Elio Rodríguez








70 x 50 cm


Screenprint on paper

In his work, Cuban artist Elio Rodríquez resorts to humour, or mockery, which was characteristic of art on the island in the 1980s and the 1990s. Under the fictitious company Macho Enterprises Rodríquez created a series of fictional film posters in which he joked about stereotypes in relation to the alleged sexualisation of black men and eroticism as a factor in the general perception of the Caribbean. In this series the artist breaks away from the traditional Cuban design of film posters whilst parodying the representation of tropical culture in Hollywood cinema. On this occasion, the poster shows a white tourist who lewdly applauds a man of African descent who wears only a Cuban flag over his crotch whilst posing seductively. The revolutionary iconography of the Havanan cigarette and the red beret of the Afro-descending man contrast with the monumental banana headdress that sits on his head. This feminised man represents the Cuban nation and how it both literally and figuratively prostituted itself. The poster was created in the decade known as the Special Period in Time of Peace, the era in which Cuba was plunged into a profound economic crisis due to the fall of the Soviet Union upon which it depended economically. In this disastrous context of generalised famine and misery, tourism became the primary source of capital coming into Cuba. Despite being illegal on the island, the economic situation meant that sexual tourism would become a source of income for many people in need. In Rodríguez’ work the touching of the bananas alludes to the famous cabarets that in the era of Fulgencio Batista attracted tourists from all over the world and that, paradoxically, did not cease to exist during the Revolution. Rodríguez criticises the cabaret as a legalised form of prostitution in which the population sold itself as a tropical specimen ready to be consumed by foreign travellers.