limitations produced by three interwoven forces: the machista tradition, the family as a representative of tradition, and the state" (Bejel 301). Consequently, in order for Reinaldo Arenas to deliver his message he published outside of Cuba, employing the language of the revolutionary government, the "colonizer," to promote resistance and therefore his own revolution. In this manner he avoided being consumed by the pressures imposed on the "unauthentic revolutionary" and struggled to ascertain, to re-appropriate the poetic "I" that the government used to exclude him, the "other."

Caliban's "otherness" and his connection to Reinaldo Arenas are etched in Persecucin: cinco piezas de teatro experimental (1986). In the following passage Arenas describes what existence under the Cuban regime entailed, which reflected Caliban's condition as interpreted by William Shakespeare and in 1969 by Aim Csaire's version of the "native" inhabitant of the New World: "Una vctima doble ... O triple ... O mejor: una vctima vctima. O mejor: una vctima vctima de las vctimas" (10)[40]. The notion of multiple victimizations is also discussed by Frantz Fanon's study of the "Negro," who like the homosexual subject and Caliban is always in comparison with the image of the "Other," of the colonizer. In the discussion regarding the homosexual, Arenas and "others" were in constant comparison with Che Guevara's "authentic revolutionary," the "New Man." Fanon writes,

The Negro is comparison. There is the first truth. He is comparison, that is, he is constantly preoccupied with self-evaluation and with the ego-ideal. Whenever he comes into contact with someone else, the question of value, of merit, arises. The Antilleans have no inherent values of their own, they are always contingent on the presence of the Other. (217)

This argument presented by Fanon is echoed by Roberto Fernndez Retamar who reclaims Caliban's image in order to deconstruct the very notion established in the above quote: he seeks to dismantle any connection that remains, particularly in Cuba, of the colonizer, although the language utilized by the "Antilleans" continues to symbolize an imprint of the colonialist enterprise. Therefore, Caliban's image and Arenas' writing reflect the struggles of the "colonized"/homosexual subject living under a totalitarian regime that denies their existence and individuality.

According to Benigno Snchez-Eppler, Arenas' writing of his experiences was a reliving of the conflicts he faced, as Csaire did when deconstructing Shakespeare's representation of Caliban by altering his personality and enhancing this character with the "spirit" of resistance and defiance. Thus, Reinaldo Arenas denounces the injustices he both suffered and witnessed. As Fray Servando does in El mundo alucinante (1969), "Tena que escribir cientos de cartas, tena que denunciar el crimen que conmigo se estaba cometiendo [...] Pona en claro mi situacin y no peda clemencia, pues no tena que pedirla, pues no era la piedad que solicitaba, sino la justicia" (MA 91-92)[41]. This act of condemning the injustices in Cuba against the individual was reiterated in Arenas' autobiography where he talked about a letter he had written to the International Red Cross. This letter focused primarily on the same concerns expressed by Fray Servando: "Desde hace mucho tiempo estoy siendo vctima de una persecucin siniestra por parte del sistema cubano" (AQA 196)[42]. Emilio Bejel substantiates Arenas' declarations by stating that Antes que anochezca reflects a "...constant denunciation of the abuses of power brought on by institutionalized machismo along with other forms of political and social control that limit and attempt to annihilate creativity and sexuality" (300). Thus, the denouncement of injustices by a totalitarian regime became a leitmotif throughout Arenas' literature.

Another aspect that connects Arenas to the image of Caliban is the Cuban writer's homosexuality. According to Luce Irigaray, the connection between the phallus and pleasure reduces the power of the signifier - the phallus as power. She writes that "Masculine homosexual relations devaluate the exalted worth of the standard of value. When the penis itself becomes simply a means of pleasure, the phallus loses its power" (108). Consequently, Arenas' denial of the expected and established tradition of masculine behavior set him apart from the rest of society. Thus, the Cuban writer's marginalized existence was due to his non-conformist behavior as well as to his homosexuality. Caliban's marginalized existence stemmed from his non-conformist attitude as well since he refused to accept Prospero's status as the "new master."

