To an average American, all that goes on in Cuba and the Castro government is what we hear from the news. Unless you are a historian, you happen to have connections within Cuba or you just happen to take a class on the country itself, you only know what you are told. Reinaldo Arenas' memoir takes you to his country and relive his life throughout the revolution and all that he endured in his life in Cuba and in his exile. I was able to feel his pain through his words. He takes you on a journey that leads up to the reasons why he desperately needed to leave Cuba. Three themes that are emphasized throughout the book explain why. One apparent reason would be his lifestyle as a homosexual. The second is less obvious but important, his inability to trust most of his friends for fear of being turned in. Finally, the most important reason of all, the restrictions that were placed on his writings and the persecution he was subjected to because of it.
Before getting deep into the reasons behind his escape, some background information is prevalent. Arenas grew up in poverty on his grandparent's farm in Oriente Province. He was born while the Batista regime was still in control and his family suffered under the dictatorship. When Arenas was a teenager, his grandparent's sold their land and moved everyone into the small town of Holguín. It wasn't until he was 15 years old that he left his home and decided to join the rebels, led by Fidel Castro. The Castro government took power in 1959, after Batista fled in December of 1958. He mentions that there was no real war that was fought but was mostly a nationwide discontent with the dictator (Arenas 39). Teresa Meade also mentions a similar claim that much of the success of the revolution is due to the discontentment with the Batista regime across the country (237). Fidel Castro charmed all of Cuba. He addressed the problems of not only the middle-class and intellectuals but also of the illiterate farmers and factory workers.