More Posters about Ayotzinapa

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Images: As attributed
Earlier this week, I published an article on Latin Correspondent about the poster and cartoon art that have emerged in Mexico since the disappearance of the 43 students in the state of Guerrero. You can see that piece here.

Here are a few additional pieces that I find particularly compelling but weren’t included in the LC article:

This poster, announcing a "Mega University March," says "Education is the best barrier vs. bullets and the bad government." (Image via Facebook)
This poster, announcing a “Mega University March,” says “Education is the best barrier vs. bullets and the bad government.” (Image via Facebook)
In the wake of Ayotzinapa, protesters have been reminding the public about many other disappearances and killings, including those of Tehuacán, where two teachers were killed earlier this year. (Image via Facebook)
In the wake of Ayotzinapa, protesters have been reminding the public about many other disappearances and killings, including those of Tehuacán, where two teachers were killed earlier this year. (Image via Facebook)
This clever crossword puzzle also makes mention of a number of other disappearances and deaths. At the bottom of the puzzle, the text reads, "And when he woke up, death and impunity were still playing there."
This clever crossword puzzle also makes mention of a number of other disappearances and deaths. At the bottom of the puzzle, the text reads, “And when he woke up, death and impunity were still playing there.”
Imagery typical of Mexico, including ex votos, the medals used to pin up near saints in Catholic churches to either ask for or give thanks for favors, can be seen in this and other posters. (Image via Facebook).
Imagery typical of Mexico, including ex votos, the medals used to pin up near saints in Catholic churches to either ask for or give thanks for favors, can be seen in this and other posters. (Image via Facebook).
President Enrique Peña Nieto depicted giving a speech. "Blah, blah, blah" is the main message. (Image via Facebook).
President Enrique Peña Nieto depicted giving a speech. “Blah, blah, blah” is the main message. (Image via Facebook).

Picasso in Black & White/Picasso en Blanco y Negro

[Version en ingles; vease abajo para la version en espanol]

More than two years have passed since our first encounter with Juan Antonio Picasso; since then, many things have happened in his life and in ours.

Recently, I’ve heard lots of sensational news celebrating the achievements of descendants of Africans in the Americas that compare their lives and their deeds. In the majority of cases, these stories only touch the surface of the issues.

Just this morning, for instance, I was watching CNN when I heard about Luis Alberto Moore, the first Afro-Colombian to ascend to the position of general within the Colombian police force. This news was followed by predictions about the US elections, in which an African-American, Barack Obama, is running for President. The segment closed with an announcement for the next episode in the series, “Being Black in the Americas,” a brief historical overview of African descendants who were brought to the Americas as slaves. The report didn’t add anything new. It simply made me think about the challenges and prejudices that we encounter in modern society… and how I can’t wait a minute longer to address the subject of Juan Antonio Picasso, his work, his life, and his story.

It’s not a surprise that Juan Antonio Picasso is Black, Cuban, a painter, and a direct descendant of the Spanish painter, Pablo Ruiz Picasso. It’s also not a surprise that since 1500, Latin America has only had presidents of Spanish descent, with the exception of Benito Juarez and Evo Morales. Spain still rules in Latin America! And its racial system still dominates, from the Rio Grande to Patagonia.

Francisco Picasso Guardeno, the maternal grandmother of the Spanish painter, Pablo Picasso, arrived in Havana, Cuba in the 1860s. He met and fell in love with Cristina Serra, a Black Cuban woman, with whom he formed a new family. From this branch of the Picassos, there are more than 40 living descendants today.

The Spanish Picassos have not wanted to recognize the existence of the Cuban Picassos; art and history books make no mention of this story, which for more than a century has been known and passed down among descendants and neighbors.

The media spread doubt or remain silent. In the case of Latin America, race is only discussed when other countries, especially the United States, address the issue; it’s never of their own initiative. A saying I learned in Puerto Rico seems to apply: “When the United States sneezes, Latin America catches a cold.” Historically speaking, the themes of abortion, race, and sexuality, among others, have only been treated by Latin America as an echo from other societies.

We don’t have an impressive track record in this area, and when the racial problem has been addressed, it is with an endless stream of excuses and polemics: Racism doesn’t exist in Latin America. We’re all one race and one nation. We’ve always been united. Racism is a problem in the United States, but not here!

