Monday, April 30, 2012

Chapter 20: Here a Che, There a Che, Everywhere a Che Che

On our way out the grand palace and back to Machete's taxi we pass through a makeshift souvenir room.

We should be hurrying, with so much still to see and do, but I drag my feet a little and really look what is for sale.

I am fascinated to be one of the first people to see cracks in history through which tourist souvenir shops exist on a communist island.

Beyond that, I am fixated by what is for sale on this island of so few consumer delights and extras like spaghetti and vending machines.

What they have, what they sell, is pictures of Che Guevara, patron saint and hyper-photogenic comandante of revolutionary violence.

Here  is a line of postcards -- is the picture where he is sulking;  the picture where he is looking up; the one where he leans out while Castro is speaking.

Hanging up there are t-shirts with screens of Che making his scary comandante face, the one that's also on billboards here and there around Cienfuegos, taking up spaces that airline and radio ads occupy in civilized countries like the 1-95 corridor.

I've seen all of Che's rugged looks, and even if I saw a new one I'm not sure I would buy it and spend my hard foreign currency to promote his image.

 A bit of me wonders if they put Che up all over the place intentionally to offend Cuban-Americans, almost like an alternate Germany where pictures of dead Hitler loomed to menace from death the people he terrorized in life.  Maybe.

Mom's ready to go, and I take a last look around, to see if I can see it a little different before I let it go and move on to the next place.

I stopped seeing Che here, Che there, Che Che everywhere and behind those images I saw what I ironically didn't see.

Nowhere in Cuba had I seen a single picture of Fidel Castro.