Although Caliban, as many New World natives had done, welcomed Prospero to his shores, and just as Reinaldo Arenas had supported Fidel Castro's replacement of Fulgencio Batista, it was the deception Caliban and Arenas encountered on the part of the colonizers that enhanced their sense of defiance and resistance. Thus, both colonized subjects developed a counter-stance to the binary heterosexual/homosexual for Arenas, and colonizer/colonized for Caliban. By attempting a de-colonizing process Caliban and Arenas incurred the oppression on the part of the master/state which, as a result, determined their invalidity as "civilized"/revolutionary subjects. Caliban and Arenas attempted their own revolution in order to re-appropriate what they lacked - the "I" that the "Other" claimed and appropriated from the "other."



For the first time I am a free man, and so, for the first time I exist. My life up until this point has been lived between two dictatorships: first Batista's, then the communist dictatorship. Precisely because I am in a free country I can speak. And since I can speak, I can say things that many citizens of this free country will disagree with, especially its politicians. Of course, if I were in a totalitarian country (as in Cuba, for instance) I would have to say what the dictator tells me to say, or not say anything at all. These are the advantages of being in a free country... (My translation)


The conversation presented by Aim Csaire is reminiscent of the historical meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Each with their own methods to deal with the injustices of the time are mirrored in the Ariel and Caliban characters. While Ariel (Martin Luther King Jr) believed in a non-violent approach to solve the civil rights problems in the United States, Caliban (Malcolm X) lived by one motto: By Any Means Necessary.


Ronald Takaki states that Caliban, and to a certain extent Ariel, reflected the dark nature corners within the European colonizer. They represented natural instinct and intuition, qualities in direct conflict with a rational mode of thinking and behaving (908).


"In decolonization, there is therefore the need of a complete calling in question of the colonial situation. If we wish to describe it precisely, we might find it in the well-known words: The last shall be first and the first last.'Decolonization is the putting into practice of this sentence. That is why, if we try to describe it, all decolonization is successful." (WTE 37)\


This point discussed by Ania Loomba explains the situation in Cuba. While the island had experienced various forms of colonizations (first by Spain and then the United States), the revolution's agenda changing focus to become a Marxist-Leninist regime made Fidel Castro's attempts of eliminating any imperialist/capitalist influence on the island a form of neo-colonization.


William Shakespeare writes: "You taught me language, and my profit on't / Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you / For learning me your language." (Tmp. I. ii. 366-68)


This conversation between Prospero and Caliban is reflected in Alden T. Vaughan's summary of Shakespeare's The Tempest: "...Caliban initially views the newcomers as gods and befriends them but is repaid with scorn and abuse; he originally owns the land but is soon dispossessed; he is taught a foreign tongue because the colonists found his own unintelligible; he acquires the European's vices rather than their virtues; he is a curio to be kidnapped and displayed in Europe for a few pence a look." (144)


According to Fernndez Retamar, Caliban is an anagram created by Shakespeare for "cannibal" which he states "comes in turn from the word carib" (6).


"...each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice." (Quoted in Fernndez Retamar 8)


"Prospero ... has given Caliban language; and with it an unstated history of consequences, an unknown history of future intentions. This gift of language meant not English ... but speech and concept as a way, a method, a necessary avenue towards areas of the self which could not be reached in any other way. It is this way, entirely Prospero's enterprise, which makes Caliban aware of possibilities ... Prospero lives in the absolute certainty that Language, which is his gift to Caliban, is the very prison in which Caliban's achievements will be realized and restricted." (Quoted in Fernndez Retamar 12-13)


According to Stephen O. Murray, the control over women, their subordination, is as important to the man as it is to "top" other men, both figuratively and sometimes literally. He states that machismo: "is not exclusively or primarily a means of structuring power relations between men and women. It is a means of structuring power among men ... the conquest of women is a feat performed with two audiences in mind: first, other men, to whom one must constantly prove one's masculinity and virility; and second, oneself, to whom one must also show all signs of masculinity." (Quoted in Murray 55) Thus, always being the "active" participant as opposed to the "passive" determines one's masculinity and therefore one's sense of control and power.


