Che: Until Defeat Always

by  and translated by Alex Higson  /  September 30, 2013  / No comments

From luxury cars to mobile phones, Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s face has been used to sell it all.

Che and Mercedes

Photo: Courtesy of Orlando Luis Pardo. © Daimler AG.

Gay Che Festa Cubana

Controversial poster for Cuban Gay Festival in Barcelona. Photo: Courtesy of Orlando Luis Pardo.

At the beginning of 2010, to promote an LGBT party/fundraiser in Barcelona, a designer digitally dressed Ernesto Guevara up as a gay Che, despite the fact that Ernesto “Che” Guevara was a radical, misogynist homophobe. In reaction to the scandalous image, Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President-General Raúl Castro, and the woman with a monopoly on the Cuban LGBT movement as Director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), decried the “degrading use of Che’s image” and hurried to cut all ties with Col·lectiu Gai, the organization behind the Cuban gay festival.

Two years later, Mercedes Benz placed its logo on the beret that Che famously wore as a commander and minister of Cuba. As protests from the Cuban diaspora started mounting against the usage—especially from big customers in the United States—Mercedes’ directors were forced to make a public apology and to close down the CarTogether publicity campaign.

  1. Is it worth-while to focus on the last images and letters coming from the inside of the last living utopia on Earth? Is Cuba by now a contemporary country or just another old-fashioned delusion in the middle of Nowhere-America? A Cold-War Northtalgia maybe? Can we expect a young within that Ancien Régime still known as The Revolution? I would like to provoke more questions than answers.
  2. Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was born in Havana City and still resides and resists there, working as a free-lance writer, photographer and blogger. He is the author of Boring Home (2009) and is the editor of the independent opinion and literary e-zine Voces.

Most recently Richard Branson, Virgin’s multimillionaire magnate, went out into the Parisian streets dressed as Che, imitating the man’s fascistoid gestures, in order to sell his cellular network’s “peaceful revolution.” In publicity shots Branson waved from a Jeep, alongside a group of supermodels dressed as fashionguerillas in miniskirts (a garment that, in Cuba, was looked down upon decades ago as being synonymous with prostitution). Branson entitled his performance “Liberation in Paris.”

Let’s be real for a moment. While the number of victims executed in Cuba under Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s direct orders is unknown, it is clear that more than a few were carried out with his own hands. Not only his guide to “guerrilla warfare,” but his more serious biographies and his own diaries reveal a bloodthirsty personality, which to a great extent reflects the character of The Astrologer in the novel The Seven Madmen by Roberto Artl, also an Argentine like Che.

After so many years, the body count no longer has much cultural importance. A milestone is worth more than a thousand stories. Che was even immortalized by Andy Warhol! And Che’s ideological enemies should be happy that he has had such posthumous popularity. Because now Ernesto “Che” Guevara functions as a registered trademark, copyright of the capitalism that he so fervently fought against with State violence.

If his slogan was once “Until victory always,” his defeat today could not be more perfect.

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