The Friends of Cuban Libraries
Date: February 26, 2001
ACTOR IN LIBRARY ROLE WINS ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION
Javier Bardem, a Spanish actor who portrays Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas
in the new, widely acclaimed film "Before Night Falls," has been nominated
for an Academy Award for Best Actor. The film, directed by Julian Schnabel
and co-starring Johnny Depp and Sean Penn, has been internationally heralded
by the critics. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times, for example,
describes "Before Night Falls" as "the best film of the year," and Rex Reed
of the New York Observer praises "Before Night Falls" as "rapturous,
intoxicating filmmaking.... Don't miss it! Javier Bardem gives a
mesmerizing and inspired performance."
Javier Bardem's role is based on the award-winning autobiography by
Reinaldo Arenas, a writer who was persecuted and jailed in Cuba because of
his sexual orientation and dissident political views before fleeing his
native country for the United States. After completing his autobiography
"Before Night Falls" while seriously ill with AIDS, Reinaldo Arenas committed
suicide in New York City in 1990.
Scenes in the film re-enact Reinaldo Arenas' brief career as a library
worker at Havana's National Library, where he was offered a clerical position
after winning a nationwide literary prize for unpublished authors. His job
at the National Library, however, was cut short by a purge of books and
personnel. One of the first victims of the purge was the Director of the
National Library, Maria Teresa Freyre de Andrade, who had offered Arenas his
clerical position. She was dismissed for allegedly being "a lesbian, an
aristocrat and a counterrevolutionary." As an omen of things to come after
Ms. Freyre de Andrade's forced departure, her replacement as Director of the
National Library held the rank of captain in the national police. "A few
days later," noted Arenas in his autobiography, "I decided the library was no
longer a place for me, either. Any book that could be deemed to be
'ideological diversionism' disappeared immediately." After years of
harassment, persecution and imprisonment, Reinaldo Arenas left Cuba by using
a falsified identity card to elude detection by the State Security police.
Although Arenas is regarded as one of Cuba's outstanding 20th century
authors, his novels, poems and autobiography are banned in his native country
and have disappeared from the shelves of official Cuban libraries, except for
a few copies kept in special locked areas reserved for approved researchers.
His works are avalable, however, in some of the more than 70 independent
libraries which have been founded in Cuba since 1998 to provide public access
to uncensored books.
**** LATEBREAKING NEWS ***
ANOTHER LIBRARIAN ARRESTED: Ricardo Gonzalez, the director of the
indepenent Jorge Manach Library in Havana, was arrested by the State Security
police on February 16. This news is contained in an article written by Maria
Elena Rodriguez and published in the February 20 edition of CubaNet
(www.cubanet.org). According to Ms. Rodriguez, the arrest of Ricardo
Gonzalez was intended to prevent a public seminar scheduled to be held that
day at the Jorge Manach Library on the theme of "Ethics and Journalism."
After spending four hours in detention at a police station, Mr. Gonzalez was
released without charge. His work as a library director was featured in an
August, 2000, article in the Washington Post which highlighted the creation
of Cuba's independent libraries, in defiance of the government's effort to
monopolize all sources of information.
The Friends of Cuban Libraries encourage readers to send polite protests
regarding the detention of Ricardo Gonzalez to Mr. Felipe Perez Roque, the
Cuban Minister of Foreign Relations. His e-mail address is:
([log in to unmask]). Please send copies to Mr. Eliades Acosta, the
current Director of Havana's National Library. His e-mail address is:
([log in to unmask]).
Please be assured that your protests WILL have an impact. After
avoiding any public mention of the independent librarians for more than two
years, the Cuban government recently issued its first public attack on them
in the official press, which offers strong proof that the authorities are
facing increased international pressure on this important issue. Please send
copies of any responses from the Cuban government to the Friends of Cuban
BACKGROUND: The Friends of Cuban Libraries, founded in June, 1999, is an
independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit support group for the independent
librarians. We oppose censorship and all other violations of intellectual
freedom, as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, regardless
of whatever govenment may be in office in Cuba. We are funded entirely by
our members and do not seek or accept funds from other sources. For more
information, send e-mail inquiries to: ([log in to unmask]) or telephone (USA)
718-340-8494. Or send letters to: Robert Kent, 4-74 48th Avenue, #3-C, Long
Island City, NY 11109 USA.