Anger Meets Art: How a Cuban Immigrant Dreamed Up Der Spiegel’s Shocking Trump Cover

Our chat with illustrator Edel Rodriguez at ADC judging

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda—Edel Rodriguez was just a kid when he fled Cuba and came to the U.S. as a refugee in the 1980s. So, it’s not too surprising how he reacted to President Trump’s proposed travel ban, intended to limit immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries.

“I started seeing little kids that were divided from their families, or traveling alone, or stuck at the airport,” Rodriguez told Adweek at judging for the ADC Annual Awards here in Bermuda this week.

“There was a story about a Muslim grandmother who was coming to the United States for an operation, and she couldn’t get into the country. It got me very angry because I was an immigrant myself when I was 9 years old. And I remember that idea of separating from your family, as a boy, how difficult that could have been.”

Rodriguez, who came to Bermuda to help judge the ADC’s Design competition, channeled his anger at Trump into his artwork. He began working on sketches showing Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty. He posted one of them online, and about a week later, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine called, wanting the image. It soon became the now-famous, incendiary Der Spiegel cover.

Rodriguez’s work was already well known. He had previously illustrated the Trump “Meltdown” and “Total Meltdown” covers for Time magazine during the 2016 election. He told Adweek that the Der Spiegel cover, with its stark imagery evoking ISIS’s history of beheading prisoners, was indeed meant to depict Trump as a kind of terrorist.

“Terrorism can be defined in many ways,” he says. “To me, it’s when you terrorize people, when you make their lives miserable. I felt [Trump’s travel ban] was a form of terrorism. … This idea that he was terrorizing democracy, or terrorizing the idea of what the Statue of Liberty symbolizes, popped into my head. And I went ahead and made the image.”

Hear more from Rodriguez in the video above. And see some of his photos from ADC judging below.

The ADC 96th Annual Awards will be held May 8 in New York.

judging for the final Gold, Silver, and Bronze Cube awards, viewing large format posters #adcglobal

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