A Cuban-American storyteller in Havana


Sonia Rivera-Valdés, a 72-year-old Cuban-American writer who has been living in the United States for over 40 years, visited the island earlier this month.

She had been given the 1997 Casa de Las Américas Special Hispanic Literature Award for her book Las historias prohibidas de Marta Veneranda (Marta Veneranda's forbidden stories).

In the book, Veneranda is a sociology student who interviews Latin American men and women in New York for her doctoral thesis. She asks them to tell her their forbidden stories.

"Writing is great fun; it is like visiting places," she stressed at a meeting with local writers, poets, researchers, historians, reporters and university professors, at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism in Havana.

"Rivera is also an essayist, editor and professor who has actively promoted exchange between Cuban and Latin American writers in the United States," said Julio C. González, coordinator of the Iberian-American Network on Masculinity.

The meeting was organized by his institution and the Mirta Aguirre Gender and Communication Chair at the Institute of Journalism.

Zaida Capote, a researcher working for the National Institute of Literature and Linguistics, indicated that Rivera's work is part and parcel of the 1990s literary mainstream in the island.

"She has approached issues like women's homosexuality and exile in a new manner," commented Cuban sculptor Ana Mendieta.

"Marta Veneranda's forbidden stories are full of humor and human solidarity," Capote emphasized.

"I was here when the Special Award was granted. I knew I had written something really deep, but I was also aware that I had used a language that was incomplete," Rivera recalled.

"My first book (Los ojos lindos de Adela / Adela's pretty eyes) was highly autobiographical. It was based on my work at a factory for nine months," she remarked.

"The second one (Historias de mujeres grandes y chiquitas / Stories of tall and short women) clearly shows that we women can hold the reins of our destinies," she said.

"Although we women have made much progress, we still have a long way to go. Women writers, for example, do not win as many awards as men writers do and our salaries are often lower than theirs," she added. "We should write more about women," she stressed.

At the meeting, Rivera read a passage of her latest novel (Rosas de abolengo / Roses of noble ancestry), to which she is now putting the finishing touches. "New York is the main character of the novel," she anticipated. "I write when I feel an urge to say something," she concluded.

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