The Miami Herald
May. 03, 2002

Jesús Díaz, Cuban writer, filmmaker


  Cuban novelist and filmmaker Jesús Díaz, founder of Encuentro, an international magazine that brought together Cuban intellectuals from the island and in exile, died
  Thursday in his Madrid home, apparently in his sleep.

  Díaz, 60, was found dead by his son, Pablo, who went to check on Díaz after he missed a scheduled flight to Galicia and couldn't be reached by phone.

  A former revolutionary who defected to Europe in 1991, Díaz had recently published a new novel, Las cuatro fugas de Manuel (Manuel's Four Escapes), a tale based on his adopted son's four attempts to flee from the Eastern bloc.

  Encuentro (Encounter), the magazine Díaz launched in 1996 on the crest of the Cuban literary boom, is considered by many to be the premier Cuban cultural magazine. He also established a popular online version of the magazine at

  ''Along with his contributions as a novelist and filmmaker, the magazine he founded established a bridge between intellectuals in Cuba and intellectuals in exile, and
  because of the high-caliber of people who dared to contribute, Jesús earned the ire of the Cuban government,'' said Carlos Alberto Montaner, a prominent writer based in Madrid.

  In Cuba, Díaz wrote the prize-winning collection of short stories Los años duros (The Tough Years), which became a model for the ''new narrative'' under Revolution standards.

  After his defection, Díaz criticized his own role in support of Fidel Castro's government, a position that earned him respect among many, although others in exile didn't believe his change of heart.

  ''I harbor no rancor, but I don't forget,'' Díaz recently said in a newspaper interview. ``I believe that Cuba should not forget, that reconstruction must take place. But the memory of the atrocities must be preserved, not for vengeance, but to not repeat them.''

  Before his defection, Díaz produced works on the island that touched on subjects previously considered taboo.

  He directed Lejanía (Distance, 1985), starring Verónica Lynn, the story of an exiled mother who goes to Cuba to visit the son she left behind, who is now married and resentful toward her.

  His novels include Las iniciales de la tierra (The Earth's Initials), Las palabras perdidas (The Lost Words), Siberiana (Siberian), and La piel y la máscara (The Skin and The Mask).

  ''He always considered himself more a writer than a filmmaker, and his legacy is that of a significant novelist,'' said Alejandro Ríos, director of the Cuban Film Series at Miami-Dade Community College and a contributor to Encuentro.

  Survivors include three children, Claudia and Pablo Díaz and Manuel Desdín; a sister in Havana, Amalia; and a brother in Tenerife, Rolando. Funeral services are in
  Madrid today. His body will be cremated, as he wished.