A Cuban Author and his Treatment for Cultural Claustrophobia

Jorge Milanes

HAVANA TIMES — Looking up the meaning of the word “claustrophobia” in Google, I came across a web-site (http://www.claustrofobias.com) created by one of the most promising young writers in Cuba today: poet, storyteller, radio-play writer and current director of Santiago de Cuba’s Caseron publishing house Yunier Riquenes.

The anthology of poems “Claustrofobias” earned Riquenes the Pinos Nuevos literary award in 2009. The name of the website, launched by Riquenes to encourage literary criticism and debate and to promote Cuban literature and the country’s authors, is borrowed from the book’s title.

Ironically, “Claustrofobias” is a web-page which aims to break out of the psychological cloisters we’ve retreated to and go out into the broad outdoors of our intellectual and social world in search of new issues for debate.

Last Saturday, I accidentally ran into Riquenes while visiting the Fayad Jamis bookstore on Obispo street, in Havana’s old town. He was there to promote his website, and I availed myself of this fortuitous encounter to exchange ideas with him and ask him some questions about his project.

The first thing I asked him was how long his page had been up.

He gave me a confused look, then said, in an ethusiastic tone:

“My maxim is that everything, absolutely everything, begins on the page of a book.”

I told him how pleased I was with what he was doing and I suggested that, if possible, he use his webpage to address such crucial issues as the popular reception of poetry, the dilemmas surrounding the publication and sale of Cuban poetry and the messy abundance of volumes at local bookstores.

“Our resources are very limited at the moment, but our aim, God willing, is to tackle many more issues, and even publish printed works. It will all depend on the success we have. At the very least, I can say your claustrophobia is being successfully treated,” replied the writer.

Jorge Milanes

Jorge Milanes: My name is Jorge Milanes Despaigne, and I’m a tourism promoter and public relations specialist. Forty-five years ago I was born in Cojimar, a small coastal town to the east of Havana. I very much enjoy trips and adventure; and now that I know a good bit about my own country, I’d like to learn more about other nations. I enjoy reading, singing, dancing, haute cuisine and talking with interesting people who offer wisdom and happiness.