While thinking of this latest move by the White House to punish some media outlets, I keep being reminded of reading Before Night Fall by Reinaldo Arenas—the memoir of a gay, Cuban novelist/poet who suffered under the Castro regime. I found one passage particularly interesting and wanted to share it. I plan to make this a theme in a future novel.
Ours is a national history of betrayals, uprisings, desertions, conspiracies, riots, coups d’etat; all of them provoked by infinite ambition, abuse, despair, false pride, and envy. Two attitudes, two personalities, always seem to be in conflict throughout our history: on the one hand, the incurable rebels, lovers of freedom and therefore of creativity and experimentation; and on the other, the power-hungry opportunists and demagogues, and thus purveyors of dogma, crime, and the basest of ambitions. These attitudes have recurred over time: General Tacon against Heredia, Martinez Campos against Jose Marti, Fidel Castro against Lezama Lima and Virgilio Pinera; always the same rhetoric, the same speeches, always the drums of militarism stifling the rhythm of poetry and life.
Dictators and authoritarian regimes can destroy writers in two ways: by persecuting them or by showering them with official favors. In Cuba, of course, those who opted for favors also perished and in an even more deplorable and undignified manner: People of unquestionable talent, once they embraced the new dictatorship, never wrote anything worthwhile again.