and sensibility. Once again commerce has
met culture, and once again the clash has sent sparks flying. A
striking sign in bright colors stands at the entrance to the
Palindrome coffee bar at 131 Steuart. Owner Stan Kurz acknowledges
that he was originally hesitant to use the slogan that accompanies
the painting, fearing it might be misinterpreted. It has turned out,
however, that during the entire six years of the sign’s existence,
only one "gentleman of partial Basque descent" objected.
The sign is due for a refurbishing by its creators, Back to the
Drawing Board, and a new slogan: "Serious Coffee on Steuart
Street." Better, but still perhaps not quite right. Too bad.
The coffee is excellent.
Here’s a note from the "gentleman":
In February of 1999, as I strolled along Steuart
Street just south of Mission street, I saw a brightly colored
signboard on the sidewalk. I instantly recognized that the two
figures on the sign had been derived from Pablo Picasso’s
monumental painting entitled "Guernica."
I felt deeply offended that elements from Picasso’s
"Guernica" had been "borrowed" for commercial
purposes: to sell coffee. To me, this painting is an allegory of the
horrors of war in general, and specifically of the bombing of a
small but culturally and historically important Basque town by Nazi
To use the figures from Picasso’s "Guernica"
in this way was, I felt, bad enough. But to make light of the
bombing and machine-gunning of unarmed civilians with the phrase
"Cappuchino To Die For" struck me as blatant historical
ignorance and cultural insensitivity of enormous proportions.
The Nazis, very likely with Francisco Franco’s
permission, took advantage of innocent and unarmed men, women, and
children to test their new incendiary bombs, machineguns and
One year later the signboard is still there. I
stopped by in April or May of this year and had a lengthy chat with
Mr. Kurz while I sketched the sign in detail — he kept insisting
that his signboard manifested no offense or insult toward anyone —
and at one point told me that I was being overly sensitive. I
replied that in matters cultural the world needs more sensitivity,
and not less.
I’m not culturally Basque, but I have Basque
antecedents from Northern Mexico (Nueva Vizcaya), and out of love
and respect for these historically notable Sonorans and Chichuahuans
who are my family — and for the high regard I accord to that
ancient and proud Basque culture — I cannot stand quietly in the
face of this issue. When my grandparents came to this country in
1914 to avoid the revolution — and also avoid possible
assassination by General Huerta’s minions — my grandfather
changed his name to Fierro, in order to protect his life.
Therefore, in this instance, I sign with his more
Antonio Perales de Hierro