A magnificent signal appeared on the sky, a woman, dressed as a sun,
with the moon under her feet and a crown with twelve stars over her head.
She is pregnant and cries of pain, because the time to give birth has arrived.
Although the foundation of the Bayate Groupi goes back to December 17, 1994, already from the beginning of the eighties “Mella, a municipality of the Santiago de Cuba province, had a nucleus of painters who practiced their art in a spontaneous form and developed their own formulas with much success with which they transcended in the national sphere. Two of them, Luis Rodríguez Arias (1942), and his son, the youngster Luis Rodríguez Ricardo (1966), known as Luis, el Estudiante, were later the initial cell of the Group.”ii Although the rural landscape and the bucolic life in a batey would be the habitual topics the members of the Bayate Group would deal with in their paintings, the somewhat late inclusion or incorporation of religious scenes and motifs focused not only in the emergence of evangelic, protestant Christian cults, but in a catholic tradition which made them assume the artistic treatment of an essentially Cuban icon: Our Lady of El Cobre. (…)
An event which impelled the rebirth of this treatment of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre was the (National) Salon of Religious Art, which since 1999 convokes the Cultural and Animation Center San Antonio María Claret, located in the parish of the Holy Trinity of Santiago de Cuba. In its twelfth edition, inaugurated on December 2011, the presence of the Bayate Group artists was vital. They incorporated to the process of competing with other artists from the province and the country with a much better technical training and more visibility in the cultural environment. In this edition, Luis, el Estudiante, received the First Prize with 400 años de fe (400 Years of Faith), a literally convincing, categorical, brief work, which with a historical panoptic covers the presence of the virgin and its myths in the popular imaginary of the Cuban nation. (…) Perhaps the main contribution from the makers of religious images is that the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre wears missionary sandals while simulating to walk on the waters or on the sky, a canonic miracle which is awarded to Jesus and here is granted to her as a gift to the Marian icon, which displaces sideways while raising the child in her arms, who, at the same time, holds the Cuban flag in his right hand and, somewhat higher, that of the Holy See, in what perhaps was the most irreverent element of the piece, that is, the hierarchical primacy of the Vatican emblem above the flag with the lonely star.
i The artists who founded the Bayate Group were: Luis Joaquín Rodríguez Arias (1942, baker), Roberto Torres Lameda (1956, driver), Richard Bruff Bruff (1928, retired carpenter), Luis Alberto Villalón Rades (1950, photographer and professor of Spanish), Luis Joaquín Rodríguez Ricardo (1966, technician in road construction), Ángel Llópiz Martínez (1961, police agent), Rolando Alvarado Lamorout (1955, fisherman and amateur musician) and Felipe Reyes Merino (1964, doctor). For a more covering knowledge of the naïve phenomenon in Santiago de Cuba and the Eastern region of the country we suggest to read Ramírez Moreira, Luisa María: La pintura ingenua: reino de este mundo. Ediciones Catedral, Santiago de Cuba, 2003.
ii Ortiz, Janet: Grupo Bayate. Algo más que pintar. (Bayate Group. Something More Than Painting), words on the catalogue of the exhibition Twentieth Anniversary of the Bayate Group. Tribute to Richard Bruff Bruff. Santiago de Cuba, 2014.