We’ve overcome many of these arguments, but the most powerful of them, and the one that’s most hypocritical is: “The theme of racism can create fragmentation in our society and is a mechanism of enemies of the country to divide us….” Divide us, you said?

The candidacy of Barack Obama has reignited interest in the subject of race among Latin Americans. Latin America caught the cold. The country with the history of profound racial tensions supports an African-American in a percentage that’s never been seen in the history of this country. What does this mean, though? Let’s see… raise your hand, all those who think that racism has ended? I have no doubt that racism and discrimination are still alive and well. Bolivians call their own president, Evo Morales, “the little Indian,” and it’s not because of his political position, but because of his race or ethnicity. In large measure, this reflects the fact that Latin America still lives with this venom. No exceptions.

For many years, Americans in the United States have been aware of the sexual relationship of former President Jefferson with a Black woman and the descendants of their union. Similarly, in South Carolina, Senator Strom Thurmond, a hardline racist who consistently supported racial separation, had sexual relations with a Black woman that produced a child. This relationship was kept out of the press until after Thurmond’s death so as not to interrupt his political career and to honor his wishes, according to his daughter.

In the case of Jefferson, experts consider that the union was improbable, due to Jefferson’s opinions about race. The subject is a passionate one, intense and interesting for many reasons. First, there’s the element of the prohibited; second, it was a well-kept secret; and third, because in this case, Jefferson crossed the line of separation that he himself had defended and publicly spoken about.

In Cuba, the line separating races has also been well defined; there were clubs of whites, blacks, and mestizos. In fact, many Cubans were even thrilled to recall that Batista, the former president of Cuba, and of Black-Chinese heritage, wasn’t accepted in the whites’ clubs. What does this tell us? Is this a love-hate tale?

In the book, Cecilia Valdes , written by Cuban author Cirilo Villaverde, this theme is tackled from a social perspective and with great care; in fact, the book is considered a Cuban and Latin American literary classic. It explores the racist attitudes that existed within colonial Cuban society during the Spanish domination, which has, in fact, continued until today, not just in Cuba, but in all of Latin America.

This theme of race and color has touched me personally. Recently, my mother came to visit from Cuba. For me, this was a fascinating and moving encounter because for the first time we could talk without interruption and outside of our shared space: we are Cubans and we were both in Puerto Rico. We talked about everything that came to mind; we learned things that we had never discussed in the past. In one of her anecdotes about my childhood, about family, and other topics, my mother told me that my second last name should have been Pei instead of Morales. “Pei?” I asked her with surprise. “Yes,” she told me. She confessed that her grandfather, my grandfather’s father, had changed his name alter arriving in Cuba from China so that his children would have last names that sounded Cuban or Spanish. She told me that the Chinese were not treated well in that era, that in order to obtain a better job and to avoid being the butt of jokes, it was necessary to seek this kind of transformation.

With this information, my mind raced to make sense of it all: Pei, China, race, Cuba, etc. I was making a tremendous effort to protect myself from the pain of it all. Of everything they had suffered. Of the senseless this had for me, but the benefit and utility it represented for others. I knew both of my grandfathers; I could see Asian characteristics in each one and Chinese blood ran through both sides. But in my house, no one spoke Chinese and no one talked about this story until now.

In the case of Picasso, it is said that the Spanish painter learned about the existence of the Cuban family through Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam, who shared many years of friendship with the Spanish artist during his residency in France. Pablo Picasso wanted to get to know the Cuban family that carried his name and his blood, but the reason why he never did so remains unclear.

The racism and fear that exist regarding the revelation of family ties are stronger than DNA results and the anecdotes that are passed down from one generation to the next. In my own case, I can understand that the fear of having to share riches and fame is stronger than the desire to share the truth. Were my ancestors from the Ming Dynasty or from the line of Confucius? Could the Chinese government and the descendants of our family accept our family ties and share a piece of the Great Wall of China or the Imperial Palace with me?

In the case of Juan Antonio Picasso, there’s no debate over riches or possessions, but simply of establishing historical fact, of recognizing that this past occurred. It’s in black and white; it’s not abstract or contemporary, and it’s as old as we ourselves. In spite of all this, Juan Antonio doesn’t ask for permission to paint, to create a family, and to live happily; he doesn’t need to be ordained like a priest to feel or to paint. It’s not because he carries the name Picasso that he decided to paint; on the contrary. He decided to paint and just happened to carry the name Picasso. That’s all.

