Regarding the Cuban Flag

/ 25 November, 2016

(…) Because of diverse reasons, some of the problems motivating that article came to my mind some days ago, with regard to the reposition in Havana of an exhibition whose standpoint was the Cuban flag, reviewed in this magazine on a note written by my colleague Herrera Ysla.

This exhibition and other recent events that had taken place on the use of the Cuban flag brought to my mind the times in which the National Symbols became an issue of extreme interest for politicians as well as artists in the country, when art and politics did not let to separate the wheat from the chaff. Something like the attempt of scandal that not long ago provoked in Cuban television the Cuban athlete winner of the silver medal in Brazil who, when winning, was looking for, as it corresponded, the flag of the country that took him to the appointment: Spain. And so we see how the so often addressed Cuban flag has acquired an unusual prominence recently.

(…) Strictly speaking, the visit to the exhibition made me remind the way in which the Cuban press, during the first decades of the 20th century, approached the topic of the National Symbols and, particularly, the flag.

We must take into account that, in those times, public authorities did not interfere in the world of the image. So graphic designers and sketchers linked to illustrated magazines who gave form to an iconography through which the concepts of Homeland, Republic and Nation were assumed as a whole, including in them the Freedom, a procedure that immediately passed to the monumental sculpture of the period. Thus, the feminine figure began to be used in an allegorical form—the one that the French Revolution had passed to represent the republican and libertarian ideologies—, linked to the Cuban flag, in a given way, as referent of the country.

In the creation of this allegory, the draftsmen of the beginning of the century gave samples of a great trade and of the variety of styles they dominated, appreciable in the works of the Pre-Raphaelite seal of Emilio Heredia and Santiago Quiñones, as well as the classicist inspiration of Antonio Jiménez who, in other cases, also made incursions in the Belle Époque visuality.

Undoubtedly, some of the formulas used by these artists in the first decade of 1900 represented an innovation for the eye, until then habituated to representational realism. Within this context, the cover of the literary magazine Cuba Libre,[1] destined to celebrate the advent of the Republic, whose design was conceived by the Spanish recently arrived in Cuba, Miguel Hevia, based on the icons that the collective imaginary had assumed to represent the nation—the shield, the flag and the date of May 20, the day of the proclamation of the momentous event—, is remarkable. (…)

 

[1] Cuba Libre, magazine founded by Rosario Sigarroa in 1899, whose last conserved numbers date from 1910. In it, figures as Enrique José Varona, Alfredo Zayas, Dulce María Borrero, Evelio Rodríguez Lendián, Diego Vicente Tejera, Mario García Kholy, among others, collaborate. It is very probable that the cover had been printed in New York. Since to that date, the technology in Cuba did not allow using that variety and nuances of color.

 

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