In Sex and Revolution: Women in Socialist Cuba Lois M. Smith and Alfred Padula add that men were expected to behave in certain ways. They declare: "Men's task was to guard family honor by defending the virtue of their wives and sisters. But at the same time they were pressed by their peers and the song of the heroic culture to make conquests, to raid the nests of others, seducing women as a proof of virility, as a natural expression of their irrepressible sexuality." (169)


This notion is echoed in Rafael L. Ramrez's argument regarding the traditional characteristics of the macho in Latin American societies.Among them is the idea of the "sexual repression of women" and the positioning of the man on top is the physical expression of what describes as a "stereotype."The film "Woman on Top," however, de-constructs and subverts this very comment by placing the female lead in a position of control, dominating her male counterpart by only being able to perform sexually as long as she dominated the situation.Her affliction to motion often led to her sickness and the only cure was to "repress" the cause of it. This idea is echoed by Hlne Cixious, who writes that: "Woman must put herself into the text ... by her own movement." (245)


As stated in The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism, the term "phallogocentrism" is the syncretism of "phallocentrism" and "logocentrism."Phallogocentrism, therefore, describes: "how patriarchal assumptions are so deeply embedded in existing languages that women ... have no independent existence that can be expressed in language. [...] [It] excludes women from the category of the universal, so that man' is synonymous with human'." (225)


"Castro's Revolutionary government started in 1959. There was a surge of enthusiasm, great fanfare and a new terror [...] Many more were dying now than during the war that never was." (BNF 45-46)


"Dear Friends: Due to my delicate state of health and to the terrible emotional depression it causes me not to be able to continue writing and struggling for the freedom of Cuba, I am ending my life. During the past few years, even though I felt very ill, I have been able to finish my literary work, to which I have devoted almost thirty years. You are the heirs of all my terrors, but also of my hope that Cuba will soon be free. I am satisfied to have contributed, though in a very small way, to the triumph of this freedom. I end my life voluntarily because I cannot continue working. Persons near me are in no way responsible for my decision. There is only one person I hold accountable: Fidel Castro. The sufferings of exile, the pain of being banished from my country, the loneliness, and the diseases contracted in exile would probably never have happened if I had been able to enjoy freedom in my country. I want to encourage the Cuban people out of the country as well as on the island to continue fighting for freedom. I do not want to convey to you a message of defeat but of continued struggle and of hope. Cuba will be freed. I already am." (BNF 317)


" me the typewriter was not only the one object of value in my possession but also the thing that I treasured the most. To me, sitting down at the typewriter was, and still is, something extraordinary. I would be inspired ... by the rhythm of those keys and they would carry me along. Paragraphs would follow one another like ocean waves, at times more intense, at others less so; sometimes like huge breakers that would engulf page after page, before the next paragraph." (BNF 109)


"That rhythm has always been part of me, even during periods of the most intense lovemaking or of the greatest police persecution.Writing crowned or complemented all other pleasures as well as all other calamities." (BNF 110)


"I thought I was going to die in the winter of 1987... I ...decided to die close to the sea." (BNF ix)


"I really cannot say that I want to die; yet I believe that when the alternative is suffering and pain without hope, death is a thousand times better ... If you cannot live the way that you want, there is no point in living. In Cuba I endured a thousand adversities because the hope of escaping and the possibility of saving my manuscripts gave me strength. At this point, the only escape for me is death." (BNF ix)


"I always thought that my family, including my mother, saw me as a weird creature, useless, confused, or crazy; a being outside the framework of their lives. They were probably right." (BNF 17)


"I believe that there are two alternatives in what I write: the situation gets to such a point of desperation that I either provoke destruction or freedom because a desperate situation only has one alternative: you die or you survive, and as a result you are free. It is the same situation for Cubans today that face the sea: or the sea swallows you whole or you die inside the island, or maybe you abandon it and you are reborn in a foreign land or you rebel and overthrow the government ... Suicide in Cuba's history ... is a constant that is manifested since the indigenous people until our time." (My translation)


"Everyday my desire is stronger to jump into the water and disappear ... I feel an intense urge to die, and a dark curiosity for death ... our conflict is with death." (My translation)


"my mother asked me ... She wanted to know if I would feel really sad if she died." (BNF 3)


"Why not throw myself into those waters? Why not lose myself, vanish in them, find peace in the clamor that I loved?" (BNF 17)


"I think my childhood was the most creative time of my life; it was a world of pure creativity. To relive the deep loneliness I felt while surrounded by the constant household bustle, I peopled the fields ... with almost mythical and supernatural characters and apparitions." (BNF 6)


