Cuba

The Che Guevara T-Shirt Industry Celebrates its 45th Profitable Year This Week

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Hat tip: Instapundit.

Over at Townhall, Humberto Fontova notes a dark anniversary coming due:

Forty five years ago this week, Ernesto "Che" Guevara got a major dose of his own medicine. Without trial he was declared a murderer, stood against a wall and shot. If the saying "What goes around comes around" ever fit, it's here.

"When you saw the beaming look on Che's face as his victims were tied to the stake and blasted apart by the firing squad," said a former Cuban political prisoner to this writer, "you saw there was something seriously, seriously wrong with Che Guevara."

In December 2008, Reason TV released "Killer Chic: Hollywood's Sick Love Affair with Che Guevara," which should be brought to the attention of every kid wearing a Che T-shirt or romantically clutching a copy of The Motorcycle Diaries. Take a look, especially if you like jazz and free expression:

Original writeup:

Gisele Bundchen wears him on the runway, Johnny Depp wears him around his neck, and Benicio Del Toro becomes him in the new, highly acclaimed, two-part epic film from Steven Soderbergh, Che. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the revolutionary who helped found communist Cuba, is the celebrity that celebrities adore. And be it Madonna, Rage Against the Machine, or Jay-Z, musicians really dig Che.

It's something that baffles Cuban jazz legend Paquito D'Rivera. "Che hated artists, so how is it possible that artists still today support the image of Che Guevara?" Turns out the rebellious icon that emblazons countless T-shirts actually enforced aesthetic and political conformity. D'Rivera explains that Che and other Cuban authorities sought to ban rock and roll and jazz.

"Che was an inspiration for me," D'Rivera tells reason.tv. "I thought I have to get out of this island as soon as I can, because I am in the wrong place at the wrong time!" D'Rivera did escape Cuba, and so far he's won nine Grammy awards playing the kind of music Che tried to silence. But D'Rivera says Che's crimes didn't end with censorship. "He ordered the execution of many people with no trial." Che served as Castro's chief executioner, presiding over the infamous La Cabana prison. D'Rivera says Che's policy of killing innocents earned him the nickname-the Butcher of La Cabana.

"We're rightly horrified by fascist murderers like Adolph Hitler," says reason.tv's Nick Gillespie. "Why aren't we also horrified by communist killers?" Certainly, Che's body count isn't anywhere near Hitler's. But what about someone Che idolized, someone whom he might have liked to wear on his chest?

"Che, Castro, all the communist regimes idolized only one thing that Mao personifies-violence." Kai Chen grew up in China under the reign of Mao Zedong. Although he won gold medals for China's national basketball team, Chen's was far from the celebrity life of an NBA star. Says Chen, "You have no right to talk, and you have no right to think."

The punishment for questioning Mao's authority was often death. The Black Book of Communism estimates that Mao is responsible for the deaths of 65 million people-a figure that dwarfs even Hitler's body count. "Mao is a murderer," says Chen. "The biggest mass murderer in human history."

And yet, like Che, Mao's image is becoming an increasingly popular way to move merchandise. You can buy Mao t-shirts, mugs, caps-you name it. Near Chen's Los Angeles home there's even a restaurant called Mao's Kitchen. "Can you imagine a restaurant called Hitler's Kitchen?" asks Gillespie.

Neither D'Rivera nor Chen understands why communist killers are considered Chic, but each finds his own way to have the last laugh on these anti-capitalist icons.

"Killer Chic" is written and produced by Ted Balaker. Director of Photography is Alex Manning.

Closing music, "Che Guevara T-Shirt Wearer," courtesy of The Clap. Listen to the whole song here.

More here.

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  1. “Turns out the rebellious icon that emblazons countless T-shirts actually enforced aesthetic and political conformity. D’Rivera explains that Che and other Cuban authorities sought to ban rock and roll and jazz.”

    Guevara’s image offends the sensibilitoes of mainstream US culture and he was never a threat to their fredoms, more so since he is no longer alive, they can project whatever image they want. Guevara’s more a legend then a man with a real history with the artists who continue his iconography.

  2. Che was basically a retard sociopath. He barely had average intelligence. He was such a fuck up and a psychopath even the Cuban Communists couldn’t stand him. There is a reason why they sent him to South America and it wasn’t because he was in any way a valued member of the revolution. He was one of those violent and stupid people that every leftist revolution has used and then discarded when they were no longer useful. He was basically a Latin Yehov (Stalin’s deformed dwarf who headed the NKVD in the late 30s) with better looks and PR.

  3. Che Guevara: Good lookin’ dude who rode a motorcycle and didn’t play by the rules. Wear his tee-shirt and piss off boring old farts like Nick Gillespie. What’s not to like?

    1. Good lookin’ dude who rode a motorcycle and didn’t play by the rules.

      And murdered women and children by the score. God you are a pathetic fucking douchebag Venneman.

      1. Your sarcasm-detector needs adjustment.

        1. It is Vennaman. He is not bright enough for sarcasm.

          1. I dunno. That looked like sarcasm to me. I think I should know.

            1. No. Vanneman is a well established bootlicker.

              1. When I see people with Che shirts I get all bubbly and start asking “Hey, is that Che? He’s pretty cool! Communist revolutionary and stuff, right? That’s cool! But he was an amateur. He was only responsible for a few thousand deaths. You want to be really cool? Wear a picture of Mao or Stalin! They killed millions!” and walk away.

                Nobody laughs.

