APRIL 14, 1999
By NICK RAVO, The New York Times
Tuesday, April 13, 1999
Justo Rodriguez Santos, a Cuban poet who became disenchanted with Fidel Castro in the 1960's, exiled himself from his native land and became an advertising executive in the United States, died on Wednesday at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan. He was 83.
Dr. Rodriguez Santos was a minor member of Origenes, a prominent group of writers and painters founded by the poet Jose Lezema Lima in the 1930's and loosely linked to the American poet Wallace Stevens.
The name Origenes was a play on words meaning both origins and a church father; the group's work was strongly influenced by the Roman Catholic faith. Origenes was also the name the artists chose for an influential literary magazine they published from 1944 to 1954.
"It was a very important journal in the history of Latin American culture," said Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, a professor of Hispanic and comparative literature at Yale University.
Dr. Rodriguez Santos was born in Santiago, Cuba, on Sept. 28, 1915, and moved to Havana at a young age. He earned a degree at the University of La Salle in Havana and a doctorate in philosophy and literature from the University of Havana. He also worked in television and radio in Cuba.
His books of poetry include "Luz Cautiva" ("Captive Light," 1936), "La Belleza Que el Cielo No Amortaja" ("The Beauty the Sky Will Not Shroud," 1950), "El Diapason del Ventisquero" ("Echoes of a Whirlwind," 1976), "Los Naipes Conjurados" ("The Conjured Cards, 1979) and "Las Operas del Sueno" ("Dream Operas, 1989).
He also wrote a nonfiction account of the Cuban revolution, "The Moncada Epic: Poetry of History," in 1963.
"It was translated into several languages, and it was a favorite of Mao's," said Dr. Rodriguez Santos's daughter, Mari Rodriguez Ichaso of Manhattan.
After the Cuban revolution in 1959, Dr. Rodriguez Santos wanted to stay in Cuba, although his wife and children left in 1963. In 1967, though, after a disheartening trip to China, he asked permission to emigrate.
"He was very in favor of democracy and felt betrayed by what he felt were the excesses of the revolution," Ms. Rodriguez Ichaso said.
Instead of receiving permission to leave, he was sent to work on a tobacco farm, his books were withdrawn from library shelves and he was banned from the Cuban Writers Union.
"They converted him into a nonentity, a nonperson," Ms. Rodriguez Ichaso said.
A year later and ailing, Dr. Rodriguez Santos was permitted to leave Cuba and settled in New York. In 1972 he was hired as director of advertising for Goya Foods in Secaucus, N.J. He retired from Goya in 1991.
Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Antonia Ichaso Rodriguez, and a son, Leon Ichaso, both of New York.
Copyright 1999 The New York Times
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