14ymedio, Madrid, 4 January 2018 — The exhibition about Ernesto Che Guevara housed in L’Hotel de Ville, the Paris City Hall, is choking the institution. The critical campaign against the free show, entitled Le Che à Paris, started with the Cuban exiles in that European capital but has ended up spreading to French society itself.
The exhibition, organized by the Pachamama Association as a part of the tributes around the figure of Guevara on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death in Bolivia, opened on 20 December.
Just four days later, the Cuban professor and writer Jacobo Machover publicly released a letter in which he asked the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, to close the exhibition. In response, the mayor promoted the exhibition on her Twitter account, extending the controversy among French people who are critical of the figure of the guerrilla.
Hidalgo’s message on the web, which has had almost a thousand responses, said “the capital pays homage to a figure of revolution who became a militant and romantic icon.” In addition, the mayor accompanied her words with the emoticon of a closed fist.
With the exposition Le CHE à Paris, the capital pays homage to a figure of revolution who became a militant and romantic icon. See it free at l’Hôtel de Ville in Paris. — Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) 28 December 2017
In the political sphere, criticism of the mayor spread like wildfire among her adversaries. Luc Ferry, former Minister of Education, expressed his indignation on Twitter: “Amazing, Anne Hidalgo celebrates the romanticism of Che, a bloodthirsty libertine who tortured and murdered with his own hands 130 unfortunates in the abominable concentration and torture camp he led. When will there be a tribute to Pol Pot, Béria and Mao?”
The republican deputy Valérie Boyer affirmed that the mayor of the capital was presenting herself as an “apologist for terrorism” with her words and the leader of the National Front Wallerand de Saint Just denounced the exhibition “for the glory of the Stalinist Che Guevara,” whom he described as an “ignoble butcher.”
Other criticisms against Hidalgo have come from the cultural sphere, such as the acid and ironic message on Twitter of the philosopher Raphaël Enthoven: “Magnificent, murders and romanticism in Paris. What is the value of the victims of Che against the homage of his executioner? Anne Hidalgo foresees an exhibition on Khmer tenderness titled ’Do not touch my Pol Pot.’ Here is the time of the assassins.”
On 31 December, the Cuban writer Zoé Valdés opened a petition on the Avaaz platform, which already has nearly a thousand signatories, in which she requests the intervention of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, so that the city can withdraw the exhibition.
“Che Guevara was anything but a pacifist” she writes, “Today, Che would be considered a terrorist. This nefarious character does not constitute any example for youth and French citizens, on the contrary, he represents the most onerous and negative human being (…) It goes against human, civic and moral rights. Yes, I feel personally affected.”
In the press there has also been room to review the shadows of Che and reflect on the meaning of the opportunity to honor the Argentine guerrilla.
The most widely reasoned and critical article about the exhibition was published on 2 January in Slate France. It is an extensive text signed by Frédéric Martel, a fine connoisseur of Cuba, in which he asks himself in the title whether it was necessary to praise Che : “Was it necessary to remember this ‘figure of the revolution turned into a militant and romantic icon’ as Hidalgo said or should one avoid paying homage to a bloodthirsty, misogynist homophobe who has become a model for all Islamist terrorists? Because there are many Che’s.“
The article details some formal characteristics of the exhibition, which he calls fake, like the official image of the show, which is none other than the iconic photo that Korda made of Guevara but with modern retouching, or a motorcycle similar to the famous Poderosa II belonging to the Argentine which in any case cannot be the genuine article (destroyed by the Latin American journey and the passage of time) but is presented as such.
According to the author, the exhibition is a succession of poor quality works without real interest, along with press clippings and some interesting photographs but ones already seen a thousand times. “The places frequented in Paris by Che (…) are illustrated by some vintage photos, the whole is a disconnected assembly, without explanation and without any allusion to Che’s crimes,” laments Martel.
The journalist reviews Che’s biography and his role in history to regret that someone like him can be honored. The critic also refers to the bourgeois origins of Guevara, a man “not predestined to rebellion or revolution,” he says.
The text ends up returning to the present to explain that today’s Cuban youth only want to leave Cuba for the USA and discredits the figures of Castro and Guevara.
“This is what will end up happening that day, when the young Cubans who remain imprisoned on the island or who cannot emigrate, burn Che Guevara’s portraits and denounce him as a simple ’son of a bitch’, all the privileged young Westerners, all the tourists who wear loose shirts with Che’s face, will understand their mistake. As those who commemorate him today will too.”
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