Unique poster art from OSPAAAL that thrived thanks to the Cuban revolution

To most people Cuba is famous for cigars, rum, salsa and baseball. However, perhaps lesser known is the unique poster art that flourished thanks to the Cuban revolution.

As Fidel Castro’s regime set about building a new society, Cuba’s most talented artists played a crucial role in communicating its socialist objectives, ideology and political activities.

In contrast to the socialist realism of Russian or Chinese propaganda, Castro – who notably declared “our enemy is imperialism, not abstract art” – determined that the style of the revolution would be internationalist, yet steeped in Cuba’s rich cultural, ethnic and artistic heritage. This melting pot of influences, combined with a characteristic wit and exuberance, resulted in a vibrant and highly original Cuban style.

Amongst several agencies established to promote education, industry, sport and the arts, the Organisation in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAAL) was created to reflect the efforts of the Cuban government in providing moral, material and military assistance throughout the developing world. Based in Havana the organisation’s quarterly magazine, Tricontinental (which at its peak was distributed in four languages to 87 countries) served as a notice board, guidebook and lifestyle magazine for various liberation movements seeking to emulate Castro’s popular revolution. Many issues included a folded poster pledging solidarity for what would become one of the most significant events in the Cold War era.

This selection offers a glimpse of posters OSPAAAL produced between 1967 and 1992. Politics aside, they represent an artistic legacy that has put Cuba at the centre of cultural activity in the Hispanic world for a generation.

Michael Tyler



More from CR

The hardest client to client

Designers are their own worst clients. But working for yourself isn’t really about the end result, it’s the experience that matters

New arrivals at Woodland Park Zoo

Children’s book illustrator Ashley Barron worked with Jullian Ablaza of Toronto-based animation and design studio Crush to create a whole range of animals for a new ad for Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle

Fontsmith’s FS Emeric launch campaign

London type design studio Fontsmith has launched its latest font family, FS Emeric, with a specimen book designed by Blair Thomson of Believe in – plus a set of type posters designed by eleven top studios…

What is the future of type?

“There will always be type, and as long as designers like difference, there will always be unusual typefaces for eccentric applications.” So believes designer and author Steven Heller, but what do you think the future holds for type?

Graphic Designer

Fushi Wellbeing

Creative Designer

Monddi Design Agency