From Havana to the United States: Publishing dreams

Due to the embargo and the chilly relationship between the United States and Cuba,
we often don't hear much about music, literature and art from the island.

Sure you've probably heard of the Buena Vista Social Club, but many Americans probably can't name a contemporary Cuban writer.

Well let me tell you about one and how you can get his books online.

His name is Ernesto Santana and I first met him in 2002 when he was one of two plane loads of artists, writers and musicians that Fidel Castro allowed to leave Cuba to attend the Feria Internacional de Libro, the largest book festival in Latin America, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Santana is the author of "Ave and Nada," which won a major literary prize in Cuba called el Premio Nacional de Literatura Cubana Alejo Carpentier in 2002.

I met him through his best friend, Jorge Mota, who was a former reporter for Chicago's Exito newspaper now called Hoy. Mota, who originally fled Cuba on a raft and became a respected journalist in Chicago, now works at the Univision television network in Miami. He has created an editorial to help publish the work of Cuban authors.

"With this site, we are breaking the embargo and offering the award winning work of Santana to the world," Mota said.
It also is a way to publish writers in other countries where they have
difficulty publishing their books. However, at this point, they are
only selling books in Spanish. Mota is working on making this editorial
a non-profit or to partner with an existing non-profit organization.

"I thought to create Atom Press, a non-profit publisher, through which
we can ask for donations to help writers who for whatever reason have
not been able to publish their books in their country of origin," Mota
said. " I want to help them realize their dreams."

The truth is the profit from a book sold for $10 to $20 can really make
a difference for a writer in a place like Cuba where the average
monthly salary is around $20 a month.

Mota also is inspired by his friendship with Santana that is the
subject of a documentary, "Dream Havana," made by Chicagoan Gary Marks.
It documents how Mota left Cuba and why Santana stayed. It also is
partly filmed in Guadalajara where the two reunited for a brief visit.
The film has traveled all over the country in the festival circuit over
the last several years.

Their story is one of courage and true friendship. It also continues as
Mota is now working to help his friend publish his work.

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