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Collection Overview

Arenas, Reinaldo, 1943-1990 (1943-1990)
Reinaldo Arenas Letters to Jorge and Margarita Camacho
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.4 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1
Spanish; Castilian


Consists of 136 letters sent by Reinaldo Arenas to Margarita and Jorge Camacho. Also contains 35 letters by Arenas' mother, Oneida Fuentes, to Margarita and Jorge Camacho.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Consists of 136 letters sent by Reinaldo Arenas to Margarita and Jorge Camacho. Also contains 35 letters by Arenas' mother, Oneida Fuentes, to Margarita and Jorge Camacho.

Collection Creator Biography:

Arenas, Reinaldo, 1943-1990

Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) was a Cuban poet, novelist, and playwright.

He was born in the Oriente province of Cuba, near the city of Holguín on July 16, 1943. As a teenager Arenas joined the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959. In 1962, he moved to Havana to enroll in the School of Planification and, later, in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Havana, where he studied philosophy and literature without completing a degree. The following year, he began working at the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí and continued to work there until 1967. During this time he wrote a number of short stories and the novel Celestino antes del alba, which won a First Mention Award at the Cirilo Villaverde National Competition in 1965 and was published by UNEAC (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists) in 1967. Celestino antes del alba was the only novel Arenas wrote and published in Cuba. From 1966 to 1970 Arenas discreetly worked on Otra vez el mar a following title to Arenas' Pentagonia series. He gave the manuscript to Aurelio Cortés for safekeeping though the latter destroyed the manuscript. There are differing accounts of how the manuscript was destroyed and why. Arenas went on to re-write Otra vez el mar two other times before publishing it in 1987. From 1968 to 1974 he was a journalist and editor for the literary magazine La Gaceta de Cuba.

Arenas grew critical of Castro's government and was imprisoned for his writings and open homosexuality. In 1973, he was sent to prison after being charged and convicted for "ideological deviation" and for publishing his writings abroad without official consent. After escaping from prison he attempted to leave Cuba by launching himself to shore on a tire inner tube. He was caught and imprisoned at the infamous El Morro Castle and released in 1976. In 1980, as part of the mass emigration of Cubans during Mariel Boatlift, he was exiled in the United States. He took permanent residence in New York City and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987. He continued to write and speak out against the Castro government for the remainder of his life. After battling AIDS, Arenas died of an intentional overdose of drugs and alcohol on December 7, 1990.

Collection History


Purchased from Margarita Camacho in 2012 (AM 2013-20).


No materials were separated during 2012 processing.

Processing Information

Folder inventory added 2012 by Feng Zhu '14.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Reinaldo Arenas Letters to Jorge and Margarita Camacho; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1