Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Viva La Revolucion!

So walking through some of the Basque towns such as Bilbao and San Sebastian I was interested to see all of the Euskadi Herrira grafitti, posters and paraphernalia. There were actually more than a few shops where you could purchase t-shirts and posters promoting Basque Unity. This was not surprising considering the centuries of struggle the Basque people have endured to retain their cultural identity and the strength of that sense of identity. What I did find slightly surprising was that all of these shops also prominently displayed Che Guevara t-shirts and bric-a-brac. I guess the Basque feel a political unity because Che fought for the common people and he was a revolutionary. Okay, I sorta see the connection.

But then I saw Che's image showing up in trendy stores in Barcelona, Paris, and the Cote d'Azur, each time slightly more disfigured by gaudy colors and embellishments such as rhinestones and catchy sayings. In Juan Les Pins, a ritzy resort town on the Cote d'Azur, there is a Che cafe complete with Andy Warholesque images stenciled along the bar, camouflage patio chairs, and a plethora of neon. It made me wonder how Che Guevara, who became famous as a young idealist overthrowing a corrupt debaucherous government in Cuba, has now become associated with glamour and bling.

Is this the sign of the ultimate demise of Che's socialist ideals, perpetrated by a devious capitalist market system maliciously bent on distorting and disfiguring cult political icons dear to idealistic activists and intellectuals? Or do people just think Che is the guy who made berets and camo look cool, and helped you get chicks if you put his picture up in your dorm room? Hey, what spunks up camo like a little bit of rhinestone and bling!

What would poor old Che think if he were alive now and saw the wealthy bourgeois tourists lying on the beach in the French Riviera with his likeness emblazoned on their asses in red and black sequins! Next time I am in the checkout line at the supermarket, I full expect to see Paris Hilton in a Che themed outfit staring back from the cover of some cheesy magazine. Ah well, I guess this is nothing compared to the supply of pro-Hitler paraphernalia that I saw available for purchase in the Russian market in Estonia.


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