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José Antonio Pantoja Hernández was born in Cuba in 1971. As artist who grew up in the Mayabeque Province of Cuba, in the city of Bejucal, "Pantoja" received apprenticeships as a carpenter and woodworker using antiquated tools. As his interests turned to painting and sculpting, he sought visual inspiration from a small collection of art books that showcased mainly works from Masters.By 2002, Pantoja paintings began to depicted everyday life in Cuba. As a member of a state-sponsored art collective, Pantoja was eventually able to exhibit his works on the streets of the Havana promenade, "El Paseo Del Prado.” There, he would often only display one or two paintings a week, selling them to tourists. Over time, his work became more surreal and somber. Eventually, he began to paint what he calls "the errors of the Revolution." The director of the Queretaro City Museum in Mexico learned about Pantoja's work in 2011 and sent him an invitation to display his work in the museum. Pantoja was able to parlay that invitation into a special pass to leave Cuba. He said goodbye to his friends and family and boarded a plane to Mexico with eight paintings. When he landed in Mexico City in June of 2011, he decided not to exhibit his work and instead took a bus to border town of Nuevo Laredo. There, he crossed into U.S. border and asked for political asylum. The story of his defection was chronicled in August 2011 issue of This Land press, today Pantoja lives and paints in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  


Pantoja started painting to protest the government. He painted a series to represent the dire situation of the people in Cuba. He chose to paint surrealistically because "speaking out loud would put you in jail in 1994,"  

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