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Early Edition

Picasso Ancestors Alive And Well in Cuba

Aired December 28, 2000 - 8:28 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: A little known link to expressionist painter Pablo Picasso is alive and well in an unlikely place. Actually, they are alive and well.

Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman introduces the "black Picassos."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LUCIA NEWMAN, HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Eighty-seven- year-old Delia Picasso spent her whole life not giving a second thought to her last name. Neither did her nieces.

ELVIRA GUILLERMINA PICASSO (through translator): When I told people my name, they would ask jokingly, are you a relative of the famous painter? And I would answer back, yes, as a joke, of course.

NEWMAN: But it was no joke. As they discovered three years ago, Francisco Picasso, the painter's grandfather, abandoned Malaga, Spain and his family in 1864 and sailed to Cien Fuegos, Cuba. There he met a free black woman, Christina Serra, with whom he had four children. Although Delia is Pablo Picasso's first cousin, she never heard about her Spanish ancestors while growing up.

DELIA PICASSO (through translator): Our ancestors were very poor. And in those days, they had no means. They simply brought us as best they could.

NEWMAN: Delia's nephew, Ramon Picasso, a radiologist in Cuba's largest pediatric hospital, believes the information about their Spanish heritage was kept quiet because of racial taboos.

RAMON PICASSO (through translator): Back in those days, the union of a black woman with a white man during the conflict between Cuba and Spain, while it was very unusual, very complicated.

NEWMAN: It was only while trying to fill in the missing gaps of the painter's history that the Pablo Picasso Foundation was able to track down his Cuban relatives. Today, the black Picassos, as they call themselves, are thrilled about the discovery of their connection with the artist whose name from a clipping, cousin Luis Picasso, has kept for years in his wallet, simply because he found the coincidence of the spelling amusing.

LUIS PICASSO (through translator): For me, it's very satisfying to discover this kind of family relationship, until now unknown.

NEWMAN: Ramon, the only family member to visit Spain, says Pablo Picasso knew of his Cuban connection and tried to establish contact, but never could.

Only one of the 30 black Picassos has shown any interest in art.

R. PICASSO (through translator): Genius can't be reproduced genetically. A genius is a genius. And that's what Pablo was.

NEWMAN: A genius of whom they can now be proud to say they are related.

Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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