Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara

Activist Type

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, an art activist and champion of freedom of expression. As a leading figure of Cuba’s San Isidro protest movement, he stood alongside artists and intellectuals demanding greater freedoms amidst anti-government protests last summer. Co-author of the viral anthem "Patria y Vida," nominated for "Best Song of the Year" at the Latin Grammy Awards, Luis was recognized as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2021. However, his activism led to his unjust arrest on his way to a Havana demonstration in July 2021, followed by transfer to a maximum-security prison without due process. His situation mirrors that of countless other Cubans still imprisoned or facing judicial proceedings for their involvement in the demonstrations. Despite the challenges, Luis persists, staging a hunger strike to protest his incarceration and ongoing repression against artists in Cuba. Alcántara was one of six recipients of the 2022 Claus Impact Award for his performances that address the critical conditions that Cuban citizens are facing.

Artwork by
Johnny Selman

The portrait of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is inspired by the work of Amelia Peláez del Casal, an important Cuban painter of the Avant-garde generation. Her thick lines and vibrant colors diverged from the traditional Cuban art of her time. I found it a fitting style for the portraiture because of her departure from convention. 

The Cuban flag is draped over Luis Manuel’s shoulders and represents the performance that led to his arrest. Still in prison today, the remaining members of the San Isidro Movement called for Cubans to post pictures of themselves wearing a Cuban flag on their shoulders, and to post them with the hashtag "#LaBanderaEsDeTodos". The pink feathers represent the tangible impact on Cuban freedom of expression with his performance art, famously dressing up as Tropicana Mulata. 

In a recent letter to Amnesty International he said:
“I feel privileged because during the horrible nights of prison, sadness, and frustration, in the presence of so much injustice, I hold on to my brushes and colours, convincing myself that, in the face of magic, love, beauty and truth, darkness will not be eternal.”


Cuba Flag
October 10, 1868
Filter By
Sort By