I have even had the pleasure of being his student , the only one he felt he has established a “master-student” relationship with, he confessed to me recently. From him I learned just what you could do from black and white analogue photography techniques in a couple of years spent with the artist, between 1992-1995, when Peña had just returned from Britain, after a stay in Bristol and London. And I was a poet with curatorial pretensions, with both fields (poet and curator) falling short for me in Cuban society during the “Special Period” with its great shortcomings, and artistic creation began to look like a more possible option to escape abroad. And in fact that was what happened. I left Cuba as an “artist,” thanks to René’s teachings.
 Three decades before the famous “Anthropocene” concept came to the fore, Peña was already talking about the fact that everything around us as city-dwellers is a “man-made material”, and that the incense of the 20th century was asphalt, not concrete.
 Gerardo Mosquera had curated Cambio de Foco (Change of Focus), dedicated to Latin American photography, an exhibition that toured for several years in the early 1990s. FotoFest (Houston) had dedicated an edition of the festival to Latin America with Cuba as the guest country, and Alejandro Castellote had focused together with J.A.Molina on Photography made in the Americas, whose work was exhibited in Spain and on the other side of the Atlantic. So there was undeniably a minor boom for image on our continent, parallel to the global one, until the early years of the new millennium.
 That denigrating, racist nickname that in 20th century Cuba was used to refer to people with very dark skin, whose genetics had not mixed with whites or Asians (the latter being the perfect mix to my mind).
 Something he already did in his early, successful, sold-out series: El cocinero, el ladrón, su mujer y su amante (The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover), in tribute to Greenaway, newcomer from Britain in the nineties, in which he coloured his black and white photographs in sepia and blue tones, his first approach to Neo-Pop.
 Brave like few others, when he had the opportunity to put on his first individual exhibition in the prestigious Wifredo Lam Centre, the home of the Havana Biennial, Peña preferred to exhibit a set of photographs in which he explored our fetishisation of objects. Under the title Fetiches, René performed a “surrounding archaeology of his life experience,” eliminating himself from the equation as the centre of the story. Retreating to the task of mere observer, thief of icons, even though they were inanimate icons.
 As if he were telling us, “We are not these objects that we have and surround us, we are what we do with them.”