In our collection, we have several pieces by Juan Antonio Picasso, all of them well conceived and executed. Highly technical and original. His art is spontaneous and full of energy. Some say he paints like a child. But Pablo Picasso also painted like a child and even appropriated African forms and Cubism and made them his own, but not before confronting resistance and rejection for adopting these forms of expression. The new and the innovative scare others. Today, every artist has to recognize the profound influence that Picasso has had in painting and modern art. For Juan Antonio, this fact makes his own path even more difficult, as he could be accused of imitating the master and lacking originality. But how could one escape such influence? How can he avoid signing “Picasso” on his work when he is also a Picasso by birth? How can he avoid painting the black, being Cuban? How could he extract his inheritance from his blood? Impossible, is my reply!

Juan Antonio Picasso paints what he sees and what he lives. His Havana with its boardwalk, its sea that bathes the Caribbean, its history of people who originate from everywhere: slave ships, Cantonese, Spanish, and Lebanese. Black and white are the colors that provide the foundation upon which the strong and vivid colors that define his work can shine.

Pablo Picasso painted doves of peace , lived in exile, and knew the horrors of fascism, racism, and criminal war. He suffered hard times. All of this is reflected in his famous work, “Guernica.” I’m sure that if he had known the Picassos of Cuba, he would, perhaps, have even painted with Juan Antonio in a symbol of unity. Not just family unity, but in a universal gesture for the enjoyment of the whole world, as well as for justice.

To be black or white doesn’t define one’s values or his or her humanity; there’s more to it than that, things more real and more profound that define men and women. At least that’s what my own experience and everything that surrounds me tells me; nothing indicates the contrary. We don’t ask to be loved, but we do ask to be respected!


Han pasado mas de dos anos desde nuestro primer encuentro con Juan Antonio Picasso; desde entonces muchas cosas han pasado en su vida y en la nuestra.

Recientemente he escuchado muchas noticias sensacionales donde se celebran los logros de los afro-descendientes en las americas y se comparan vidas y testimonios. En la mayoria de los casos estos testimonios solo tocan la superficie del problema.

Precisamente esta manana escuchaba en CNN en español que el primer afrocolombiano, Luis Alberto Moore, ascendia al cargo de general de la policia colombiana, seguido por las predicciones para las elecciones en los Estados Unidos donde un afroamericano, Barack Obama, esta corriendo para la presidencia. La programacion cerraba este segmento con anuncios para el proximo episodio de la serie “Ser Negro en las Americas,” donde se hace un breve recuento historico de los descendientes de los africanos traidos a las Americas como esclavos. Este reportaje no agrega nada nuevo. Sino que me hace pensar de los retos y prejuicios que encontramos en la sociedad moderna…. No puedo esperar ni un minuto mas para tratar el tema de Juan Antonio Picasso, su obra, su vida y su historia!

No es sorpresa que Juan Antonio Picasso es negro, cubano, pintor y descendiente directo del pintor espanol Pablo Ruiz Picasso. Ni tampoco es sorpresa que desde 1500 hasta la fecha en americalatina han sido presidentes solo aquellos de descendencia espanola o europea con la excepcion de Benito Juarez y Evo Morales. Espana todavía gobierna en Latinoamérica! Y su sistema racial domina desde el Rio Bravo hasta la Patagonia.

Francisco Picasso Guardeno, abuelo materno del pintor espanol Pablo Picasso, llego a La Habana, Cuba alrededor de 1860. Contrae matrimonio con Cristina Serra: una cubana de raza negra con la que forma una nueva familia. De esta rama de los Picassos, como se les conocen hoy dia, hay mas de 40 descendientes.

Los Picassos de Espana no han querido reconocer la existencia de los Picassos cubanos; los libros no hacen mencion de esto, que por mas de un siglo se sabe y se habla entre los descendientes y vecinos. La prensa siembra duda o se calla. En el caso de Latinoamérica solo se habla de lo negro cuando otros paises, “especialmente los Estados Unidos”, trata el tema y nunca por iniciativa propia, aplicando el dicho que aprendi en Puerto Rico que dice: “Cuando los Estados Unidos estornuda a la americalatina le da catarro.”

