This Latino Artist Took His Version of Guernica to Ukraine

Guernica Latino Artist Ukraine BELatina Latinx
Image courtesy of Roberto Marquez/Instagram.

Beyond our borders, the world is also engulfed in tragedy and grief since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.

While much of the international community has condemned Russia for its actions on Ukrainian territory, accusing it of breaking international law and violating the sovereignty of the former Soviet country, the deaths are in the thousands, and the destruction has been unimaginable.

Sadly, this is not the first time humanity has witnessed its own capacity for destruction.

The Spanish Civil War was a case in point.

In Spain in 1937, the Republican forces were composed of varied factions such as communists, socialists, anarchists, and others with different objectives. However, they were united in their opposition to the Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco. He sought a return to pre-republican Spain based on law, order, and traditional Catholic values.

Guernica, a town in the province of Vizcaya in the Basque Country, was considered the northern bastion of the Republican resistance movement and the center of Basque culture. At around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 26, 1937, Nazi Germany’s Condor Legion warplanes bombed Guernica for about two hours under the command of Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen.

The destruction inspired the iconic Spanish painter Pablo Picasso to create a large oil painting on canvas, now considered the most poignant and powerful anti-war painting in history.

Eighty-five years later, the symbology behind Picasso’s Guernica has resurfaced, this time using a destroyed bridge in Ukraine as a canvas.

It is the work of Mexican-American artist Roberto Marquez, who created a remarkable mural on the destroyed bridge in the town of Irpin, 12 miles from Kyiv, in commemoration of the refugees who fled to safety since the unprovoked Russian invasion began.

Born in Mexico City in 1959, Roberto Márquez moved with his family to Guadalajara in 1972, where he studied sculpture at the University’s Escuela de Artes Plásticas.

Marquez also trained in poetry and architecture, and since 1982, his work has been exhibited in Mexico, the United States, South America, South Korea, Europe, and Australia.

In 1985, the artist moved to the United States. After living for a time in Phoenix, Arizona, Márquez has lived in New York since 1990.

As reported by the Milwaukee Independent, Marquez traveled to Ukraine in response to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s appeal for international support. The artist painted what he saw while visiting several cities in the war-torn country.

Marquez wore an ammunition belt across his chest when he arrived in Ukraine. But instead of being loaded with bullets, he carried paintbrushes. He said he would use art to defeat the Russians.

“After President Zelenskyy said his country needed support, I decided to come here. Brushes are weapons too, and I hope to raise awareness with the paintings I make,” said Marquez. “Through my paintings, I want to show the world the true face of the war in Ukraine. My artworks demonstrate opposition to the war and protest the killings of people.”

As did Picasso’s piece, Marquez’s mural portrays the massacres carried out by Russia in the cities of Bucha and Irpin. In the best style of the painter from Malaga, the cubist faces show the fear, exhaustion, and atrocities of which human beings are capable.