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Viva Mi Gente!: 12 Latino Celebrities and Characters Who Thrust HIV/AIDS Into Popular Culture

May 15, 2013


Reinaldo Arenas

Reinaldo Arenas

Reinaldo Arenas was a Cuban poet, novelist, playwright, and among Cuba's most famous writers and expatriates. Though an early supporter of Fidel Castro, once Arenas saw what was happening to Cuba's people, especially its LGBT population, he withdrew support and began to rebel, and eventually lived as an exile in the U.S. He was imprisoned in 1974 in Cuba for "ideological deviation" and for publishing abroad without official consent.

In his autobiography, Before Night Falls, Arenas recounted his sexually active lifestyle and claimed to have slept with more than 5,000 men. Though many of his friends dispute the number, they do not dispute his promiscuity. His autobiography was turned into a movie starring Javier Bardem as Arenas and directed by Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).

Diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, Arenas committed suicide in 1990 in New York. In his suicide letter, he wrote: "Due to my delicate state of health and to the terrible depression it causes me not to be able to continue and struggling for the freedom of Cuba, I am ending my life ... I want to encourage the Cuban people out of the country as well as on the Island to continue fighting for freedom ... Cuba will be free. I already am." Even in his last words, his life and his fate were seen as intimately tied to his homeland.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Yaeger Fri., Jul. 31, 2015 at 12:11 am EDT
Oh my how things have really changed, that it has become almost fashionable to be hiv positive. I remember when the disease first came to be, and where I was when I heard about this unknown disease, where it seemed that many people were dying around me.Was I scared of course who was not. But as some people I knew were passing over with this disease I still went to see them in the hospitals as often as I could. I think they really appreciated that about me, that fear never stopped me from going to see my friends, and associates on the bus. Therefore, I treated them the way I would have wanted to have been treated. But I really thought by now there would be a cure for the disease.
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Comment by: Anonymous Sat., Jul. 11, 2015 at 8:19 am EDT
Hola me hize la prueba hace dos crmanas pero me comenzo el sangrado despues paro y ahora otra ves tengo un poco de dolor en la caders y un poco enfrente y me hago la prueba muchas veces mas y sale positiva no se que hacer
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Comment by: Miguel (El Centro Ca,) Sat., Jul. 12, 2014 at 10:57 am EDT
I am 52 years old and want to find a woman who is HIV positive. Recommend places to contact me. Thank you
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Comment by: OhioMan (Alliance, Ohio) Wed., Jun. 19, 2013 at 11:20 am EDT
I recall Pedro quite well...I was living in Los Angeles at the time and HIV was so new and scary. Pedro was an Idol to us all and helped to explain this horrible illness...Thanks Pedro..
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Comment by: Marta L. (richmond va) Sun., May. 26, 2013 at 12:23 am EDT
my soul can take it it is my body that fails me some times I am 63 years old and hope to live some more don't know how many more. I fell very happy and some times so sad is all part of the prossees . learn to take it one day at a time.
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