Originally Published by María R. Estorino in March 2002
By 1940, the Cuban author Enrique Labrador Ruiz had already published his first three novels, El laberinto de sí mismo (1933), Cresival (1936) and Anteo (Novela gaseiforme) (1940). With this trilogy, Labrador Ruiz developed his fragmentary and fantastical style of writing which he called gaseiforme. His works had also appeared in various magazines, including Mundial, Chic, Noticias, Sábado, Social, Bohemia, and Habana. Labrador Ruiz’s literary career was taking off, and he was establishing himself as an important author and essayist. It was during this time that he sat for one of Cuba’s most important caricaturists, Juan David, and the result is the drawing included here.
Juan David (Juan Eduardo David Posada) was born in Sitiecito, Cuba, on April 25, 1911. After spending his early years with his mother in Asturias, Spain, Juan David returned to Cuba in 1919. He attended school in Cienfuegos until his family’s financial situation required that he get a job. Working in various trades, including a fur shop and a clothing store, David began studying art with Adolfo Meana and showed a talent for caricatures. With Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, Raúl Aparicio, and Rafael Viego, David formed Ariel, a political and cultural group that opposed the regime of President Gerardo Machado. Due to his political activities, he was fired from his job with the electric company and was arrested several times.
In 1931, Juan David displayed his artwork for the first time at a photography shop, La Moderna, in Santa Clara. The exhibition included thirty caricatures that demonstrated the strong influence of Salvadoran caricaturist Toño Salazar on David’s work. His anti-Machado activities soon forced him to leave Santa Clara for Havana in 1935, where he worked with such magazines as Isla, Resumen, Mediodía, Social, Patria, Grafos, and Bohemia and continued to exhibit his work.
For his caricatures of individuals, Juan David earned first-place prizes from the Salón de Humoristas of Cuba eight times from 1939 to 1953 and received many other awards for his work. Through the 1950s and 1960s, David continued to publish his caricatures, primarily in Bohemia and Cuba internacional.
Enrique Labrador Ruiz and Juan David remained friends for many years until Labrador Ruiz’s departure from Cuba in 1976. Juan David was honored in Cuba with several exhibitions and events in 1981 on the occasion of his 70th birthday. He died on August 8 of that year. Labrador Ruiz settled in Miami, where he lived until his death in 1991.
Two awards today honor these important Cuban figures. In Cuba, the Salón Nacional de Caricatura Personal ‘Juan David’ awards several prizes for the best caricatures of individuals, and the international Círculo de Cultural Panamericano each year confers the Premio Internacional de Cuentos Enrique Labrador Ruiz for short stories.
This drawing of Enrique Labrador Ruiz by Juan David forms part of the Enrique Labrador Ruiz Collection of the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) of the University of Miami Libraries. This collection was donated to the CHC by the wife of Labrador Ruiz, María “Cheché” Labrador, in 1992. Along with this drawing, the collection contains the manuscripts of Labrador Ruiz’s writings in exile, selected correspondence, and several photographs as well as clippings and awards and recognitions.
For more information about this collection, view the finding aid.
Drawing: CHC0111, Box 9, Folder 472. Enrique Labrador Ruiz Collection, Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida.