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The Associated Press

Daughter Of Former Rebel Commander Launches Collection Of Cuban Books


February 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

HAVANA (AP) - Trying to build cultural bridges, the daughter of a well-known revolutionary who later turned against Fidel Castro is launching a new series of books by authors from the island and abroad.

"Through books we become closer - we form, we sculpt, we reinvent Cuba," Patricia Gutierrez-Menoyo said as she presented her publishing house's new Cuban Cultural Collection to a crowded hall at Havana's International Book Festival on Friday.

The nine books by diverse writers do not touch on political subjects, and Gutierrez-Menoyo said she had no problem getting permission from the Cuban government to sell them.

First presented late last year at an international book fair in Miami, the Spanish-language collection includes "El viaje mas largo (The Longest Journey)" a novel by Leonardo Padura, a writer who lives on the island; "Mi vida saxual (My Sax-ual Life)," a biography by Cuban exile musician Paquito D'Rivera; and "Mitos y Leyendas (Myths and Legends)," a colorful mix of centuries-old Cuban beliefs and recipes by Natalia Bolivar, one of the country's leading experts on Afro-Cuban religions.

Gutierrez-Menoyo, who owns the Plaza Mayor publishing house in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said she funded the collection through proceeds from textbooks she prints because she saw "a need to rescue our culture."

"I'm reinventing our culture, because we are losing it," Gutierrez-Menoyo said after the presentation.

"For the last 43 years we have not had enough ways for all of us to be Cuban together, no matter where we have lived" she said, referring to the start of the Cuban revolution that brought Castro to power. "We hope this will help."

Gutierrez-Menoyo, now in her 30s, has lived firsthand the pain and nostalgia of Cubans separated by geography and political belief.

Her father, Eloy Gutierrez-Menoyo, was a commander who fought alongside Castro during the revolution in the late 1950s.

The elder Gutierrez-Menoyo later broke ranks and went to Miami, where he became military leader for the newly formed anti-Castro group Alpha 66. In 1964, he landed in Cuba with three men in hopes of launching an armed uprising. But he was captured and went on to spend 22 years in Cuban prisons.

Today, he lives in Miami where his organization Cambio Cubano promotes peaceful dialogue with Castro.

"It is the hour to establish a dialogue," said writer Amir Valle, whose contribution to the collection is "Las puertas de la noche (The Doors of the Night)," described as a dark novel that explores the diverse roots of Cuban identity. Valle, who lives on the island, said the younger Gutierrez-Menoyo had "a very Cuban heart, even though she was born in Miami."

The new collection "is an embrace that stretches the width of the island and extends all the way to Miami," Cuban writer Guillermo Jimenez said at the event.

The writers also said the collection gave Cuban authors living in exile a chance to publish works that are not blatantly political.

Cuban writer Pedro Perez-Sarduy, who now lives in London, said he had a hard time publishing the novel based on his mother's remembrances, "Las criadas de La Habana (The Maids of Havana)," because "it wasn't anti-Castro." A little more than a year after it was accepted by Plaza Mayor, the book was in print.

Carmen Duarte, who lives in Miami, said being able to present her novel "Hasta la vuelta (Until the turn)," at book fairs in both Miami and Havana helped establish "a road of communication, of understanding, between Cubans who live on the island and those who live abroad."

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