Reinaldo Arenas was born to a poverty-stricken family in rural Cuba. By the time of his death in New York four decades later, he had become one of Cuba's most important poets, an outspoken critic of Castro's regime and one of the leading gay voices of the twentieth century.
In Before Night Falls, Arenas tells of his odyssey from young rebel fighting for the Revolution, through his suppression as a writer, his disillusionment with Castro, his imprisonment and torture, to his eventual exile from Cuba to New York, where in 1987 he was diagnosed with AIDS. He committed suicide in 1990, ending a life of constant struggle against repression. In a farewell note, Arenas wrote:
Due to my delicate state of health and to the terrible depression that causes me not to be able to continue writing and struggling for the freedom of Cuba, I am ending my life …
I do not want to convey to you a message of defeat, but of continued struggle and hope.
Cuba will be free. I already am.