PORTLAND, Maine - Noted actress and dedicated political activist Vinie Burrows helped open an exhibition of paintings by Cuban Five political prisoner Antonio Guerrero on January 19 at the University of Southern Maine Library. Ms. Burrows was the featured speaker at the opening event organized by the Maine group Let Cuba Live . The paintings are on display here through Feb. 18.
In her remarks, Ms. Burrows called for freedom for the Cuban Five prisoners and denounced the U.S. government's cruelty in preventing two of their wives, Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva, from visiting their husbands in jail. Burrows also reminded listeners of Cuba's exemplary contribution to international solidarity.
At the beginning her presentation, Ms. Burrows asked for a moment of silence to honor the late Rev. Lucius Walker, who died this past September. Walker, who founded and led IFCO/Pastors for Peace , was a strong campaigner for solidarity with the people of Cuba.
The story of the Cuban Five political prisoners began in the 1990's, when Antonio Guerrero, along with Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González were monitoring private paramilitary groups in Florida. They were attempting to provide advance notice on preparations there for terrorist attacks against their home country of Cuba. For this they were arrested 12 years ago, subjected to a biased trial, convicted on conspiracy charges, and received cruelly long sentences. At their trial, expert witnesses demonstrated that the prisoners posed no threat to U.S. secrecy, properties, and interests.
Mr. Guerrero became a painter in the penitentiary at Florence, Colorado. His account of the story of his artistic development can be found here. Citing the words of Cuban national hero Jose Marti (1853-1895) "Truth needs art," Mr. Guerrero maintains, "Truth reigns in our hearts, forged with love and commitment to the just cause of our heroic people: That is my motivation for each work of art!"
The exhibition of 30 of his paintings has toured the U.S. for almost a year. They will next be on display in late February at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, then in March, in Lexington, Kentucky.
Vinie Burrows read from Mr. Guerrero's book "From my Altitude," with poems in both Spanish and English. "They say I am a spy," she read, but "I am a simple man / dedicated in his life / to serve and to create." She also read: "Walker of peace take my hand / Only together will we make the planet alive. / The river born of the mountains will swell / When in its way, a brother joins."
Maine poet Gary Lawless was on hand to read other Guerrero poems. One, "Song of the Full Moon," speaks of longing: "In the midst of solitude and a verse / Gusts of silence awaken me. / Flashes of love becalmed pierce/ her mystery, her light and her universe."
Those attending the event had the opportunity to sign a new change.org petition to President Obama urging him to release the Cuban Five..
Ms. Burrows concluded her remarks honoring Antonio Guerrero and his paintings by reading the poem "Reign of the Peoples," written by the late Haitian poet and revolutionary Paul Laraque.
The Glickman Library at the University of Southern Maine is located at 314 Forest Avenue in Portland, Maine. The exhibit is on the fifth floor of the library.
For more information on the lives of the Cuban Five, their families, their beliefs, and the status of the legal cases, visit these web sites:
And search the People's World website for "the Cuban Five" to find many news articles and editorials.