Reinaldo Arenas’s Queer Activism and AIDS

Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) arrived in Key West on May 5, after his boat was rescued by the Coast Guard. He arrived penniless and stripped of his literary work in progress. Arenas as a “Marielito” soon became a notorious critic of the Castro regime. This paper explores Arenas’s image as a Marielito and sexual outlaw, a role that he made part of a counterrevolutionary political agenda linked to his literary production. I will examine Arenas’s conceptual approach to homoerotic activism as an integral part of acts of political discontent, akin to similar practices by mainstream Queer activists. Ultimately, in his self-promoted identity as a Marielito writer, Arenas displayed no fear that his (homo)sexualized literary activism could likely result, as it eventually did, in rejection among Latino and Latin American readers.

Author: Rafael Ocasio