The Miami Herald
April 18, 1999
Art revisits Bay of Pigs
Exhibit interprets loaded historical event

Herald Art Critic

The pig is party pink, fat enough for a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but
it's not pleased. As a 30-foot high helium-filled cartoonish balloon, this pig
scowls and stares out the huge open doors of an aging Coconut Grove hangar.

A rosy blob silhouetted against a navy blue Miami dusk, the corpulent creature
created an arresting focal point during Friday night's private opening for
monumento, a thoughtful installation by South Florida artist George Sanchez,
which pays homage to the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.

It's a pig that's not only arresting but arrested. Tethered to a white platform, it
bobs in the humid breeze, a symbol, the artist says ``of a parade going
nowhere,'' of a valiant but stalled exploit to wrest Cuba from Fidel Castro's
control, undermined by a lack of consistent support from the U.S. government.

Not your standard bronze monument of heroic proportions, the plastic pig of
monumento  and its surrounding fleet of more than 70 plastic model airplanes
are ephemeral reminders of an event that cast a long shadow over South
Florida's Cuban community.

The fragile, transitory materials of this work are a way of acknowledging not
only the legacy of that failed invasion, but the fact that, says Sanchez: ``Every
year that the anniversary of this event passes by it seems less important. I think
the younger generation of Cuban Americans are aware of it, but they don't
know the intricacies of the invasion.''

Of the surviving veterans, members of Brigade 2506, he says: ``These guys to
me are heroes. I wanted to remember them artistically.''

His remembrance is an ambitious project. It's full of forlorn heroism, from the
dusty glass cases of toy airplanes and their cardboard boxes, to a series of
grainy news photos, to the melancholy strains of slow 1940s and 1950s
Cuban dance music that South Florida musicians, headed by bass player Luis
Serrano, played during Friday's reception.

Parked in one corner of the hangar is a dank, dirty trailer, similar to the one in
which nine imprisoned Brigade members were suffocated. Their photos are
awkwardly mounted inside. Dangling from the rafters of this historic hangar --
once the site of seaplane flights to Havana and the place where captured Bay
of Pigs veterans returned after spending months in Cuban jails -- are eight
model B-26 bombers.

They represent, says Sanchez, the planes the U.S. government had available
but did not send during critical early hours of the attack.

As an artistic statement, monumento is admirable for the way it engages with a
loaded, local historical event, but it could have a more dynamic visual

Its similarity to a vaguely documented, haphazard diorama is both a strength
and weakness.

Sanchez's work conveys a sense of sad neglect, but doesn't always evoke the
complex and layered tensions of this event.

                     Copyright 1999 Miami Herald