The defiant portrait of Che Guevara has long been used for merchandising by companies seeking to profit off of his rebellious image. But such attempts are increasingly being met with anger and outrage by groups who say Guevara was a murderous tyrant who shouldn’t be glorified.
The latest controversy played out after Urban Outfitters came out with a line that featured Guevara emblazoned over a Cuban flag, which led to an open letter from Thor Halvorssen, the founder of the Human Rights Foundation to Urban Outfitters CEO, Ted Marlow.
“As a nonprofit organization dedicated to the defense of human rights, we would like to bring your attention to Guevara’s bloody and anti-democratic legacy,” Halvorssen wrote on the Huffington Post.
“Although Guevara’s image has appeared on countless items for consumption over the last few decades as a symbol of change for the better, Guevara’s actual record is that of a brutal tyrant who suppressed individual freedom in Cuba and murdered those who challenged his worldview,” the letter stated.
Now it seems that Urban Outfitters has thought better of the merchandise, as previous links now say “We’re sorry. This product is no longer available.” But curiously, the pages are still up with the initial marketing language.
The page for the Che Guevara flag poster, encourages customers to “let out a rebel yell — without saying a word.” According to UrbanOutfitters.com, the “portrait of the infamous revolutionary” would have made “a great conversation piece.”
Commenters on the page were of a decidedly different thinking. There are 75 comments below the Che Cuban flag poster and all are extremely negative reactions.
“Guevara was nothing but a coward and an assassin,” wrote one commenter. “Expect a call to your corporate headquarters tomorrow and if your CEO is principled enough to come to the phone I will give him more of an education.”
Lucy Radoccia-Vega, wrote, “After looking at this I was wondering if you have a German Flag with Hitler on it! You could put all murderers on the flags of the countries they tried to destroy. The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time.”
The Financial Times reports that Urban Outfitters has since withdrawn the line. The Huffington Post inquired and said a New York-area Urban Outfitters employee stated the men’s department no longer stocked the shirt and that it wasn’t available for order.
“I’m going to take a guess and say we don’t have that anymore,” the employee said.
This episode is not the only recent Guevara-related dust-up in the Latino community. In January, Mercedes-Benz was forced to apologize for using a Guevara photo with the Mercedes Benz logo on his hat in an ad.
Last month, as Hispanic Heritage Month was about to begin, the Environmental Protection Agency had to explain themselves after an employee sent out nuggets of wisdom about the Latino community, complete with an image of Guevara and plagiarized portions of the memo.