A taxpayer-funded museum in Miami is drawing the ire of the Cuban exile community there, after its gift shop was discovered to be selling art projects glorifying Che Guevara, the Cuban revolutionary leader who was responsible for the mass murder of countless Cuban civilians, including children.
The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) calls itself “Miami’s flagship art museum,” focusing on “international art of the 20th and 21st centuries.” Since its founding, PAMM has benefited significantly from taxpayer funding, as a partnership between Miami-Dade County government and a 501(c)(3) organization. The museum’s current location was dedicated by the City of Miami, and Miami-Dade County provided the capital funds for the construction.
According to a report from Babalú Blog, one of the items for sale in PAMM’s gift shop is a “paper head model” to be assembled into a bust of Guevara.
The photo of the Guevara paper head model posted by Cuba Archive president Maria Werlau shows that the packaging says that it is part of a “Culture Series” and encourages shoppers to “Collect them all!” and to “Assemble a Paper Model to Get Inspired!” Also shown in Werlau’s photo is an assembled paper bust of George Washington, presumably a product from the same company.
Guevara managed to achieve a certain level of pop culture fame in America and other western countries decades after his death, due in no small part to his striking looks and hagiographic treatment by Hollywood in movies like The Motorcycle Diaries. But for Cuban-Americans whose loved ones suffered under Guevara’s cruelty, the image of his face is far from inspirational.
After the collapse of the Batista regime, FIdel Castro put Guevara in charge of La Cabaña prison, where he was allowed to serve as judge, jury, and executioner, earning him the nickname, “The Butcher of La Cabaña.” Reports vary as to how many Cubans were killed without fair trials, with most estimates ranging from several hundred to several thousand.
“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary,” said Guevara regarding his philosophy on his prisoners’ legal rights. “These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.”
Guevara also established and trained Cuba’s secret police force, which the Castro regime continues to use to oppress the Cuban people.
A museum selling an item with Guevara’s likeliness isn’t necessarily controversial. Books and other educational items regarding historical figures that are relevant to a museum’s mission are not just limited to the saints. However, PAMM’s Guevara paper head model doesn’t appear to provide any historical context to Guevara’s butchery, but instead presents him as someone to be admired. “Assemble a Paper Model to Get Inspired!” as the packaging says.
As Babalú Blog‘s Alberto de la Cruz explained:
Miami is home to the largest group of Cuban exiles in the country. Over the past five decades, millions of Cubans have fled the barbarous Castro dictatorship and its brutally repressive and murderous “revolution” with the majority of them settling in Miami as their new home. Therefore, it is quite understandable that for many of these Cuban exiles — along with their children and grandchildren (myself included) — anything that attempts to glorify or make light of the pure evil that is the Cuban dictatorship or its poster boy Che Guevara is unacceptable. For the same reason no one would glorify Stalin in a Russian-American community of families that fled the USSR or pay tribute to Hitler in a Jewish-American community, no one should find it acceptable to glorify in Miami the Castro regime’s psychopathic mass murderer and “Butcher of La Cabaña,” Che Guevara.
This isn’t the first time tax dollars have been used to glorify Guevara. National Review reported that in 2012, an email from the Environmental Protection Agency to mark Hispanic Heritage Month included the well-known Alberto Konda photo of Guevara, along with his slogan, “Hasta la victoria siempre” (“On to victory, always”). After people complained, the EPA claimed that the email was “drafted and sent by an individual employee, and without official clearance.”
UPDATE: Alberto de la Cruz sent The Capitolist a message saying that the public relations representative for PAMM had emailed him Monday afternoon, notifying him that the Guevara item would be removed from their gift shop. Obviously, it would have been preferable had they not thought that the Butcher of La Cabaña made a cute craft project in the first place, but this was the right move. De la Cruz also said that he would have a post at Babalú Blog on Tuesday with more information.
UPDATE II: Here’s de la Cruz’s post, which includes the email from the PAMM representative saying that the Guevara art project was not meant to be a political statement but merely “part of a broader line of products that utilize imagery of recognizable historical figures,” and they “have decided to discontinue sale of this particular item.”
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.