By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
WESTBOROUGH – Stephen Lewis was walking around Havana one day when he walked past a house whose doors to the foyer were open. Lewis saw two posters — one featured Che Guevara and the other Fidel Castro.
He was looking at them when a woman came out and saw him. She pointed to them, and Lewis gave a thumbs up that he was looking at the posters.
The woman carefully removed the posters and handed them to Lewis.
“Keeping in mind that this was early in the revolution, and…Che and Fidel were gods to them, this was a big thing for her to give up…these two posters,” Lewis said. “But she gave them to me and I thought that was really nice of her.”
Lewis still has those posters. Now, though, they’re part of his larger collection of Cuban posters.
The posters from Lewis’ collection are on display in a special exhibit at the Westborough Public Library that started on Oct. 4 and that will remain open through Saturday, Oct. 30.
Lewis, who is a retired union leader, said he began collecting the posters by accident.
He was attending an international union conference in Moscow in 1990. People came to the conference from all over the world, bringing posters from their unions, organizations or countries.
“The posters really attracted me,” Lewis said.
He returned home with a number of posters and stored them in his attic.
Lewis then kept collecting posters.
Lewis said a lot of their posters depict the struggles going on in their countries.
Their messages are in multiple languages, “so it would be more open to people in other countries that didn’t necessarily speak English or Spanish,” Lewis said.
He realized, though, that no one was seeing the posters while they were in his attic.
So, Lewis identified libraries that might exhibit the posters. He framed them, gathered materials and made schedules for those libraries.
“The posters are either posters that were created in Cuba by various organizations or they were posters from other countries about Cuba,” Lewis said.
Some of them feature figures like Guevara — one of which has the slogan “Chénge the World” above a picture of Guevara.
Lewis estimates that he has about 9,200 posters in his overall collection. He said there are about 125 in this specific collection.
Lewis’ posters have been displayed all over the state, including recently at the Boyden Library in Foxborough. They’ve previously been showcased in Westborough.
One of the posters now on display in the Westborough exhibit comments specifically on current events.
“Time to end the blockade, Joe,” it says in reference to President Joe Biden.
The Obama administration loosened longstanding restrictions on traveling to Cuba before the Trump administration reimposed a number of restrictions. In July, Biden announced new sanctions.
Around the time Biden announced his new restrictions, Lewis reached out to a friend who was able to get posters himself.
“I emailed him and said, ‘Please, please mail me that poster immediately’ because I knew I was going to be doing this exhibit in a few days in Foxborough,” Lewis said.
Sure enough, the poster arrived in time.
Lewis’ current exhibit continues at the Westborough Public Library, located at 55 West Main St. in town. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.