Che lives!… just not at Urban Outfitters anymore.
“After drawing public criticism for offering shirts emblazoned with the image of Argentine-born guerrilla leader Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, the company no longer appears to offer the product.
A total of 10 stores contacted by The Huffington Post said they no longer sell Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara shirts. The company’s website also once offered Guevara posters and the biography ‘Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life,’ written by journalist Jon Lee Anderson. Now, links that once led to the products’ webpages on the company site say, ‘We’re sorry. This Product is no longer available.’ The search term ‘Che Guevara’ also no longer turns up any results on the company’s website.”
The man they called “Che” was indeed a controversial figure. He helped found a repressive communist regime in Cuba and was responsible for the deaths of countless Cubans labeled “counterrevolutionary” by the 26th of July Movement. For this, Cubans, human rights activists and pacifists alike abhor the cult of Che.
While I’m not foolish enough to dispute the charges flung at his bones, I’d only remind those who oppose Che posters and t-shirts that the Che story is as complex as it is controversial.
On the one hand, Che had a hand in the killing of between 200 and 700 Cubans during the revolution. But he also viewed first-world nations as accomplices of death themselves, and with good reason.
Che famously chronicled the plight of the poor in Latin America during his travels as a young medical student, blaming America and its allies for the conditions he encountered. He described how the people suffered under fascist dictatorships installed and maintained by the United States. Guevara wrote of “Capitalist octopuses” like United Fruit placing the countries of Central America in a sort of economic bondage. And the doctor was there in Guatemala when the CIA orchestrated the overthrow of a democratically-elected president.
American foreign and economic policies may not have made Che a socialist, but they certainly made him a revolutionary.
Even if Che was responsible for the deaths of 1,000 Cubans, Americans condemning Che shirts while sporting Obama ones is just plain hypocritical. How many innocent lives is the commander-in-chief responsible for in the Middle East? How many of the people on his notorious “kill list” has he executed without a trial? How many deaths in places like Honduras and Mexico are the result of U.S. drug consumption?
Americans should be careful when we point the finger and accuse someone of being a mass murderer. We might be splashing blood everywhere.