Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Insult by design


(image published with the intention of making it banal and forgettable)

A few friends from Cuba, Europe, and the United States -Miami and elsewhere- have been asking my opinion on the flag desecration controversy via e-mail. I have written a few e-mails to them exposing my opinion on the matter and today I will just post some fragments of those e-mails, which I have not have the time to edit in a formal post. Here they are, in no particular order:

Let fragments be fragments.

"There's an understanding that flags -as many other symbols- can be modified by graphic artists since the day the "graphic designer" profession was born. The manipulation of flags and other national symbols have been a constant in graphic design, posters, logotypes, and even graffiti all along since the last half of the nineteenth century to the present. What has never been accepted is the offensive manipulation of a flag, by the hand of any individual let alone a designer. Examples of such offensive manipulations can be found in the posters of the Spanish Civil War, Nazi propaganda material, Stalinist graphics, and ultimately in the graphic design produced in Cuba by the Direccion de Propaganda del Partido".
(roughly translated from Spanish, from a letter to an ex-student of mine)

"In the nineteen eighties, a Cuban architect and graphic designer, Antonio Cuan Chang, codified the official proportions of the Cuban flag, its official colors, and also the exact outline of its elements. Yes, Cuan Chang, a man of 100% Chinese heritage, whose birth in Cuba made it 100% Cuban. As I had told you before, we don't use the ridiculous hyphenation to define origins in Cuba. You are not Afro-Cuban, or Chinese-Cuban, or American-Cuban in Cuba, if you choose to be Cuban, or you are born in Cuba, then you're Cuban to the rest of the population"
(to a friend)

"I did receive your last e-mail where you pointed how some Cubans in Cuba have manipulated the flag too. I knew that some people -communist and dissidents- have written political slogans over the actual cloth made flag, and I think that it's incorrect in both counts. The fact that Biscet hung the flag upside down doesn't make it correct in my opinion. The nation of Cuba -what the flag represents- should not be mistaken by the tyranny that oppresses Cuba. The flag does not represent the Communist government of Cuba -they have their own flag, red and black, like the Nazi flag- but the people of Cuba at large. I consider that it was not appropriate to hang the flag upside down, because it equates to make the same thing out of the tyranny and Cuba. By the way, the face of che on the Cuban flag is the invention of a San Francisco commie graphic outfit, and it's common place here among American leftists, I know that you don't see it in Cuba"
(roughly translated from Spanish, from a letter to a friend in Cuba)

"I have never seen a flag with the face of Biscet or Marti or any Cuban real patriot of dissident stamped on it, neither in Cuba or here. I think that besides the infamous one (la tristemente celebre) with the face of guevara on it, they also have one with the bearded mug of castro (la jeta peluda de castro, in the Spanish original) but I have never seen it, maybe I haven't looked for it"
(to a another friend in Cuba who asked if they didn't sell flags with the face of Biscet or Marti on them in the United States)

"you should know that the Rastafarians in Cuba have used the gold, black, and green from the Jamaican flag to substitute the white, the blue, and the red of the Cuban flag. I have seen a lot of black and white versions of the flag, and also, flags emblazoned with barbed wire, roses, drops of blood, and many prison bars to signify that the island is the captive of a group of thugs"
(to a graphic designer friend)

"I am familiar with the latest version of the Estellada (note, the Estellada is the nationalistic flag of Catalonia). It was inspired in the Cuban flag, and the first version of it was hoisted in Santiago de Cuba in 1906 by the nationalistic Catalonians living in that city. Maybe you know that the nationalistic movement of Catalonia actually started in Cuba, in its organized form. Also, as a curiosity, the Academias of the Catalonian language and the Galician language were started also in Cuba"
(to a graphic designer friend in Barcelona, rough English version of the original)

"Not only the Cuban flag inspired the Puerto Rican flag (the Cuban flag proportions are 1:2, the Puerto Rican flag proportions are 2:3) but also the flag of the Philippines. Later in the 20 century, the flags of different countries took a clue from the Cuban flag, sadly mistaking "Cuba" for the "revolution". They wanted to be revolutionary and they copied the triangle of the Cuban flag, the stars and the stripes, there are examples in Africa and the Middle East....

....I think that the designers of the Cuban flags have been copied so much because of their sophisticated and minimalist design for both flags (note: the Narciso Lopez flag, and the Cespedes flag) It just normal that people felt inspired by those powerful designs"
(to a friend in NYC)

"the fact that the graphic artist that concocted the image works for a commie publication, la Jiribilla, tells me all. I am not saying that he is a commie, he probably toils there and his feelings and beliefs are not necessarily those of a communist, but whatever he puts out tells you about a sad state of affairs in the propaganda front in Cuba: the two legs left in the triangle seem to be spread, as if the legs of a prostitute, the head and the arms in the middle of the waves look desperate, as if the person was drowning in the sea. For this to be published in a communist magazine is very telling: that's what they think of all of us who are not part of their system: we are either prostitutes (or mercenaries) or we should leave the country and hopefully die in the process. There's no other reading for that. If people can't see this, well.... they are either blind or they share that communist outlook on us, and much worse, on the Cubans of the island"
(to a friend in Miami)

"Flags with such strong design, and I think Japan, Spain, Cuba, Israel, Chile, France, the USA, and many others are attractive to designers to manipulate them for reasons of propaganda and other graphic campaigns to promote tourism, products, and many other messages. That strong design should not be a excuse for using insulting depictions of those flags, sorry, we can't agree on this"
(to another ex-student of mine, translated from Spanish)

"even in the communist armed forces of Cuba soldiers are taught to respect the national symbols of the enemy, and their are forbidden to desecrate them....
.... to desecrate any flag is absolutely shameless, doing this in a graphic format and spreading it all over the internet is equivalent to virtual flag burning"
(from an IM exchange with a friend)

"I have never seen a Cuban dissident burning a Cuban flag in Cuba or abroad, I have never seen a Cuban burning an American flag, in Cuba or abroad, and much less an American flag on American soil, I have never seen a photograph or footage of that, and believe me, if they ever did so it would have been amplified to monumental proportions by the xenophobe and liberal press (aren't they both sides of the same coin?) to toss all of us in the sea and have us paddling back to Cuba"
(to a friend who asked me if in Cuba there was not "flag burning" and if Cubans have not been burning American flags during the Elian protests in Miami)