"Poor Celestino! Writing. Writing and writing and writing and writing and never stopping, even on the pines of the account books where Grandpa writes down the dates the cows got pregnant.On yucca leaves and even on the hard round husks of the palm trees the horses didn't get there soon enough to eat.Writing. Writing.And when not a single yucca leaf is left to mess up - or a palm leaf husk, or Grandpa's ledger books - Celestino starts writing on the trunks of the trees." (SW 4)


"It is as if language became the film's protagonist ... It is one of the most interesting aspects of Before Night Falls: the multiplicities of language in the telling of a story." (My translation)


"My childhood is the only world of which I still have vivid memories and it is the one that inspires me to write; it is like an inexhaustible fountain of memories, some terrible and others beautiful, but nevertheless, it is the prime material for the books that I have written. My childhood is a humble world in a rural environment; we lived in an area around a province called Holguin, a totally primitive area where we did not know of electricity or running water, nor toilets nor anything like it. It was in that absolutely primitive environment where I was raised until the age of twelve. My mother taught me to read and write." (My translation)


"This was the river that gave me a gift: an image that I will never forget ... I was walking along the river bank ... when I saw over thirty men bathing in the nude ... To see all those naked bodies, all those exposed genitals, was a revelation to me: I realized, without a doubt, that I liked men. I enjoyed seeing them come out of the water, run among the trees, climb the rocks, and jump. I loved to see their bodies dripping wet, their penises shining." (BNF 8)


"...his childhood's repressive environment led to an artistic and sexual liberation." (My translation)


"I think that the sexual revolution in Cuba actually came about as a result of the existing sexual repression. Perhaps as a protest against the regime, homosexuality began to flourish with ever-increasing defiance. Moreover, since the dictatorship was considered evil, anything it proscribed was seen in a positive light by the nonconformists, who in the sixties were already almost the majority. I honestly believe that the concentration camps for homosexuals, and the police officers disguised as willing young men to entrap and arrest homosexuals, actually resulted in the promotion of homosexual activities." (BNF 107)


A feminist analysis of the portrayal of Fidel Castro as the symbol of Cuban nationalism, who maintains control and power may reflect the notion of the Lacanian "Law of the Father."According to Jacques Lacan, the "Law of the Father" is connected to language, thus enabling the subject to speak in terms of the rules set forth by the "Other."This idea promotes the dichotomy Other/other making Castro equate the image of the signifier. Hence, states Lacan, "The phallus is the privileged signifier of that mark in which the role of the logos is joined with the advent of desire" (287). Emilio Bejel, in his analysis of Arenas' autobiography, promotes the idea that Castro's status as a signifier would explain the Cuban writer's "love-hate relationship with the figure of Fidel Castro" (307), hence assuming that Arenas sought that which he did not posses and was reflected by Castro.


According to Lacan, in order for the "other" to have access to language, that which is associated to the phallus/patriarchy, it must do so from the place designated for the "Other," thus the signified must replace the signifier: "The fact that the phallus is a signifier means that it is in the place of the Other that the subject has access to it. But since this signifier is only veiled, as ratio of the Other's desire, it is this desire of the Other as such that the subject must recognize, that is to say, the other in so far as he is himself a subject divided by the signifying Spaltung." (288)


"...the source for female subordination in the patriarchal order is based on religious dogma where the hierarchical relationship between God and man is reflected and extended in the relationship between man and woman." (My translation)


" the criticism of a nation absorbed by the State, a nation, in essence, stranded. Against this Arenas will propose a community conscious of the collective impossibility." (My translation)


This idea also reflects Arenas' wishes for his Cuban compatriots to continue in the struggle for a free Cuba.


The idea of the Cuban as subject to the agenda set forth by the Revolution stems from Brad Epps analysis of the resignation of the individual for the unification and empowerment of the greater society.


Che Guevara states that "la culpabilidad de muchos de nuestros intelectuales y artistas reside en su pecado original; no son autnticamente revolucionarios." (528)


"A double victim ... Or triple. Or better, a victimized victim. Or better still, a victim victimized by the victims." (Koch 162)


"I had hundreds of letter to write, for I had to denounce the crime being committed against myself and with myself ... I laid out my situation for anyone to see, so clearly did I put it, and I begged not mercy or even clemency, for of that there was no need if justice be done." (IFP 57)


"For a long time I have been a victim of a sinister persecution on the part of the Cuban system." (My translation)

Works Cited

Abreu, Juan. A la Sombra del Mar: Jornadas Cubanas con Reinaldo Arenas. Barcelona: Editorial Casiopea, 1998.

