(VENICE/May 9, 2011) The International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, in conjunction with the Social Public Art Resource Center's (SPARC) 35th Anniversary Celebration: giving voice to art makers and building cultural bridges between communities, and Honorary Committee: Actors and Artists United for the Freedom of the Cuban Five presents"Humor from my Pen", an exhibition of political cartoons by Gerardo Hernández Nordelo. The exhibit opens Saturday, June 4, and runs through Friday, June 17th at the Old Venice Jail Gallery, 685 N. Venice Boulevard, Venice, California and includes works by Politico's editorial Cartoonist and Illustrator, Matt Wuerker; and the creator of the nationally syndicated daily cartoon "La Cucaracha", Lalo Alcaraz.
Opening night, June 4th from 7 to 10pm, festivities include celebrating Gerardo's 46th birthday, and panel discussion with Judy Baca, Founder/Artistic Director of SPARC, Emily Winters muralist and co-founder of the Venice Arts Council, and Carol A. Wells, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics.Alicia Jrapko, coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five will give an update on the Cuban 5. There is a suggested donation of $10 for opening night.
Humor has accompanied Gerardo Hernández Nordelo since childhood. A great sense of responsibility, and sense of humor was always part of his philosophy of life. Even in the toughest moments, he has not given up the ability to laugh at adversity. Gerardo is one of the Cuban Five political prisoners held in U.S. prisons since 1998. He is currently serving two life sentences at the U.S. Penitentiary in Victorville, California.Gerardo, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzalez, internationally known as the Cuban 5, were accused of conspiracy to commit espionage. The US government never accused them of actual espionage, nor did it affirm that real acts of espionage had been carried out, as no classified document had been confiscated from the Five. Their actual mission in the United States was monitoring the activities of the groups and organizations responsible for terrorist activities against Cuba.
Event co-sponsors include: Aris Anagnos, James Cromwell, Ed Harris, Joe Perez and Susan Sarandon with support from the Venice Arts Council, KPFK, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Southern California Americans for Democratic Action, FILMS4Cuban5, the Los Angeles Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba, Local- SEIU United Service Workers West, James Beach, Canal Club, Danny's and ¡Sí Cuba! SoCal.For more information visit: www.thecuban5.org or www.sparcmurals.org or call (310) 822-9560 x 15.Danny Glover comments on the Cuban 5 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuZRKUZX40U&feature=related.
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Gerardo Hernández Nordelowas born in Havana on June 4, 1965. He graduated with a degree in International Political Relations. While in school Gerardo participated in amateur festivals as part of a theater group. He also worked as a cartoonist-humorist for Cuban publications and collectives;Palante, Melaito and Aspirina. The members of Aspirina, collectively participated in two exhibitions at the University of Havana and created a mural at Havana Cuba Pavilion. "Asprina was a great school," recalls Gerardo. "We participated in the First National Encounter of Young Comedians, where he met Carlos Ruiz de la Tejera, Virulo, Tomy and other recognized professionals. For me, who always dreamed of being a journalist, that was really exciting ... but we learned a lot, because nobody wanted to look like anyone and everyone he was shaping his own line, his own style."
Gerardo's creation of one of his most endearing characters, "Cucumber and Company", exercising vegetarian humor and constructive criticism, appeared in the tabloid The Muñe, a publication of the Editorial Pablo de la Torriente Brau.Cucumber Series USA (2002) highlights the double standards of the U.S. in its vaunted fight against terrorism and was included in theanthology of 100 yearscompiled by the Cuban cartoonist Cecilio Avilés. Gerardo's pen also alleged, among other things, the looting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the underdeveloped nations. As part of his work on the capital newspaper Tribuna de La Habana, Gerardo created humorous cartoons about specific topics.
Gerardo's cartoons have been seen in various galleries in Cuba, and, recently at the VIII Congress of Cuban Journalists in the province of Las Tunas. His works are a critical look at the injustice that keeps him imprisoned along with his four comrades.
His drawings have been published since 1982 and displayed in gallery exhibitions. His book of caricatures and humor, "You Can Achieve Everything with Love and Humor" was published in 2002. Whether experiencing degrading prison conditions or solitary confinement, Gerardo keeps optimistic, with a smile and fighting spirit. Even after 13 years of incarceration, and despite the massive correspondence, arriving from the farthest corners of the world, Gerardo has not stopped making brave, highly political and humorous cartoons from his prison cell in Victorville, California.
On September 12, 1998 Gerardo, and the other four men, was arrested. He was held in preventative custody for thirty-three months before the sentence was passed and was isolated in special cell, known as "the hole", designed for prisoners with serious disciplinary problems for almost 17 months prior to the trial and for 48 days after the verdict was passed. Seven month after his arrest the U.S. government amended Gerardo's charges to include conspiracy to commit murder for the shoot down of two planes of the terrorist organization Brothers to the Rescue by the Cuban Air Force within Cuban airspace. The shoot down of the plane was a decision of the Cuban government in which Gerard had no participation.
Gerardo's trial, held at the United States District Court Southern District of Florida, under Case No. 98-721-Cr-Lenard (S), began on November 26, 2000 and concluded on June 8, 2001, in Miami, Florida, home to over half-a- million Cuban exiles. This is a community with a long history of hostility toward the Cuban government – a record that a federal appellate court in the United States later described as a "perfect storm" of prejudice, precluding a fair trial.
What the Cuban Five and their attorneys did not know during the trial was that the U.S. government—through its official propaganda agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors—was covertly paying prominent Miami journalists who, at the same time as the government conducted its prosecution, saturated the Miami media with reports that were highly inflammatory and prejudicial to the Cuban Five. The Five were not only victims of a politically motivated prosecution, but a government-funded propaganda operation as well.
Following his conviction, on December 12, 2001 Gerardo was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years.
Gerardo has been married since 1988 to Adriana Pérez O'Connor. His humor is present in every postcard send to his wife, who he knew at the time ofAspirina.Adriana has been denied the right to visit her husband in prison, a right that relatives of any prisoner has in the United States.