One of the most unexpected appointments to the new Cuban Council of Ministers was that of Alpidio Bautista Alonso Grau as Culture Minister. Rather than long-time vice-ministers such as Fernando Rojas and Abel Acosta, and the first female deputy minister, María Elena Salgado, a poet was selected, with no connections to these officials.
Alonso, who occupied his first important position as the head of the Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS) between 2001 and 2006, has held various positions of lesser importance. However, since 2014 he has been an official at the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, of which he is currently Deputy Head, and he serves as a representative in the National Assembly of Popular Power for the municipality of Villa Clara de Placetas.
Born in 1963, Alpidio Alonso hails from the town of La Dalia, in Venegas, Yaguajay, Sancti Spíritus province. With a degree in Electrical Engineering, in 1987 he began to work at the Simón Bolívar torula yeast plant, and later at the Mechanical Plant in Villa Clara, where he founded a literary workshop and jointed the Hermanos Saíz Association.
In Santa Clara he headed up the publishing house Sed de Belleza. He has published books like La casa como un árbol (1995), Alucinaciones en el jardín de Ana (1994), El árbol en los ojos (1998), Ciudades del viento (2001) and Tardos soles que miro (2007).
He served briefly as vice-president of the Cuban Book Institute. He also oversees the poetry journal Amnion, and hosts the Metropolitan Radio program Verso a verso.
Alonso will assume his post in the midst of a series of conflicts between artists and institutions involving censorship and the control of spaces and discourse to express dissent, brought to the fore by the censorship of films like Santa y Andrés , and the harassment of those organizing the #00Bienal Alternativa.
The new minister succeeds Abel Prieto, who came to assume that position for the second time in 2016, after the sudden dismissal of Julián González Toledo.
Prieto, whose service has been characterized by an increase in censorship, and repression by the political police of artists' free expression, will move to the Office of the José Martí Program, which was headed by Armando Hart until his death in November of 2017.