Arenas, Reinaldo. Celestino Antes del Alba. Madrid: Tusquets Editores, 1980.

- . "La Represin (Intelectual) en Cuba." June 2001 <>

- . El Mundo Alucinante. Caracas: Monte Avila Editores, 1982.

- . Otra Vez el Mar. Barcelona: Editorial Argos Vergara, S. A., 1982.

- . Persecucin: Cinco Piezas de Teatro Experimental. Florida: Ediciones Universal, 1986.

- . The Ill-Fated Peregrinations of Fray Servando. Trans. Andrew Hurley. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

- . Antes que Anochezca: una Autobiografa. Barcelona: Tusquets Editores, 1992.

- . Before Night Falls: A Memoir.Trans. Dolores M. Koch. New York: Viking, 1993.

- . Singing from the Well. Trans. Andrew Hurley. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

- . Mona and Other Tales. Trans. Dolores M. Koch. New York: Vintage Books, 2001.

Ashcroft, Bill. Post-Colonial Transformation. London: Routledge, 2001.

Barquet, Jess. J. "Suicidio y Rebelda: Reinaldo Arenas Habla Sobre el Suicidio."Ideologa y Subversin: Otra vez Arenas. Eds. Reinaldo Sanchez & Humberto Lpez Cruz. Salamanca: Centro de Estudios Ibricos y Americanos de Salamanca, 1999: 111-116.

Bejel, Emilio. "Arenas's Antes que Anochezca: Autobiography of a Gay Cuban Dissident." Reading and Writing the Ambiente: Queer Sexualities in Latino, Latin American and Spanish Cultura. Eds. Susana Chvez-Silverman & Librada Hernndez. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 2000: 299-315.

Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.

Bordo, Susan. The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.

Cabrera Infante, Guillermo. Mea Cuba. Trans. Kenneth May & Guillermo Cabrera Infante. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994: 412-418.

Csaire, Aim. A Tempest. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Ubu Repertory Publications, 1992.

Chambers, Iain. Migrancy, Culture, Identity. London: Routledge, 1994.

- & Lidia Curti (eds.) The Post-Colonial Question: Common Skies / Divided Horizons. New York: Routledge, 1996.

- . "Signs of Silence, Lines of Listening." (Chambers & Curti 47-62)

Childers, Joseph & Gary Hentzi (eds.) The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism. New York: Columbia UP, 1995.

Cirlot, J.E. A Dictionary of Symbols. Trans. Jack Sage. New York: Philosophical Library, 1971.

Cixous, Hlne. "The Laugh of the Medusa." (Marks & de Courtivron 245-64)

Chow, Rey. Writing Diaspora: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993.

- . "Where Have All the Natives Gone?" Contemporary Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader. Ed. Padmini Mongia. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996: 122-146.

Clark, Steven. "Antes que Anochezca: Las Paradojas de la Autorepresentacin." Revista del Ateneo Puertorriqueo. 5:13-15 (1995): 209-25.

De Anhalt, Nedda G. "La Luz que Ilumina Antes que Anochezca." June 2001 <>

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Trans. H.M. Parshley. New York: Vintage, 1989.

De la Paz, Luis. "Diez Aos Sin Reinaldo Arenas." June 2001 <>

Denoes, Edmundo (ed.) Los Dispositivos en la Flor. Cuba: Literatura Desde la Revolucin. New Hampshire: Ediciones del Norte, 1981.

Epps, Brad. "Proper Conduct: Reinaldo Arenas, Fidel Castro, and the Politics of Homosexuality." Journal of the History of Sexuality, 66 (1995): 231-83.

Esterrich, Carmelo. "Locas,Pjaros y Dems Maricanadas: El Ciudadano Sexual en Reinaldo Arenas." Confluencia: Revista Hispnica de Cultura y Literatura. 13:1 (1997): 178-93.

Ette, Ottmar (ed.) La escritura de la Memoria. Reinaldo Arenas: Textos, Estudio y Documentacin. 2nd ed. Frankfurt: Vervuert, 1996.

Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. New York: Grove Press, 1963.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press, 1967.

