Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Monica: New Wave of Cuban Literature Breaks with Tradition

October 26, 2010

A novel generation of Cubans has emerged, their eyes more fixated on the world and their hands less bound to the revolution, according to a Cuban writer, blogger, and multimedia artist.

“The generation of the 2000s was born during the failure of the Cuban revolution – it’s the first one that is not lagging behind the rest of the world,” said Lizabel Mónica, speaking recently at Rochambeau House. 

“Cuba is not as different as it used to be,” she added during her talk titled “Cuba Siglo XXI: Literatura en Transición.” “The country has reached a post-revolutionary state.”

Global connections, forged through new access to the internet, films, and music, have been crucial in the transformation. But revolutionary tradition is also being challenged by emerging literature on the island, Mónica added. 

The “generation zero” has discarded many of the dichotomies emblematic of previous literature. Instead, this unique generation has embraced new, more liberal concepts, which also resonate on a global scale, according to Mónica. 

“We now have lots of writings about bisexuality, for example,” she said. “The revolution had a strong heterosexual, and especially macho, discourse. In many ways, this new panorama is connecting with the panorama of many other countries – it’s globalization at work.” 

But despite the break in genre, writers have yet to be free in their art, according to Mónica. The use of self-censorship and double discourse persist, though less stringently imposed than in the past. 

Furthermore, the distribution of literature is limited. “Books don’t flow in, books don’t flow out,” she said. “There is no editorial market in Cuba, the books just circulate.”
And while the internet has opened up a relatively free space for artists, Mónica highlighted that the majority of Cubans lack access to computers. Political blogs are therefore not as threatening to the Castro regime as they appear from an international viewpoint, she added, as few Cubans are able to read them. 

“If the sites had more impact on the island, bloggers would have more problems,” Mónica said. The government may be allowing certain channels of discontent to open as a test, she added. 

“New writers have learned to say more and be faced with less danger,” Mónica said. “They’re seeking a different type of politics.”  

Mónica has written prologues for publications of contemporary Cuban poets, is preparing a collection of essays about Cuban literature, and works on several blogs, including her own personal blog.

The talk was cosponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature.

By Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Alexandra Ulmer ’11