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Eduardo Machado: 1953—: Playwright Biography

Forced To Leave Parents Behind, Opus Given Development Grant, Saw Parallel In "elián" Saga

Critics have deemed Cuban-born playwright Eduardo Machado one of the leading dramatic voices in his generation of Latino writers. Machado's English-language works, nearly all of them autobiographical or based on his family's experiences as Cuban émigrés to the United States, have earned him a reputation as a trenchant observer of the social, cultural, and political experiences of a generation of Cuban Americans. As New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley noted, Machado explores not just "the paradoxes of his autobiographical hero's cultural identity. He is also delving, with equal parts wistfulness and anger, into the knotty confusions of the political relations between Cuba and the United States; Communism and capitalism as bedfellows in Cuban ideology; and the tortured ties between those who fled that island country and those who stayed behind."

Machado was born in 1953 into a well-to-do Cuban family. For his first eight years, he lived in his grandparents' palatial Havana home, along with a number of aunts, uncles, and cousins. His paternal grandfather had founded a bus company, and his father was an accountant by profession. The years of Machado's childhood, however, also coincided with political turmoil in the island nation: in 1952, Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar seized power, and a guerrilla war ensued for the next six years between Batista's Cuban military forces and those led by Fidel Castro, a Communist leader.

Machado's family was divided on the matter of political loyalties for a time, but—like most of Cuba's middle class—became ardent foes of Communism and Castro. Machado recalled finding machine guns once in a closet, stashed there by his grandfather, and he witnessed other family members burying money on their Havana estate. "I started having these hallucinations," he told the New York Times Magazine, "where vampires and men with canes were coming to get me, and then I would pass out." Worried, his parents sent him to a psychiatrist at the age of five. In the end Castro was victorious, and on New Year's Day of 1959, Cuba became the only Communist state in Latin America.

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