Fernndez Retamar, Roberto. Caliban and Other Essays. Trans. Edward Baker. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1989.

Guevara, Ernesto "Che". "El Hombre Nuevo." (Denoes 525-32)

Hasson, Liliane. "Memorias de un Exiliado: Pars, Primavera, 1985." (Ette 35-63)

Irigaray, Luce. "When Our Lips Speak Together." Feminist Theory and the Body: A Reader. Ed. Janet Price & Margrit Shildrick. New York: Routledge, 1999: 82-90.

- . "This Sex Which is Not One." (Marks & de Courtivron 99-106)

- . "When the Goods Get Together." (Marks & de Courtivron 107-10)

Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1977.

Lamming, George. The Pleasure of Exile. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992.

Leiner, Marvin. Sexual Politics in Cuba: Machismo, Homosexuality and AIDS. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Lugo Nazario, Flix. La Alucinacin y los Recursos Literarios en las Novelas de Reinaldo Arenas. Florida: Ediciones Universal, 1995.

Lumsden, Ian. Machos, Maricones and Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1996.

Marks, Elaine & Isabelle de Courtivron (eds.) New French Feminisms. New York: Schocken, 1981.

Medin, Tzvi. Cuba: The Shaping of Revolutionary Consciousness. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990.

Mongia, Padmini (ed.) Contemporary Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses." (Mongia 172-97)

Moreiras, Alberto. Tercer Espacio: Literature y Duelo en Amrica Latina. Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 1999.

Murray, Stephen O. Latin American Male Homosexualities. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1995.

Nagel, Joane. Race, Ethnicity and Sexuality: Intimate Intersections, Forbidden Frontiers. New York: Oxford UP, 2003.

Nagy-Zekmi, Silvia. Paralelismos Transatlticos: Postcolonialismos y Narrative Femenina en Amrica Latina y Africa del Norte. Rhode Island: Ediciones INTI, 1996.

Osterhammel, Jrgen. Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview.Trans. Shelley L. Frisch. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1999.

Prez-Stable, Marifeli. The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy. New York: Oxford UP, 1993.

Ramrez, Rafael L. What it Means to be a Man: Reflections on Puerto Rican Masculinity. Trans. Rosa E. Casper. New Jersey: Rutgers UP, 1999.

Snchez-Eppler, Benigno. "Reinaldo Arenas, Re-writer Revenant, and the Re-patriation of Cuban Homoerotic Desire." Queer Diasporas. Ed. Cindy Patton and Benigno Snchez-Eppler. Durham: Duke UP, 2000: 154-82.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Ed. Gerald Graff and James Phelan. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000.

Shohat, Ella. "Notes on the Post-Colonial." (Mongia 322-334)

Smith, Lois M. & Alfred Padula. Sex and Revolution; Women in Socialist Cuba. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.

Soto, Francisco. "Celestino Antes del Alba, El Palacio de las Blanqusimas Mofetas, and Otra Vez el Mar: The Struggle for Self-Expression." Hispania: A Journal Devoted to the Teaching of Spanish and Portuguese, 75:1 (1992): 60-7.

- . Reinaldo Arenas: The Pentagona. Miami: UP of Florida, 1994.

- . Reinaldo Arenas. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

Stavans, Ilan. "The Latin Phallus." The Latino Studies Reader: Cultura, Economy and Society. Ed. Antonia Darder & Rodolfo D. Torres. Massachussets: Blackwell, 1998: 228-39.

Stevens, Evelyn. "Marianismo: The Other Face of Machismo in Latin America." Female and Male in Latin America. Ed. Ann Pescatello. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh UP, 1973: 89-101.

Takaki, Ronald. "The Tempest in the Wilderness: The Racialization of Savagery." The Journal of American History, 79.3 (1992): 892-912.

Valero, Roberto. "Ay, qu Lindo Tienes el Pelo. Un Testimonio de los Últimos Tiempos de Arenas." (Ette 29-32)

Vaughan, Alden T. "Shakespeare's Indian: The Americanization of Caliban." Shakespeare Quarterly, 39.2 (1988): 137-153.

Vaughan, Alden T. & Virginia Mason Vaughan. Shakespeare's Caliban: A Cultural History. New York: Cambridge UP, 1991.

Walder, Dennis. Post-colonial Literatures in English: History, Language, Theory. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998.