Obama receives portrait of Cuban IBer

January 18, 2011

Agustí Centelles, International Volunteer, Barcelona, January 1937. Spain, Ministry of Culture, Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica, Archivo Centelles

President Obama has finally received his long-promised gift. The January 1937 portrait by Catalan photographer Agustí Centelles of a young Afro-Cuban volunteer who had headed for Spain from New York, where he was living as a political exile, has made it to the White House, Catalan Television reports. Centelles’ sons, who had originally asked Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to present Obama with the print on his next visit to Spain–a visit that yet has to take place–handed the photo to a representative of the US Embassy in Madrid, from where it was sent on to Washington, DC. Initially it was assumed that the man portrayed in Centelles’ photo was one of the African Americans to volunteer in the Lincoln Brigade. An ad-hoc international research effort headed by ALBA’s James D. Fernández and Sebastiaan Faber, and covered by El País and CNN, showed that the man was in fact from Cuba. More of the background story here.

The Centelles brothers

Photo editor Joaquín Gasca with Elizabeth Martin-Shukrun Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer U.S. Embassy Madrid