The Vault

Bright 1970 Cuban Propaganda Posters Urging Solidarity With Vietnam

The Vault is Slate’s history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

These posters by Cuban artist Felix René Mederos Pazos were the product of a trip Mederos took to Vietnam in 1969, on assignment from the Cuban government’s Department of Revolutionary Orientation.

Cuban artists often addressed international subjects, in alignment with the Cuban Revolution’s political focus. (Other posters produced around this time expressed solidarity with anti-colonial guerrillas in Angola, Black Panthers in Watts, California, and the people of Hiroshima, Japan.) These Mederos posters repeated the slogan “Como en Vietnam,” which was meant to encourage Cubans to emulate the resourcefulness of the North Vietnamese in their daily lives. 

Although these posters show Vietnamese soldiers, some other images Mederos produced depict peaceful pastoral scenes of the Vietnamese countryside. (More of Mederos’ Vietnam images, made after this journey and a return trip in 1972, can be seen on researcher Lincoln Cushing’s Docs Populi website.)

In fact, art historian David Kunzle wrote in 1975 that the Mederos Vietnam series and his other work was somewhat “controversial” in Cuba: “too consistently cheerful, and lacking in emotional gradation,” failing to emphasize the suffering caused by the ongoing conflict with the United States. (Kunzle qualified the use of the word “controversial”: “So long as that term is understood to exclude published forms of debate and criticism in artistic matters, which Cubans today do not appear to practice.”) 

Political art coming out of Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s enjoyed broad international distribution. Mederos’ posters were exhibited at the Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco’s Mission District in 1970, influencing Chicano poster artists in the United States, and reprinted to raise funds for medical aid to Vietnam. Also in 1970, Cuban political posters, including some by Mederos, were the subject of a coffee-table book with an introductory essay by Susan Sontag

René Mederos, “FNL de Viet Nam del Sur,” 1969. 

Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries. 

René Mederos, “Como en Viet Nam, Mes de la Ofensiva del Tet” (Month of the Tet Offensive), ca. 1970. 

Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries. 

René Mederos, “Como en Viet Nam, Mes de la Mujer Vietnamita” (Month of the Vietnamese Woman), ca. 1970. 

Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries. 

René Mederos, “Como en Viet Nam,” ca. 1970. 

Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.