Totalitarianism in the Tropics: Cuba's 'Padilla Case' Revisited

65 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2012 Last revised: 25 Aug 2015

Date Written: August 24, 2015


This is an essay on the recurrent struggle between literature and power. With the 1971 arrest and forced public confession of the poet Heberto Padilla, Fidel Castro launched his version of a "cultural revolution" in Cuba. The "Padilla Case," as it came to be known, resonated internationally, leading to an open break between the regime and many of its erstwhile European and Latin American fellow travelers in the literary world. The essay draws parallels in the area of controls over the written word between Castro's dictatorship and those of two other totalitarian regimes examined in Richard Overy, "The Dictators. Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia."

The original version of this essay was prepared for presentation at the 2012 meeting of the American Political Science Association, New Orleans, September 1. As it happened, the meeting was canceled on account of a hurricane that struck the city. A subsequent version was published as an article in "Cuban Affairs. Quarterly Electronic Journal" (2012, Vol. 7, Issue 3). This is the latest iteration of what, at least for now, is a plan to revise and update the paper periodically. The date shown above is that of the latest revision.

Keywords: totalitarianism, Castro's Cuba, Padilla Case, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, literature

JEL Classification: Z00

Suggested Citation

Cuzan, Alfred G., Totalitarianism in the Tropics: Cuba's 'Padilla Case' Revisited (August 24, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Alfred G. Cuzan (Contact Author)

University of West Florida ( email )

11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514-5750
United States

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