The W South Beach in Miami might be an award-winning 5 star hotel, but that didn’t matter to Cuban-American guests and visitors who chanced upon an image that looked strikingly like the famous photo of Che Guevara.
“The controversy is real,” said Omar Lopez, the human rights director of The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). “The image of Che Guevara is associated with executions in Cuba where numerous political prisoners were sent to labor camps. The community has always been sensitive to that image.”
But it turns out the image in question wasn’t actually of Che Guevara, but a self-portrait by artist Gavin Turk, which he made to look like the iconic Guevara image seen on shirts. Regardless, the hotel removed the offending portrait.
“W South Beach respects the concerns of our community, which has been so supportive of us, and we have removed British artist Gavin Turk’s self-portrait as Che Guevara from the property,” the hotel said in a statement to NBC Latino.
But according to the Miami Herald, the hotel wasn’t so accommodating initially. Gus Exposito, a man who visited the hotel with his wife said he complained to management and was rebuffed.
“We went to the front desk and asked for the manager, a gentleman name Max introduced himself as the night manager,” he said. “When we told him our concern with the picture and explained what it meant to the Cuban community he said the picture is art and that this was in the owner’s house and if we didn’t like it to leave, so we left.”
Lopez of CANF says that kind of response makes no sense to him.
“I don’t know what they wouldn’t understand,” he said.
“I wouldn’t want to be in a place with the image of Che Guevara. I have seen it in other places and left. It’s as simple as that.”