                1. I saw a few young hispanic men in line at a local grocery store here. Two were wearing El Che t-shirts, and one was wearing a red military-style beret with the image on it like a unit flash. I decided to find out what inspired all this, and tried chatting them up, “Nice hat. Like El Che.”
                  “No Ingle’s.”
                  I tried again in Spanish, “Nice hat. Like El Che.” Blank look. “Like Che Guevara.” Blank look. “Revolutionary leader from Argentina.” Blank look. “Cuban revolution, 1959?” Nothing. Not a clue. Didn’t want one.
                  Aliens have landed and I think they might be me.

                2. They’re probably thinking “who’s Mower Stallin?”

            2. What Jordan said. Venneman is really that stupid.

    2. I am a boring old fart then.

      A couple of years ago I had cut a bunch of brush and piled it up. On the night when I was to burn it a bunch of friends of my son and step-son showed up for the bon fire. After the fire was lit I noticed one of them wearing a che shirt.

      The conversation went something like this; ” What the fuck is that? You take that shit off and throw in in the fire right now or I will.”
      He stripped the shirt off like it was already on fire and tossed it into the bon fire.

      I got the boy one of my t-shirts. We cooked and fished and had a pretty good time after that.

      1. I forgot to add –

        After that incident while everyone was eating bbq I overheard my son say to that kid ” I told you…”.

        1. Try that down here in the Miami area and the kid might end up in the fire with the T-shirt. Cuban expats still don’t have a sense of humor about that….

          1. “… the kid might end up in the fire with the T-shirt. ”

            I am not in the miami area. Anyone wearing a che shirt at my house does so at their own peril. The shirt is going in the fire whether they are in it or not.

          2. ugh….hit the submit too fast again.

            “Cuban expats still don’t have a sense of humor about that….”

            Neither do I.

      2. I love heartwarming stories like this. Well done.

  4. There’s something very culturally Catholic about the Che iconography.

    People seem to display his picture like they would get a tattoo of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

    Picture the Day of the Dead celebrations and the collections of flowers you see Latinos stack on the ground where someone they knew was killed in a car accident. Che’s venerated like that.

    A lot of that veneration doesn’t have anything to do with what he actually did. You don’t reason away people’s culture. Che is to some people like Santa Claus is to us, and you’re probably not going to make a lot of headway arguing against Santa Claus. We’re just gonna keep putting our Christmas trees up anyway.

    Maybe we should try to find and promote some capitalist saints venerate in recent Latin history. Meet them where they live instead of trying to make them come to us.

    1. “People seem to display his picture like they would get a tattoo of the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

      A very astute observation. I wouldn’t have thought of that, but it really does ring true. And the two images can be equally creepy, too.

      My mother was brought up Catholic in a Catholic country in Europe. She rejected the religion at a young age. I have always found Catholic iconography to be some creepy shit, myself.

    2. “Che is to some people like Santa Claus is to us, and you’re probably not going to make a lot of headway arguing against Santa Claus.”

      The original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas of Myra, didn’t line people up against the wall and shoot them. He ransomed women from sex-slavery. And according to one tradition, he punched an annoying Unitarian in the nose.

      Who would *want* to make headway against someone as cool as that?

  5. He was not just stood before a firing squad, as I understand it.

    He was shot to death by Bolivian Sergeant Mario Ter?n, five times in his legs, once in the right shoulder and arm, once in the chest, and finally in the throat.

    Ter?n was instructed to give him battle wounds, not just a firing-squad-style execution. He was not a very big fan of Che Guevara, either.

    In all, Guevara’s execution was probably far too quick, anyway.

    1. Just desserts considering that often his own instruction to the La Cabana firing squad was to aim low and inflict as much pain as possible.

  6. Hollywood is the reason for both the acceptance of Communist dictators and our hatred of Hitler. Leftists embraced him during WWII along with Stalin and Mussolini. But there has been a lot of Zionist propaganda since then. I hate to call it that, because I agree with it, but look at it objectively – why else is WWII so frequently used as a context in popular movies and books? Because there are many prominent Jewish directors, producers, and writers. However, in the same fields, there are more people sympathetic toward Communists than there are people who have lived in that regime. So we hate a dictator from 70 years ago, while there have been many murderous regimes since that we ignore.

    1. Yes, it’s the Jooz!

    2. I’m so glad Reason is here to let people like Lisa exercise her right of free speech. She gets to spout off her crazy BS, we get to point and laugh and point out that she’s paranoid, and the world is a better place for it.

  7. I posted a link on facebook a few weeks ago to another article rightly condemning all varieties of Che iconography; to my utter shock, even the most ardent of Occupy Kochtopus automatons either shared my disgust or just kept silent. So either there’s still hope for the human race, or it was the idea of obscene corporate profits being made off of sacred artifacts that gave them the vapors.

    1. Got it! Love it! Bought it the same time as my “Celebrate Diversity” t-shirt that has 18 different kinds of handguns on it.

  8. Another great one: http://www.google.com/imgres?u…..3,s:0,i:83

  9. It’s something that baffles Cuban jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera. “Che hated artists, so how is it possible that artists still today support the image of Che Guevara?” Turns out the rebellious icon that emblazons countless T-shirts actually enforced aesthetic and political conformity. D’Rivera explains that Che and other Cuban authorities sought to ban rock and roll and jazz.

    Reminds me of the AAA insurance magazine ‘Via’ which had an article last December about Salt Lake City’s emerging bohemian culture which inspired this:

    I head south one block to the Red Door, a mood-lit cocktail lounge, for a nightcap. A jazz combo brushes through Radiohead and U2 for a roomful of spaghetti straps and skinny jeans.

    I walk up to the bar and order a whiskey. Neat. That’s when I notice Che Guevara. His wall-tall glare shoots straight over my shoulder, out the window, and into the city night. He’s got a faraway look in his eyes, like he sees something in the distance. It’s change?and I think it’s gonna be big.

    Pretty awesome.

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