The scraggly beard, the beret adorned with a star, the intense gaze: It is an instantly recognizable image which has been used to sell everything from booze to T-shirts to mugs to bikinis.
Che Guevara is an icon of the 20th century whose brand has turned into a worldwide marketing phenomenon. If you want to shift more products or give your corporate image a bit of edge, the Argentine revolutionary’s face and name are there to be used, like commercial gold dust.
The fact that Guevara was a communist guerrilla and Marxist ideologue is an irony of little interest to his capitalist exploiters. It has, however, become a problem for his children.
Aleida Guevara this week denounced the commercialization of her father’s image as an affront to his socialist ideals.
“Something that bothers me now is the appropriation of the figure of Che that has been used to make enemies from different classes. It’s embarrassing,” she said.
A man who fought and died trying to overthrow capitalism and material excess should not be used to sell British vodka, French fizzy drinks and Swiss mobile phones, among other travesties, she said.
“We don’t want money, we demand respect,” she said.
Aleida, 47, the eldest of Guevara’s four children by his second wife, made the comments during an Internet forum sponsored by Cuba’s government ahead of what would have been her father’s 80th birthday on June 14.
The complaint came amid a surge of renewed interest in Guevara. The actor Benicio del Toro won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival this month for his portrayal in Steven Soderbergh’s four and a half hour epic Che. Camilo Guevara, a son, who participated in the forum, said he welcomed the film as long as it was faithful to his father’s memory.
Last month Buenos Aires unveiled a towering bronze statute of the young doctor who left Argentina on a motorbike in 1953 and became radicalized by oppression and poverty in Latin America. He joined Fidel Castro’s guerrilla campaign against Cuba’s dictator, Fulgencio Batista, and became a key figure in the revolution before unsuccessfully attempting to export insurrection to Congo and Bolivia, where he was captured and executed by CIA-backed government troops in 1967.
He remains a controversial figure for his role running death squads in Cuba and elsewhere, and has been accused of direct responsibility in the deaths of hundreds.
Guevara was a more doctrinaire ideologue than Castro and a fervent critic of “material incentives” but in death he became transformed into an icon of daring and rebellion.
The famous image portrait was based on an image taken by the Cuban photographer Alberto Korda in Havana in 1960.
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