Historicamente hablando, los temas de aborto, raza, sexualidad y otros han sido solo tratados en americalatina como un eco de otras sociedades. No contamos con un buen record en esta area y cuando se trata del problema racial se puede encontrar un sinfín de excusas y pretextos televisado que van desde: el racismo no existe en americalatina, somos una sola raza y una sola nacion, nosotros siempre hemos estado juntos, el racismo es mas fuerte en los Estados Unidos, no aquí! Ya hemos superado esta situación, pero la mas poderosa de todas y la mas hipocrita es: “Este tema del racismo puede crear desunidad en nuestra sociedad y es un mecanismo de los enemigos del pais para dividirnos….” Dividirnos, dijistes?

La candidatura de Barack Obama ha despertado interes en esta region. A Latinoamérica le dio catarro. El pais de mas conflictos raciales apoya a un afroamericano en un porcentaje nunca antes visto en la historia de este pais! Pero que significa esto? A ver… levanten la mano aquellos que creen que se termino el racismo? Yo no tengo la menor duda que el racismo y la discriminación estan vivos. A Evo le llaman los mismos bolivianos “el indito ese,” y no es por su posición politica, sino por su raza o etnicidad. Esto refleja en gran medida que americalatina todavía vive con ese veneno. Sin excepcion de ninguno.

Hace ya algunos anos que se conocio en los Estados Unidos de la relacion sexual del presidente Jefferson con una mujer de la raza negra y de los descendientes de este. De la misma manera en Carolina del Sur el Senador Strom Thurmond, de linea racista y dura en contra de los negros y promotor ardiente de la separacion racial, tuvo relaciones con una mujer de color y con ella una hija. Esta relacion se mantuvo fuera de los medios de información hasta después de su muerte: para no interrumpir con esta noticia su carrera politica y honrar sus deseos- según declaro la hija.

En el caso de los Jefferson los expertos consideran que es “improbable esa union” por la posicion racial del presidente Jefferson. El tema es ardiente, intenso e interesante por muchas razones: primero tiene elemento de lo prohibido, segundo era un secreto bien guardado, y tercero porque en estos casos se habia cruzado la linea de la separacion por los mismos que la defendian y la proclamaban.

En Cuba tambien la linea racial estaba bien definida; habian clubes de blancos, negros y mestizos. Inclusive muchos cubanos se llenan de gloria al proclamar a boca llena que a Batista, el presidente de Cuba de descendencia negro/chino, no se le aceptaba en clubes de blancos. Que me quieres decir con esto? Es esto un relato de amor/odio?

En el libro Cecilia Valdes del escritor cubano Cirilo Villaverde, se aborda este tema desde un punto de vista social con mucha exactitud, el mismo esta considerado un clasico de la literatura cubana y latinoamericana. Este se refiere a la actitud racista dentro de la sociedad colonial cubana durante la dominacion espanola, que de hecho esta actitud perdura y permanece hasta hoy dia, no solo en Cuba, pero en toda Latinoamérica.

Este tema de la raza y el color me ha tocado de cerca. Recientemente mi madre me visito desde Cuba. Para mi fue un encuentro fascinante y muy conmovedor pues por vez primera pude hablar sin interrupcion y fuera de nuestro ambiente comun: somos cubanos y ambos estabamos en Puerto Rico. Hablamos de todo lo que se nos ocurrio, conocimos cosas que jamas hubieramos dicho o tratado. Mi madre, en una de sus anecdotas sobre su infancia, familia y demas, me dice: que mi segundo apellido debio haber sido Pei en vez de Morales. -Pei?- le pregunte muy asombrado y con sorpresa. -Si,- ella me dice.

Ella me confiesa que su abuelo, el padre de mi abuelo, se cambio el nombre después de llegar de China para poder tener hijos con apellidos que sonaran cubano o espanol. Ella me cuenta que a los chinos no se les trataba bien en aquella epoca, que para poder conseguir un mejor trabajo y no se burlaran de ellos era necesario esta transformacion. Con esta información mi mente corre en todas direcciones buscando una logica a todo esto: Pei, China, raza, Cuba, etc. Estoy haciendo un esfuerzo grande para protegerme del dolor de saber todo esto. De lo que ellos todos habian sufrido en carne propia. De lo sin sentido de todo esto para mi, pero provechoso y util para otros. Yo conoci a mis dos abuelos; pude ver esos rasgos asiaticos presentes en cada uno de ellos: por ambos lados corria sangre china. Pero en mi casa nadie hablo chino y nunca se hablo de esto hasta hoy.

