Guest Author - Linda Sue Grimes
Suppose you had had the misfortune of living under a brutal dictatorship, you had been imprisoned, you had seen your relatives murdered, and you had been tortured while imprisoned. But you were one of the lucky ones and somehow managed to escape the firing squad.
How do you think you might feel if after years of making a life for yourself and your family in a different country where you were allowed to work and prosper, you begin to notice people on the street, especially adolescents, wearing shirts with the image of one of the dictatorship’s henchmen, a man whom you witnessed in the act of murdering your own relatives.
Reactions to “Cultural Icon Guevara”
Here is how Armando Alvarez feels: "There is something wrong with a society in which people wear shirts with the image of someone who preached hatred and enjoyed killing."
And here is how Carlos Barberia feels: The 73-year-old is waiting for a bus in New Jersey, and he spots one of the T-shirts on a sidewalk newsstand rack. He buys the shirt and sets it ablaze along with a newspaper. To the police officer who appears to assess the situation, Barberia explains, “Ché Guevara killed my father. He had my father shot by a firing squad in Cuba.” The officer seemed to understand Barberia’s protest and did not cite him.
Cuba-Americans who experienced first hand the brutality of the Castro-Guevara take-over of Cuba in the late 1950s are appalled at the ignorance displayed in the recent commercialization of the image of Ernesto “Ché” Guevara. They liken wearing a Ché T-shirt to wearing a Hitler T-shirt or a mug-shot of the Grand Dragon of the KKK.
Ignorance of Politics and History
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, depending how one looks at it, it is simple ignorance of history and the meaning of events that accounts for the sanitizing of the biography of Ernesto Guevara. Young rebels identify the rebelliousness of Ché. They fancy themselves revolting against the angst of their troubled adolescent lives as the great Ché revolted against, well, whatever it was he revolted against. Most of the adolescents do not know and do not care to find out. But still there are many who think they know and yet are languishing under the romanticized versions of movies and far-left ideologues who embrace this handsome rebel, thinking they are supporting a noble cause.
Actually, Ché Guevara did not leave any real accomplishments. As head of La Cabaña, a Cuban prison, he presided over the execution of hundreds of Cubans, not only counterrevolutionaries but also journalists, businessmen, and homosexuals. He took pleasure in shooting many of the victims in the back of the head himself but mostly sat back and enjoyed watching his firing squad do its job.
Destroyed Cuban’s Economy
As head of National Bank of Cuba and of the Department of Industry of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform Guevara’s policies resulted in near collapse of the Cuban economy: According to his deputy, Ernesto Betancourt: “[He] was ignorant of the most elementary economic principles.”
Castro’s second in command became an embarrassment because of his incompetence. Much is made of Guevara being a physician, having earned his doctorate in medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, but there apparently in no record that he completed medical studies.
Political Philosophy of a Crushed Revolutionary
After his failed tenure in Cuban government, Guevara decided his real calling was in being a revolutionary. So he traveled to Africa to organize revolts but every one of his insurrections was crushed. Finally, he headed to Bolivia, where he tried to organize land-owners to revolt. But the land-owners who had actually prospered under their government were not interested in revolution. Badly misjudging the political climate in Bolivia, Guevara paid with his life.
The political philosophy of Ernesto Guevara is antithetical to the merchandizing of the Ché mug-shots plastered on T-shirts, caps, key-rings, etc. And most of the people who proudly wear and display that mug-shot are of the very ilk that met Ché’s bullets with their heads.
For example, Carlos Santana proudly displayed his Ché T-shirt at the 2005 Academy Awards. The irony is that people—“roqueros”— who tried to listen to rock music in Cuba during the early sixties ended up in the concentration camps for “delinquents.”
The Cult of Ché
The Killing Machine