Cuban professor wins literary award

Rafael E. Saumell, coordinator of the foreign languages program, recently received the “Premio Unico,” or “Unique Award,” for a short story he wrote.

“Tirale por las cara,” or “Shoot him in the face,” was selected as the best short-story in the Liceo Internacional de Cultura’s (Lyceum of International Culture’s) literary contest entitled Dear Borges XV, as translated in English.

The story narrates an execution that takes place in Cuba, Saumell said.

Saumell has written extensively on literature written in Cuban prisons and about the experience of political prisoners, with his works appearing in prominent journals and newspapers in Cuba, the United States, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, France and Spain, and his commentaries have appeared on the BBC, Radio Mart, Voice of America, Tele-Mundo and The Christian Science Monitor.

From 1975 to 1981, Saumell was a radio and television producer and scriptwriter, eventually becoming the assistant to the president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television. In 1980, he received an award as a scriptwriter for Best Musical and Variety Show, “Todo el Mundo Canta” and was also a member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba.

Following the publication of a collection of short stories, Saumell was detained by Cuban security forces on the charge of spreading “enemy propaganda,” which is often used to control harass and incarcerate pro-democracy Cubans.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, and upon his release was prevented from working in radio and television. He emigrated to the United States in 1988 and completed doctoral studies at Washington University in St. Louis before coming to teach at SHSU.

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