November 17, 2013
Por la Paz: Portraits from the 1994 US – Cuba Friendshipment
In 1994, I traveled with 250 people who were part of the 3rd. U.S. – Cuba Friendshipment. Our goal was to challenge the decades-old U.S. government’s embargo of Cuba, though a collective act of civil disobedience. The ‘caravanistas’ traveled on thirteen different routes throughout the U.S. and Canada, collecting aid and speaking to local audiences about the embargo. We all met in Laredo, Texas and crossed the border into Mexico, then shipped the aid to Cuba from a port in Tampico. This was all done without the required U.S. Treasury Department license to send material aid. On that trip, over three million dollars worth of aid was shipped to Cuba.
Prior to this I had traveled to Cuba on three occasions between 1986-91 to attend the Havana Biennial. I was an artist who became an activist on the issue of the U.S. embargo, due to my experiences in Cuba during that time. I felt the policy needed to be changed, and I wanted to help make that change happen. I stuffed the back of my Chevy S-10 pickup with donated bicycles, medical equipment and medicine and joined up with the caravan as it came through Bloomington, IN.
The caravanistas I met were the most beautiful part of the experience. Some of them had been doing organizing work all their lives. For others, this was a new thing. Immediately I felt that the activists were my narrative, and I started to tell their story through making portraits.