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This Cuban library lends DVDs about state torture

A government critic's collection includes Bibles, books by Cuban defectors, and positive biographies about Fidel Castro.

THE ERNEST HEMINGWAY LIBRARY: That’s what Carlos Serpa, a government critic, calls his home library in Isla de la Juventud, Cuba. His collection includes Bibles, books by Cuban defectors, and positive biographies about Fidel Castro and “Che” Guevara.

Alfredo Sosa

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Carlos Serpa Maceira's ramshackle home on the outskirts of a rural town on an island that once served as a prison for Fidel Castro is not easy to find. And that's how he likes it.

The tireless sprite of a man is always on the move, finding creative ways to shuttle banned books and DVDs from Havana to the tiny independent library he runs out of his home.

"My library is called the Ernest Hemingway Library," he says puffing out his chest. "My criteria is not to have any censorship. I have Bibles, US State Department literature, books written by high-level Cuban defectors, fiction – and positive books about [Ernesto] Che [Guevara] and Fidel [Castro]."

But the library he started in 2003 isn't what it used to be.

In 2005, he says, police came and took all the books and warned him he would soon go to jail. Last year, the government took away his collection of movies, mostly documentaries about Cuban human rights violations or nonviolent reformers such as Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.

"It's a process of awakening," says Mr. Maceira. "Fidel always said that people don't get tortured in Cuba, but when former [Cuban] prisoners talk about how they were tortured and people see that in the films, they start questioning whether anything the government tells them is true. One guy who milks cows saw the torture film and his face changed when he saw what people have to put up with. He was touched."


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