Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

September 8, 2010

Tomas Rafael Rodriguez Zayas, 1949-2010


The Cuban cartoonist Tomas Rafael Rodriguez Zayas, better known by the pseudonym Tomy, has passed away, according to Cuban journalist and on-line Cuban news portal editor M.H. Lagarde. The cause of death was complications from heat disease. This article suggests he may have died on September 6. His birth date suggests Tomy was 61 years old, although his age at passing has been reported as 60.

imageTomy was born in 1949 in Barajagua, in the northeastern province of Holguin, and never stopped presenting himself to colleagues and friends in part as a kind of enthusiastic, unaffected country peasant engaging the wider world. He was a self-taught artist, and studied agronomy in school. He joined the Cuban press as a cartoonist in 1968, and soon became one of his country's most lauded and loved humorists. He was published widely in national and international magazines. He was a member of the Cuban Writers and Artists Association (UNEAC), and the Cuban Journalists Association (UPEC). He was president of the Cuban Humorists Association and directed the humor supplement of the Juventud Rebelde newspaper, Dedete, through which he made his name as an artist during a recognized "golden period" for the publication.

Tomy's work was widely exhibited, not just in Cuba and not just in conjunction with other cartoonists in Cuba's rich cartooning community but in solo shows as far aways as Angola, Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia, France, Nicaragua, Korea, Turkey and Venezuela. A major exhibition of his work in 1980 in Havana solidified his already lofty reputation in his country, while a 1996 exhibition curated by the cartoonist traveled across Cuba. He was a presence from the mid-1970s on at Cuba's humor biennial, and his work was included in important international shows in Mexico (1993) and Brazil (2001).

He won the Juan Gualberto Gomez National Journalism Award and the Felix Elmuza Order from UPEC. His first major prize may have been a second-place showing for General Humor at the Humor Salon in Havana in 1970. He also won major prizes in Brazil (1999) and Spain (2000).

In later years, Tomy pursued opportunities in other art forms: design, painting, mural-making. In the 1990s, he illustrated news articles as well as working in humor and in caricature. In the new century Tomy became the cartoon editor for the Cubasi news portal and contributed to the Cambios en Cuba blog, keeping both avenues for work open right until the recent diagnosis of his heart condition.

Tomy was buried in the town of his birth. One of the reminiscences mentions that the artist was married at one point, although no survivors are listed.

A testimonial video can be found here.

click through the top cartoon for a post that translates it

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