Miami artist Xavier Cortada is currently working on the series Cuban Via Crucis, 14 eight-foot long paintings exploring the tragedy of the Cuban Revolution. The series is inspired by the Stations of the Cross and will draw parallels between the passion of Christ and the suffering the Cuban people have endured.
The series’ latest painting, “IV. Pioneros” will be unveiled at a Committee for the Human Rights of Children fundraiser on Friday, March 23, 2001 at 7:00 p.m. in Little Havana’s newly renovated and historic Tower Theater, 1500 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL. The event will also feature the screening of Mari Rodriguez Ichaso’s new documentary, “Made in Cuba: Children of Paradise.” Tickets are $25.
“IV. Pioneros” depicts the numbing sadness that a Cuban mother confronts each day as she sends her child off to the regime’s schools. There is no alternative, she must send him to a school where hatred is compulsory and propaganda is not an elective. In the painting, Cortada has taken a school house setting and transformed it into a horrific landscape of swirling imagery: sadistic teachers, defeated students, and co-opted symbols.
Expressive brush strokes and savage knife work torture the surface of Cortada’s canvas. Boxes creating claustrophobia-inducing spaces slice across the composition with harrowing imagery: silhouette images of children marching in goose-step away from their parents and towards their soulless destinations. The “ABCs” on the wall are no longer for nursery rhymes, they’ve become the fodder for propaganda (“1, 2, y 3, seremos como el Ché”) which entrap the youth into becoming the protégés of the Cuban revolution.
Teaching their children at home to disavow what they learn at the government school can be counter-productive. In their zeal for ideological purity, Cuba is happy to trample over the sacredness of family, the rights of the individual, and the innocence of children. The Castro regime intentionally distances children from their families, sowing distrust and duplicity while encouraging pioneros to rat on parents so they can be “cured” of their ideological contamination. Like Mary watching her son carry his cross in the fourth station, there is nothing this Cuban mother can do but suffer in agony as she witnesses the willful destruction of her child and her family.
The first painting of the series that was completed was “XII. Paredon.” It was exhibited at No Tengan Miedo, a solo show at the Latin American Art Museum in January 2001. Inspired by the12th Station of the Cross, “XII. Paredon” conveys the horrors of the summary execution of political prisoners sentenced in Kangaroo courts and mob-rule trials during the early days of the Revolution.