Requiem for Cuban poet, author, and dissident Reinaldo Arenas on the 29th anniversary of his death

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Requiem for Reinaldo Arenas: Died 29 years ago today

“The difference between the communist and capitalist systems is that, although both give you a kick in the ass, in the communist system you have to applaud, while in the capitalist system you can scream.” – Reinaldo Arenas, 1980

On December 7, 1990 Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas killed himself in New York City, after battling AIDS for several years. He was an important critic of the Castro regime, and those intellectuals who supported it. As a Gay man he also suffered discrimination because of the communist dictatorship’s hostility to homosexuals.

Reinaldo left behind an autobiography, Before Night Falls which proved a powerful denunciation of Fidel Castro’s regime. He also left behind a suicide letter:

“Due to my delicate state of health and to the terrible depression that causes me not to be able to continue writing and struggling for the freedom of Cuba, I am ending my life … I want to encourage the Cuban people abroad as well as on the Island to continue fighting for freedom. … Cuba will be free. I already am.

This autobiography was adapted into a film by Julian Schnabel in 2000 with Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp and Sean Penn with the same title.

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