A Cuban-American Miamian Created the Viral Cover of Trump Beheading Lady Liberty

A Cuban-American Miamian Created the Viral Cover of Trump Beheading Lady Liberty
Edel Rodriguez / Der Spiegel

Have you seen the latest issue of Der Spiegel? That would normally be an odd question in Miami, which is not exactly bursting with subscriptions to Germany's favorite weekly news magazine. But thanks to a brutal cover illustration of Donald Trump holding the bloodied, severed head of Lady Liberty, everyone is talking about this week's edition.

German politicians have called it "tasteless,'" while alt-right haven Breitbart claims it portrays Trump as "an Islamist beheader."

Like virtually all compelling news, the cartoon's backstory has a close South Florida tie.

Edel Rodriguez, the artist who created the illustration, is a Cuban refugee who arrived in the United States at the age of 9 on the Mariel Boatlift in 1980. He went to school in Hialeah and did some of his first work for Miami New Times after graduating from New York's Pratt Institute in 1994 when he was just 22 years old.

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Reached by phone Saturday at his home in New Jersey and asked what inspired the depiction of Trump, Rodriguez laughed and said, "His decision to run for president."

Rodriguez added that his early years in South Florida were typical for a Cuban-American: playing a variety of sports and hanging out with friends at Haulover Beach.

His family landed in Key West with virtually nothing and then lived with 14 relatives in a Miami house. Rodriguez's father later started a trucking business, and Rodriguez himself soon excelled in school, where he won a spelling bee and earned scholarships.

By 2011, Rodriguez was creating work for publications such as the New York Times Magazine, Time, and the New Yorker while still illustrating the odd New Times cover along the way. One of his covers for us was this sinister-looking rat, which graced the March 10, 2011, issue.

"The story revolves around a local waiter that goes from restaurant to restaurant, finding ways to file lawsuits against the owners," Rodriguez recalled in one interview. "I drew a nice rat; then [the art director] asked for a nastier rat. I like how alternative weeklies encourage drawings of nasty rats, so I did my best."

When Der Spiegel asked Rodriguez for a graphically striking cover image for its story about Trump's first weeks in office, he reached back to his experience as a refugee from an oppressive regime who landed in America.

“I remember it well, and I remember the feelings and how little kids feel when they are leaving their country," Rodriguez told the Washington Post. "So it bothers me a lot that little children are being kept from coming to this country.”

The cover represented his feeling that Trump had destroyed that part of America. “It's a beheading of democracy, a beheading of a sacred symbol,” Rodriguez told the Post. “And clearly, lately, what's associated with beheadings is ISIS, so there's a comparison” between the Islamic State and Trump. “Both sides are extremists, so I'm just making a comparison between them.”

Rodriguez declined to say how much he was paid for the Der Spiegel cover. He told New Times that his Twitter feed has been inundated with negative feedback about the work.

He said he has also received quite a few emails, many from Hispanics and most along the lines of "Shut up and be thankful you live in such a great country."

But Rodriguez isn't backing down. He told the Post: “I don't want to live in a dictatorship. If I wanted to live in a dictatorship, I'd live in Cuba, where it's much warmer.”


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