Cuban novelist, essayist and short-story writer Antonio Benítez-Rojo was born in Havana on March 14, 1931. He earned degrees in accounting and economics at the Universidad de La Habana, but left Cuba in the mid-1950s to study statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor and Commerce and research the Pan American Labor Union in Mexico. Attracted by the unfolding of the Revolution, however, Benítez-Rojo went back to his home country in 1959. In 1967, he ascended in the literary scene after winning the Casa de Las Americas award for his novel Tute de Reyes.
While in Cuba, Benítez-Rojo worked as head of the Statistics Bureau of the Labor Ministry, integrated the Ministry of Culture, and directed the Casa de Las Americas publishing house in the late 1970s. Although Cuba had become one of the most important intellectual spaces in Latin America, Benítez-Rojo had long decided to leave the country. Dissatisfied with what he saw as an extremely centralized government, he finally found a chance to leave when granted permission to attend a conference in Paris, from where he relocated to the United States.
Once in the U.S., Benítez-Rojo taught at several institutions before taking a position as professor of Spanish at Amherst College in 1983. In 1992, he became the Thomas B. Walton, Jr. Memorial Professor of Romance Languages, a faculty appointment that he held until his death in 2005. Among his most important literary works are El mar de las lentejas (The Sea of Lentils), 1979; La isla que se repite: el Caribe y la perspectiva posmoderna (The Repeated Island: The Caribbean and the Post-modern Perspective), 1998; A View From the Mangrove (1998), and Women in Battle Dress, 2001.