Cuban literature, Cuban exile literature, Cuban American literature: where does one end and the other one begin? It is in the midst of these thorny questions that the issue of definitions arises. In the case of the other U.S. Hispanic literatures such as that of Mexican, Mexican-American and Chicano literature, the demarcations are more clearly observed, though there are moments in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 that exile Mexican literature enters the U.S. Cuban literature has been traditionally written both on the island and abroad. The cases of Heredia, Avellaneda, Casals, Merlin, Martí, Florit, Carpentier, Sarduy, Arenas are but a few examples of this phenomenon. So then, if Cuban literature has often been written in exile, is there a difference between the literature of exile and that of the homeland? The answer, of course, is no, as long as the writer is considered both as a national author and as an exile after his or her death.
Cuban American literature, on the other hand, requires other considerations. For instance, the very nature of the context makes it difficult to make perfect analogies with other U.S. Hispanic literatures. Should Cuban American authors be born in the U.S.? Should they write only in English or, at least, in alternating codes? Should they write only about their immigrant experience? To some degree, whereas the questions are legitimate, they are not irrelevant, but impertinent. It seems to me that if José Martí lived in New York for fifteen years, he was to an extent a Cuban writer, an exile writer, but also a Cuban American writer. There is no law that forbids literary historians from including the same figure in several categories, or even in distinct groupings that are based on nationalist definitions, when the author lives a transnational reality.
It is my preference to view Cuban American authors as those who live in the U.S. and write about whatever topics may interest them (home country, new country, other places, peoples or things), and to place them in generational cohorts for ease of classification. Hence, in the case of theater, it would be better if we were to group authors in the following scheme: a Romantic generation, a Realist generation, a Naturalist generation, an Impressionist generation