The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 11      March 24, 2014

(front page)
LA art exhibit wins support
for fight to free Cuban Five

Militant/Nick Castle
Launching of watercolor exhibit by Antonio Guerrero, one of Cuban Five, drew 70 people to Los Angeles Coffee and Crepes cultural center (above). Inset, participant Don Smith views “The Cell with Cockroaches.”

EAST LOS ANGELES — Seventy people attended a March 2 program at Coffee and Crepes cultural center here opening an exhibit of “I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived,” 15 watercolors by Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five. The paintings will be on display through the end of March.

The Five — Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and René González — are Cuban revolutionaries who were framed up and jailed by the U.S. government in 1998 on various conspiracy counts and other trumped-up charges. The five had been carrying out a mission from Havana to prevent bombings, acts of sabotage and provocations against Cuba and supporters of the socialist revolution there by rightist paramilitary groups based in Florida. (See “Who Are the Cuban Five?” on page 4.)

Guerrero’s watercolors depict the five revolutionaries’ first 17 months in jail, spent in solitary confinement in the Miami Federal Detention Center. The collection reflects both the inhumane treatment meted out to workers behind bars, as well as the resilience, integrity and social solidarity that marked the Five’s conduct under these conditions.

The program, which included short talks, music and refreshments, celebrated Fernando González’s return to Cuba. A photo display of his arrival in Havana Feb. 28 was featured at the exhibit.

In addition to Coffee and Crepes, the exhibit was sponsored by a number of groups and individuals: Carlos Ugalde, photographer and professor emeritus at Glendale Community College; Films4Cuban5; artist Oscar Albuerne; Ed Turner, International Association of Machinists Local 1932 shop steward; Peter Schey, president, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law; Socialist Workers Party; journalist Raimundo Reynoso; Alternative Media and Trade Editions; and Lawrence Reyes, Puerto Rican Alliance.

Beatriz Tasha Magaña, a student at East Los Angeles College, opened the program by welcoming people to the exhibit on behalf of Coffee and Crepes owner Victoria Chavez.

Chavez said she had not heard of the Five before getting involved in organizing the showing. “Now I’m wearing a ‘Free the Five’ button,” she said. “For me one of the most important questions has always been immigration reform. My father, Angel Chavez, is the only surviving ex-bracero from the year 1942. They faced many bad things. The Cuban Five are political prisoners. We have to learn about and talk about how they can be free.”

Guerrero’s writings that accompany the paintings “are inspiring and truthful,” said Magaña. “I like the poetry about the Cuban Five and their fight. I feel humbled, it’s a big thing that is happening.”

“Fernando González is back home on Cuban soil. He is a free man, because he never broke,” said Turner. “Now is the time to organize showings of Antonio Guerrero’s paintings, so more people can get to know the facts about the Cuban Five.”

“Today we celebrate Fernando’s release, and we redouble our efforts to get Antonio, Ramón and Gerardo released,” said Norton Sandler of the Socialist Workers Party. “The Five were carrying out the defense of Cuba. René and Fernando were legally advised to separate their cases from the other three. They said ‘no.’ They entered prison as revolutionists, they functioned as revolutionists in prison, and they will walk out as revolutionists, an example for working people the world over.”

Ugalde matted, framed and hung the paintings in the café. He urged everyone present to sign a letter he drafted demanding President Barack Obama free the three who remain in prison.

“I hope the Los Angeles exhibit of the art work of Antonio Guerrero is a success and send greetings and solidarity to the Cuban Five and their supporters,” said Schey, attorney for Gerardo Hernández, in a message to the meeting. He testified later that week at the March 7-8 International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five in London.

“I’m very moved by these paintings,” said Rosa Carrillo, an artist, after viewing them. “Deprived of all stimulation, prison couldn’t suppress Antonio of his humanity. My favorite is the rose in front of the prison grill. Where did that creativity come from?”

“Seeing the beautiful art is empowering,” said Armando Flores Jr., a student at East Los Angeles College. He first learned about the Cuban Five in a Latin America studies class five years ago. “The system tries to break us all. It didn’t break him. It’s inspiring.”

Participants purchased 11 copies of Voices From Prison: The Cuban Five and nine of I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived. Leaflets were distributed for the third “5 Days for the Cuban 5” in Washington, D.C., June 4-11.

An open mic and a dance with Cuban music will take place March 14 at the exhibit. The final program March 29 will include a showing of the film “Maestra” about the literacy campaign in Cuba.
Related articles:
Quebec hotel workers view Guerrero’s watercolors
Showings of paintings by Antonio Guerrero
Who are the Cuban Five?
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