14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 24 February 2021 — Erik Ravelo cannot forget the day when, in the fifth or sixth grade, his teacher took the children out of class to take them to an act of savage repudiation in El Vedado. “An elderly lady, the mother of an opponent, was attacked, beaten and practically lynched in front of me. They slashed her face with a hardhat. They smashed her glasses. Bleeding, she was grabbed from the enraged mass and put in a police car. They took her away.”
This is how the artist himself told it on his social networks this Tuesday, when he presented his work Doctrine, in which he superimposes an image of a child in his school uniform on a cross formed by the arms of Fidel Castro.
Ravelo tells 14ymedio that the piece was finished just this Tuesday and it is his way of showing solidarity with what many of those who dare to express themselves freely “unfortunately are having to experience in Cuba.”
“As I explain in the text about my own experience, it is a serious offense against childhood to expose children to direct violence such as what they are exposed to when they are taken to a repudiation rally,” he says.
As he himself denounces in his post: “There are many people who have told me ‘but in Cuba there are no barefoot children smelling glue at traffic lights, cleaning cars and shoes on the street, sleeping on the sidewalks.’ And yes, this may be true, but this work wants to show that there are many forms of violence against children. It is not only the abandonment and extreme poverty, because the fierce political indoctrination to which a child is exposed in Cuba in my opinion is also violence. And extreme.”
I even remember, from that childhood, the song that everyone sang in chorus: “We don’t want them anymore, we don’t want them anymore, we don’t want them anymore, let them fuck off and go to hell.”
Why? he asks. “Was it to instill in us a love for our country? No. Was it to teach us to defend our country by beating an old woman? No, was it to make us better men? No. It was simply to instill fear in us.”
Ravelo says he was impressed by the comments his work has elicited. “One wrote: ‘I was that child too.’ I replied: ‘Yes, tiger, unfortunately we were all that child.’
As for using such “sacred” figures in his work, something that is not new in his career, Ravelo says that nowhere else in the world has he suffered “serious consequences” from any of his previous campaigns. In fact, his work Unhate for Benetton, showing a number of world leaders , including Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez, kissing on the mouth, won the Grand Prix at Cannes. “With this I want to show that art and graphic communication cannot be criminalized, and if it is, then it is only in Cuba.”
“It can’t be that I do Trump with a crucified immigrant child, and being in the United States absolutely nothing happens to me, or that I do Salvini in Italy and Merkel in Europe, or the Pope while living more than 18 years in Italy, but with Cuba it’s different,” he continues.
“I make art, and if art is criminalized or an artist is censored, it really touches us all,” he asserts, claiming the use of the image of Fidel Castro “to represent an idea is necessary,” in his opinion because the acts of repudiation “are one of the saddest, lowest and most inhumane pages” in the history of Cuba.
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