The Pittsburgh Foundation

Jorge Olivera Castillo

Jorge Olivera Castillo. Image by Renee Rosensteel.
Jorge Olivera Castillo. Image by Renee Rosensteel.

2023 grant amount: $14,000 over two years

This grant will go toward the translation and publication of a collection of sonnets, "On the Edge of the Horizon," a book of suspense short stories and the production of two original songs: "A New Dawn" and "Alphabet City."

Castillo says his goals are to convey a message through literature and music, in this case on different topics, which include the peaceful resolution of conflicts, the projections of the human being in the face of the challenges of survival, solidarity and love for others and the need to become aware of the destruction of the environment. 

Castillo's works share his lived experiences and perspective as an Afro-Cuban writer, having lived most of his life in Cuba, and now in exile in the United States. He says he has found that many people in Pittsburgh do not have much knowledge of the true situation in Cuba, which is, in many ways, due to the lack of media coverage over decades of a hostile political relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, and the ways in which the Cuban government portrays itself to the world (which is often falsified, missing crucial information and exaggerated). Castillo is hoping to be able to reach more people through the translation of his writing into English, so that his work can educate and inform. He says much of his literary work is rooted in the political and social context in Cuba, which led to persecution for many years while living there. 

"In Cuba I did not have the opportunity to express myself freely on many issues of interest, due to my critical position against the dominance of a political ideology based on the dictatorship of a single party," he says. "For expressing my ideas, I was in jail for two years, receiving doubly hostile treatment because of the color of my skin. Although the government claims to have eradicated this phobia, reality points to the maintenance of a discriminatory vision against the Black population that survives in worse conditions than the rest."

Since November 2021, Castillo has been a writer-in-residence at City of Asylum Pittsburgh with his wife, Nancy Alfaya Hernandez, a human and women's rights activist. He has written short stories, poetry and articles in Pittsburgh safely and freely, without the fear of persecution. 

Castillo can be seen: 

City of Asylum: Sampsonia Way Magazine (2022)
Pittsburgh Magazine (2022)
Dickinson College: Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues
Artists at Risk Connection (2021)
Startup Cuba TV (2021)
English PEN (2016)
Words Without Borders (2011)