In-Sight: The Artists and Writers of San Quentin Prison – Daniel Cervantes (#A-P0232)

What it Was

Founded in 2015 by London-based artist Nicola White, Art Reach is a charity which gives purpose and hope to death row inmates in the US, providing art materials, regular meaningful contact, and the opportunity to exhibit their work here in the UK. To support the valuable work that Nicola is doing to support some of America’s most ostracised citizens, and to recognise the human rights of death row inmates in the US and beyond, we will be dedicating the next few weeks to the artwork and writing of the men she supports at San Quentin Prison, California.


Daniel Cervantes
Daniel Cervantes was sentenced to death in 2013.

My name is Daniel Cervantes. I’m a 38 year old Mexican national on death row in San Quentin, just living one day at a time trying to cope with what’s on my shoulders. Well I was a father, big brother and son but due to this situation I lost it all. And regardless I try to stay positive how I have always been and not let me my poor choices or mistakes affect who I really am and just continue with my life.

The inspiration for my art depends on the moment. I am always thinking of my past and what I had and just having my kids in mind drives me to drawing certain things. And the reason why I find art and creativity important is because it helps to release the stress and to have a peaceful mind enabling me to cope with things in a better way and to expand the mind.

The style of my art is a little bit of everything. I like to mix it up and not just focus on one style. Below I have explained the meanings to my pieces of art.

What it Was – This piece of art tells a short story of myself and where I come from starting at the bottom (1903) is the year my State, where I was born founded on its name (Mexicali, Mexico.) To the left of me I have our eagle devouring the snake which Mexico has on our flag, and behind it a fence of this prison I am in. Moving up, there are three beautiful roses representing my three daughters that I left out there in the world, and over me our Virgin Mary watching over me throughout my life. As a born Catholic I was told she would always be watching over me no matter where I’m at or what circumstance I am in. Next to her on the corner, the centre of our Aztec sun symbolising my roots and heritage. Going down from that flames and a female demon trying to whisper into my ear and always trying to to put bad things into me and separating me from who I was and had. The skull she is over is death to where I’m heading after all my process is over with. The Aztec snakes in colour around are trying to keep me all in one piece not letting me fall apart. So this is “What it Was” – me and my past…

Wild Beauty – This vase with flowers was inspired by one of my daughters because she used to come all the time with wild flowers putting them together to decorate either our kitchen or living room.

Beauty Encaged – The Rose in a cage is the meaning of being deprived from liberty or freedom. No matter how one is caged up, or the kind of cage one can be in, there is always a beautiful soul caught inside.

Be sure to pop along to THE ART OF TRANSFORMATION: Redemption versus Death at the Old Deptford Cinema before the end of April to witness in full effect the many talents of San Quentin’s death row artists.


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Tickled Inc. joins together a unique pool of writers and artists from diverse backgrounds, bringing into focus through their work and personal experiences the issues that affect us in the contemporary world.