It all began on a Thursday in December 2015 when artist Santiago Hermes had the opportunity to work, from the premises of his gallery, with Celestial Crystal cruisers and Al and Chuck Travel travel agency, which transported the LGBT community of the United States to Cuba.
Edward Sotomayor was the national manager of Legendary Journeys and Al and Chuck Travel companies, and an admirer of the Trazos Libres (Free Strokes) project. Al Ferguson - one of the main architects of bringing the American LGBT community to the Island - and Eddie identified with the work of Hermes and returned several times.
Far was James Hermes to know about the events that put paid to the lives of forty-nine young people at the Pulse bar in Orlando, on June 12, 2016. Among the victims was Edward Sotomayor.
"His murder shocked us all. Mary Cid, my coordinator, and I were invited to her memorial: an impressive act of homage and testimony to Eddie’s short but intense life, considered a beloved leader in his community and company."
Santiago and Mary moved to the city of St. Petersburg to participate in the Sailing Parade. "Our participation in the LGBT Sailing Parade, attended by about 250,000 people portraying the deceased in the tragedy, the presence of the English hat that Eddie used to wear occasionally, inspired me to create a graphic testimony in the work Top Hat Eddie, a piece live made that provided the title for my 2017 series," he said.
Santiago Hermes began a tour of the United States to promote the Top Hat exhibition. Tampa was the first destination of the tour. The works of Top Hat are inspired by the relationship of Santiago Hermes with LGBT communities as vulnerable populations and in the memory of his friend. Hermes wanted to reciprocate Eddie's admiration for that plural, interactive, communitarian and inclusive space that Free Strokes represents.