Jose Maria Mijares

Capricornio, 1979

Jose Maria Mijares, La Habana, 1921. "I had relatives who were in the theater, but no one really pressed me to be an artist. The sacrifices were too great; my mother helped me even though we were poor. Neither poverty nor wealth determine s anything in life; if you have something to say, you will say it, regardless of the circumstances. Others endured more hardships. A scholarship allowed me to study at San Alejandro; it amounted to nineteen pesos and seventy cents a month, which seemed li ke a fortune at the time. I was lucky to befriend Fidelio Ponce, for he taught me how to restore old photographs, and with the money I earned I supplemented the scholarship. Ponce, with his forms and his drawing technique, was my first influence. He, Carl os Enriquez, Rene Portocarrero, Cundo Bermudez and others from the generation that preceded mine became known as the Havana School (Escuela de La Habana). It had its limitations, but plenty of dignity. I was part of all that activity; it was daring to be a painter, because only the middle class and some professionals bought art in those days. A work could be acquired for twenty or thirty pesos. The literary journal Origenes promoted many artists by featuring at least one in each issue. This was the period Cuban culture gained prestige; my generation emerged from it. I come to New York in 1950, after having won the First National Prize in Painting and Sculpture. Abstractionism was at its best, and de Kooning impressed me greatly. I did not leave Cuba again until 1968. Lack of freedom is what makes the system unbearable. There is no dictatorship of the proletariat, but of the police state. Some people con stand it; I would die. Exile hasn't affected me, because in my subconscious there is an inner landscape which is Cuba. Since I was exiled at an older age. that landscape cannote be erased."