Padilla, Heberto (1932–2000)

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Padilla, Heberto (1932–2000)

Heberto Padilla (b. 20 January 1932; d. 20 September 2000); one of the greatest Cuban poets and novelists. Padilla was born in Puerta de Golpe in the province of Pinar del Río. He was supportive of the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and enjoyed a favorable position among the cultural elite of his country until 1968, when he won first prize in the prestigious literary contest of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) for his book of poems Fuera del juego (1969). This book, which brought him immediate national and international acclaim as a poet, also made him an object of intense political controversy. Published with a prologue decrying the "counterrevolutionary" nature of some of the poems, the book provoked what came to be known as El Caso Padilla, or the Padilla affair, now seen as a turning point in relations between the Cuban government and intellectuals, Cuban or otherwise. In 1971, Padilla was arrested, tortured, and forced to retract his stand publicly at an assembly of UNEAC. Receiving worldwide attention, his case prompted the drafting of a letter in his defense signed by intellectuals the world over, including Gabriel García Márquez and Simone de Beauvoir. Ultimately Padilla was allowed to emigrate with his wife, the outstanding poet Belkis Cuza Malé, but his case marked the end of a period of relative artistic freedom for Cuban intellectuals. Padilla taught at Princeton, New York University, and eventually settled in Alabama where he taught at Auburn University until his death.

Other works by Padilla include bilingual editions of his poems Legacies (1982) and A Fountain, a House of Stone (1991). His poetry has been translated into many languages.

See alsoCuba, Revolutions: Cuban Revolution .


Lourdes Casal, El caso Padilla: Literatura y revolución en Cuba: documentos (1971).

Scott Johnson, ed. and trans., The Case of the Cuban Poet Heberto Padilla (1978).

Additional Bibliography

Lezama Lima, José. Poetas cubanos marginados. Ferrol: Sociedad de Cultura Valle-Inclán, 1998.

                                            Roberto Valero