Dainerys Machado Vento

Graduate student named among world’s best Spanish-language writers

By Barbara Gutierrez

Graduate student named among world’s best Spanish-language writers

By Barbara Gutierrez
Dainerys Machado Vento, a graduate student in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, is among the promising young writers honored by the prestigious Granta literary magazine.

When the pandemic started in March 2020, Dainerys Machado Vento, a graduate student in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Miami, was co-teaching an interdisciplinary curatorial course. 

Lillian Manzor, an associate professor in the department who was teaching the course with her, remembers that when the students shared their situations and their feelings of uncertainty and discouragement, Machado Vento would tell them repeatedly, “remember that there is poetry and art to help us through these difficult moments.” 

Searching through various genres in literature for voices that speak to her and help her make sense of the world is, according to Manzor, what makes Machado Vento such a good writer. 

Machado Vento’s published work, which includes a book of short stories titled “'Las noventa Habanas'” and a host of other short stories and essays, were recently honored by the prestigious Granta literary magazine. She was named one of the world’s best young Spanish-language writers and was one of three Cuban writers to be included in the list—the first time writers from the Caribbean nation have been selected. 

“She writes with a language that is full of humor and impudence, that mixes tragedy with comedy, farce, and the absurd,” said Manzor, who serves as Machado Vento’s dissertation director. 

“She revisits common topics—in the case of contemporary Cuban literature, hunger, lack, erotism, disillusionment, ruins, migration—but they are always narrated from a point of view that dismantles them and with a language that, while it is very Cuban, allows her readers to connect with these characters, regardless of their national origin,” Manzor said. 

Born in Havana, Cuba, Machado Vento developed a love of language from an early age and described herself as a bookworm. She studied journalism and worked as a writer for Bohemia magazine. In 2016, she became the first Cuban student to receive an F-1 student visa and came to study at the University.

At the time, she marveled at the ease of conducting research in the University’s libraries. In Cuba, many of the texts she had searched for were non-existent or not allowed to be read, as decided by the communist regime, she said. 

She is now a United States resident and working on her thesis, called “The Contemporary Medialization of Cuban Literature 2005-2015, in which she explores how Cuban writers have been portrayed in media—particularly in Mexico and Spain. 

“Some of the initial findings in my thesis is that, unfortunately, most of the media accounts of Cuban writers revolve around Fidel Castro and it is heavily linked to the political,” she said. She also found that there is a marked lack of female Cuban writers and when Cuban writers were mentioned in the media, those mentions tended to hark back to traditional writers such as Jose Lezama Lima, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and Alejo Carpentier. 

Machado Vento believes that the media finds it difficult to evaluate the work of younger Cuban writers.       

Her writing has a genuine Cuban flavor, and she writes about her multiple experiences, both in Cuba and in exile. Her book “Las noventa Habanas” focuses on stories about Habaneros in the 1990s in the “período especial,” or special period, a time of economic crisis in the island that was prompted by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which used to heavily support Cuba. 

“I felt that there was something that my generation could say about that particular period, and in many of the stories I used a child’s voice because I lived that period as a child,” she said.

She is saddened that Cuba is again living through another similar economic crisis. 

“This crisis is worse because we are living in a different world,” she said. “People in Cuba now realize that the access to food is a human right, as is the access to freedom of expression.” 

During the award announcement at the Instituto Cervantes in Madrid on April 7, Grantaeditor Valerie Miles, who edited the collection, said, “We were looking for originality, for people who were doing things that were unique and who didn’t seem to be following a trend.” 

Machado Vento feels very happy to have been included as one of the writers honored by the publication and hopes that this will bring new focus on Cuban literature. 

“There are three of us on that list,” she said. “Does this mean that there may be a renaissance for Cuban literature?”

She said she certainly hopes so.