En el caso de Picasso, se dice que el pintor espanol conocia de la existencia de esta familia cubana a traves del pintor cubano Wilfredo Lam, quien compartio largos anos de amistad con el artista espanol durante su estancia en Francia. Pablo Picasso quizo acercarse y conocer a esta familia cubana que llevaba su apellido y su sangre, pero no esta del todo claro del por que nunca viajo.

El racismo y el miedo a compartir lazos familiares son mas fuerte que el DNA y los anécdotas pasados de familia en familia y de generacion en generacion. En lo personal puedo entender ese miedo de compartir riquezas y fama es mucho mas fuerte que compartir verdad. Fueron mis antepasados miembros de la dinastia Ming o del filosofo Confusio? Podria el gobierno chino y los descendientes de estos aceptar mis lazos familiares y por consiguiente compartir conmigo parte de la muralla china y del castillo imperial?

En el caso de Juan Antonio Picasso no se esta debatiendo la riqueza y las posesiones de los Picassos, sino el de establecer un hecho historico, real y sobre todo que reconozcan que este hecho ocurrio. Esta en blanco y negro; no es abstracto ni contemporaneo, es tan viejo como nosotros mismos. A pesar de todo esto Juan Antonio no le pide permiso a la vida para pintar, crear una familia y vivir feliz , el no tiene que ser ordenado como un sacerdote para pintar y sentir. No es porque lleva como apellido Picasso que decidio pintar, sino todo lo contrario, decidio pintar llevando un apellido Picasso y eso es todo.

Tenemos en nuestra colección obras de Juan Antonio Picasso, todas ellas muy buenas y muy bien concebidas. Muy tecnicas y originales. Su arte es espontaneo y lleno de energia. Algunos dicen que pinta como un nino. Tambien Picasso pinto como nino e inclusive tomo las formas africanas y el cubismo y las hizo suyas, no sin antes enfrentar resistencia y rechazo por esta forma de expresión.

Lo nuevo e innovador asusta.

Hoy todo artista tiene que reconocer la influencia tan profunda que Picasso ha tenido en la pintura y en el arte moderno. Para Juan Antonio esto es todavía mas dificil este hecho porque podria ser acusado de imitar al maestro y carecer de originalidad, pero: Como puedes escapar de esta influencia? Como puede evitar de firmar Picasso en sus obras cuando es tambien Picasso de nacimiento? Como puede el evitar pintar lo negro siendo cubano? Como vas a sacar de su sangre su herencia? Imposible, es mi respuesta!

Juan Antonio Picasso pinta todo lo que ve y vive. Su Habana con su Malecon, su mar que bana el Caribe, su historia de la gente que vinieron de todas partes: barcos negreros, cantoneses, vascos y libaneses. El blanco y el negro son los colores que funden la diversidad de sus obras con sus colores fuertes y brillantes.

Pablo Picasso, pinto palomas de paz, vivio en exilio y conocio los horrores del fascismo, el racismo y la guerra criminal. Picasso sufrio en tiempos dificiles. Todo esto lo reflejo en su famosa obra “Guernica.” Yo estoy seguro que el hubiera querido conocer a estos Picassos de Cuba y quizas hasta pintar con Juan Antonio en simbolo de unidad, no solo familiar como en este caso, sino de forma universal para disfrute de todo el mundo y en gesto de fraternidad y de justicia.

El ser blanco o negro no define tus valores y tu humanismo; hay mas que eso, cosas mas reales y mas profunda que definen al hombre y a la mujer; Al menos eso me lo dice mi experiencia y todo lo que me rodea, nada a mi alrededor me indica lo contrario. No pedimos que nos ames, pero si que nos respetes!
Text: Francisco Collazo
Translation: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Brayan Collazo Alonso & Julie Schwietert Collazo, Havana, Cuba, May 2008