December 28, 2000

Cuban Picassos savor newfound link to Pablo

Francisco Picasso
Delia Picasso

                  By Lucia Newman
                  CNN Havana Bureau Chief

                  HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Delia Picasso and her relatives used to joke about their
                  last name, but no more.

                  "When I told people my name, they would ask jokingly, 'Are you a relative
                  of the famous painter?'" Elvira Guillermina Picasso said. "And I would
                  answer back, 'Yes,' ... as a joke, of course."

                  From now on, it's no joke.

                  Three years ago, while trying to fill gaps in the Spanish painter's life history, the Pablo Picasso
                  Foundation tracked down his Cuban relatives.

                  According to the foundation, Pablo Picasso's grandfather, Francisco, sailed to Cienfuegos,
                  Cuba, in 1864, abandoning a family in Malaga, Spain, that would produce the renowned Cubist
                  painter and sculptor.

                  There he met a free black woman, Cristina Serra, with whom he had four children.

                  Although Delia is first cousin to Pablo Picasso, who was born in 1881 and died
                  in 1973, she never heard about her Spanish ancestors while growing up.

                  "Our ancestors were very poor, and in those days they had no means," she
                  said. "They simply brought us up as best they could."

                  Racial taboos

                  Delia's nephew, Ramon Picasso, a radiologist in Cuba's largest pediatric hospital,
                  believes racial taboos have kept quiet information about their Spanish heritage.

                  "Back in those days, the union of a black woman with a white man during the
                  conflict between Cuba and Spain, ... well, it was very unusual, very
                  complicated," he said.

                  Today, the "Black Picassos," as they call themselves, are thrilled about their
                  connection to the artist.

                  Even before hearing the news, Luis Picasso, another of the artist's Cuban
                  cousins, kept a clipping printed with the name "Picasso" in his wallet. He found
                  the coincidence in their last names amusing, he said.

                  "For me, its very satisfying to discover this kind of family relationship," Luis
                  Picasso said.

                  Ramon Picasso, the only family member to visit Spain, says Pablo Picasso knew
                  about his Cuban relatives and unsuccessfully tried to contact them.

                  Despite their famous bloodline, only one of the 30 Cuban Picassos has shown
                  any interest in art.

                  "Genius can't be reproduced genetically," Ramon Picasso said. "A genius is a
                  genius, and that's what Pablo was."