Painting Castro

by    /  October 15, 2012  / 2 Comments

A Portrait of the Absent Revolutionary

Fidel Castro smoking a peace pipe with a chief of the Oklahoma Creek Indians. Photo by Miguel Torrás 1959.

In Cuba, depicting Fidel Castro is punishable by law (or by the police, who act in ignorance of the law; or by State Security, who knowingly act outside of the law).

  1. Is it worth-while to focus on the last images and letters coming from the inside of the last living utopia on Earth? Is Cuba by now a contemporary country or just another old-fashioned delusion in the middle of Nowhere-America? A Cold-War Northtalgia maybe? Can we expect a young within that Ancien Régime still known as The Revolution? I would like to provoke more questions than answers.
  2. Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was born in Havana City and
    still resides and resists there, working as a free-lance writer,
    photographer and blogger. He is the author of Boring Home (2009)
    and is the editor of the independent opinion and literary e-zine

To clone Fidel is the worst possible offense against his Posthumous Personality. Thinking creatively about Castro is heresy: Counterrevolutionary revisionism. The best thing would be to never speak his name again, that name which until just recently was so ubiquitous on placards and in the papers. It would be best to never revive the ex-Supreme Leader’s profile with colors and brushstrokes. The ideal way to act is as if He never existed in our national history: To pretend that the current president Raúl Castro is an only child, for example, or that his elder brother died in the guerrilla war, decades earlier.

Yanoski Mora, a forty-year-old painter from Havana’s Víctor Manuel art gallery, came to understand the previous paragraph too late. Even though his father fought in the ranks of the Rebel Army, on Saturday September 29 Yanoski was handcuffed and arrested by uniformed officers in a very public operation. He was anonymously accused (as is so often the case in our Made-in-Orwell Cuba) of selling paintings in which Fidel Castro appears crowned with a crest of feathers, à la Henry Balink’s “Chief Little Bear.”

The stupidest thing about this case is that the paintings in question were reproductions of real photos of Fidel Castro, taken years earlier when Native American leaders paid homage to him.

Is this puritanism intended to preserve Fidel’s official legacy, or is it an anti-Castro plot led by the new post-revolutionary State?

Now that Fidel Castro is unpresentable for the rest of his days, who is approving or censoring his image with such aggression? Has the paternalist (and populist) Commander-in-Chief of Cuba moved from being a totalitarian figurehead to become yet another taboo subject?

Translation: Alex Higson

2 Comments on "Painting Castro"

  1. Loren Raiford December 13, 2012 at 12:24 am ·

    That is my Pappaw in the picture with Fidel. His name is William Arthur Raiford Sr.

  2. Marta Raiford December 13, 2012 at 12:47 am ·

    I would like more info on this article. The picture of the Creek Indian here is my grandfather, William Raiford Sr. I have more pictures in the set of these that were taken that day my Papaw and three other ministers went down to Cuba. I have the negatives (although not in good shape) and I have the pics. There are about 7-10 more pictures. My Papaw gave him that peace pipe and my Mamaw (his wife) made that head dress for Fidel. I also have the newsletter my Papaw wrote about going down there to Cuba and why he went. I guess I would like to know how this man got a hold of this picture?

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