C&AL: In the introduction to the exhibition Diago: The Pasts of this Afro-Cuban Present, it says that Cuban artist Juan Roberto Diago (born 1971) has “produced a body of work that offers a revisionist history of the Cuban nation.” What does this mean?
Alejandro de la Fuente: Diago often inserts a critical rewriting of the official Cuban narrative in his work. The official narrative often portrays the nation as the creation by a group of white patriots, many of them slave owners, who renounced their wealth and privileges in order to build a national, multiracial and fraternal community. Meanwhile, Diago’s Cuba is a country built on the hard labor and pain of millions of enslaved Africans; a country born out of violence, abuse and greed. For Diago, the fraternal country as depicted in the official narrative has yet to be built.
C&AL: As an artist, Juan Roberto Diago has enjoyed great international success. But, in your opinion, what other artists besides him are representative of what is happening in contemporary Cuban art today?
ADF: Diago himself refers to his art as part of a collective effort to propose a debate on issues that are taboo in Cuba such as racism, discrimination and exclusion. Countless other Cuban intellectuals participate in this effort, including musicians, filmmakers, writers, playwrights and academics. Among the visual artists who have made fundamental contributions towards this struggle are the artists linked to Queloides (Alexis Esquivel, Elio Rodríguez Valdés, Douglas Pérez, René Peña, Manuel Arenas, María Magdalena Campos Pons, Gertrudis Esquivel, Andrés Montalván Cuéllar, Marta Maria Perez Bravo, Armando Mariño, among others). Also worth mentioning are younger artists such as Susana Pilar Delahante, Carlos Martiel and Javier Castro. Many of these artists have received international recognition, not just from critics but also from collectors and institutions.