Letters to Eloísa

Letters to Eloisa illuminates the intersection of literature and politics during the Cuban Revolution in an epistolary exchange between novelist José Lezama Lima and his sister.

Pub still of Ivan canas
Premiere Date
October 15, 2021
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Diversity Development Fund

Adriana Bosch

Adriana Bosch is a Cuban American documentary filmmaker with more than 30 years of experience and has produced, written and directed more than a dozen films that have aired nationally on PBS, many focusing on the Latinx experience. She has received many of the industry’s highest awards.  She holds a Ph.D. from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

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The Film

Poet, essayist, and novelist José Lezama Lima was arguably the most influential Cuban writer of the twentieth century and a major, albeit obscured, figure of the mid-century Latin American literary boom. Lezama Lima was secretly gay, profoundly Catholic, and ostentatiously erudite. His monumental novel Paradiso (1966) sent shockwaves through the Spanish-speaking literary world and set him on a collision course with the Cuban revolutionary government. In the immediate aftermath of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Lezama Lima contributed to the cultural flourishing of the revolution's early years. But he soon fell out of step with Cuba’s growing revolutionary zeal—its macho drive, militaristic aesthetics, and the deep homophobia that became a hallmark of Cuban cultural policy for the next three decades.

His troubles began with the publication of Paradiso. Its homoeroticism created a monumental scandal and the novel was temporarily removed from bookstores. Despite growing international acclaim, Lezama Lima was not trusted by the revolution and was eventually singled out as a counter-revolutionary in Cuba. Censored, ostracized, forbidden to publish in or travel outside of the country, his books were removed from libraries and bookstores. His name was never again mentioned in a Cuban classroom. Even old friends, fearing the political implications of associating with the writer, stopped visiting his home. His pain and desolation were made evident in intimate correspondence with his sister Eloísa. Relying on Lezama Lima’s letters written to his exiled sister, Letters to Eloísa illuminates the intersection of family separation and Cuban cultural and political history. This epistolary exploration becomes a universal meditation on freedom, describing how intolerance and repression crushed the soul of an artist.