International News

Cuban Artist to Commemorate Hunger Striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo's Death with Surprise Work

To commemorate the first anniversary of hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death today, Cuban artist Geandy Pavón, who has projected images of the dissident on Cuban government buildings, has something big up his sleeve. And he promises it will be "legal, creative and have major impact."

"I don't want to talk about it before it happens," said Pavón, who lives in New Jersey. "If we reveal what we plan to do, it will not happen. It's something different. It's very symbolic."

In his work "Nemisis", Pavón projected images of Tamayo on the wall of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington D.C. in May of last year and the following month on Carnegie Hall, where Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez was performing.

While the projections drew curious passersby, their impact was felt mainly on the internet, where thousands have viewed it, including Cubans on the island who pass around copies downloaded from YouTube.

"They invent ways to pass it around," Pavón said. "The intent is to create a civil society in Cuba. . . to stimulate the imagination of the people to combat Castrismo."

While most of Pavón's viewers are in the U.S., the exiled artist plans to mount some of his protest art on the communist island. "We've started organizing to do this in Cuba," he said.

Pavón, whose father was a political prisoner on the island before the family emigrated to the U.S. in 1996, began as a traditional painter whose works carried vague political implications. But the artist has since embraced technology, and he is using the new medium to express overt political views.

"We must find creative ways to denounce Castrismo," he said. "I found a medium in new technologies. It's almost like being in Cuba," he said of the omnipresent power of the web.

While the Communist regime is mobilizing security forces across the island to quell possible protests on Wednesday, Pavón doesn't expect an uprising similar to those in Egypt and Libya.

"Some dissidents could hit the streets, but I don't expect people will protest like they did in those countries," he said. "But anything is possible. That's something history continues to teach us."

Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death after an 83-day hunger strike drew worldwide condemnation and embarrassed the Cuban government into releasing 52 political prisoners and easing up on their wives and daughters, who had taken to the streets as the Ladies in White.

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Jorge Casuso
Contact: Jorge Casuso