Monday, November 22, 2010

“Guerrillero Heroico”

ENN 191-0921 11/23/10 Prof. Tanenbaun Castro Jimenez Mirtha

“Guerrillero Heroico” (Heroic Guerrilla fighter)

When analyzing the image of someone’s face, it is difficult to divorce the life and legacy of the person from the message and journey of the image itself. The photograph “Guerrillero Heroico” was taken in March of 1960, at a memorial type mass funeral for more than hundred Cubans. They became martyrs of the revolution, victims of the explosion of freighter carrying ammunition for the revolution. Both Castro and Guevara were convinced that this was the work of the CIA.
In that picture Alberto Korda, fashion Photographer who became Castro’s personal photographer, captured more than just the face of then thirty one year old Ernesto Guevara better known as “Che”. Korda also captured the essence of the political climate of Cuba at the time. The black and white picture shows Guevara’s firm expression of anger mixed with sadness, pensive eyes, unruly hair and rough, beard against an open sky. Korda immediately knew that his favorite image of Che. It was perfect, the photo was the best of those he had taken of Che. Although in my opinion, contradictory to the image. Korda described “the photo showed Che's firm and stoic character”.
The image, portrait of Argentinean Marxist guerrilla leader, found today in everything from Tshirts, mugs and belt buckles was for seven years exclusive in the house of an Italian publicist named Feltrinelli, who visited Korda in Havana, Cuba. The death of a hero marked the bith on legend. Trisha Ziff, the curator of a touring exhibition on the “Iconography of Che”. Told the BBC in the article, Che: The icon and the ad. "His death was followed by demonstrations, first in Milan and then elsewhere. Very soon afterwards there was the Prague Spring and May '68 in France. Europe was in turmoil. People wanted change, disruption and rebellion and he became a symbol of that change." He published and gave out hundreds of copies of the poster free as a response of the news of Guevara’s death in 1967. Later Feltrinelli published the book “Che’s Bolivian Diaries” and used the image in its cover, He also sold thousand of posters. While in Cuba the image was used as a banner that draped from the five-storey building of the Ministry of the Interior in Havana. Today, a permanent steel outline of the image watches over the Plaza de la RevoluciĆ³n.
A year later the image the deceased revolutionary, was spread all over Europe. As a symbol of radical thought it was used to fuel all kinds of protest and young political movements in the 60s amongst this were the Uprisings in Paris, the protest of Prague Spring, and the Civil Rights Movement in Ireland 1916.
Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick , who says met Che when he visited Ireland, produced a graphic piece based on the Korda’s photograph that in itself became iconic. Political groups asked for the image from within Ireland, Spain, France and Holland. Hundred copies were made.
By this time the image that inspired millions and also made millions if not more in profit. Not for the man who shot the legendary picture but for the publisher. ‘copyright Feltrinelli’. Due to Fidel Castro’s refusal to sign the Berne Convention, before the fall of the Soviet Union, Korda couldn’t receive any royalties for his intellectual property. Until the early 1990s Cuba joined the protection of the rights of authors in their literary and artistic works. Only nine years before his death in 2001, Korda was credited for the image but never received any payment for its reproduction. Ferltrinelli, Andy Warhol, and Jim Fitzpatrick, amongst many others who exploited the charismatic appeal of the image. Journalist Michael Casey said in a interview with CNN;
"Whether or not people believe in Che's hard-line version of Marxism, they want hope. They want hope and beauty -- and somehow both of those things are encapsulated in this image. And so you get people investing their dreams in it. I think that is at the heart of it, with all these other forces: political, artistic, marketing, economic, all coming together in a way that really makes it a ubiquitous brand."
Not only artist profited. In 1990s when a London court prevented the use of the image in a Smirnoff advertising campaign for copyright reasons. Today the image is used by those who know and respect Che’s legacy and those who think is it fashionable. Casey explores this phenomenon in his book "In Che's Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image”.
“It's impossible to overlook the irony: the commoditization of an anticapitalist rebel who opposed all that his hyper-commercialized image now represents. But despite the conversion of Che into what political commentator Alvaro Vargas Llosa describes as the "quintessential capitalist brand" and the fact that most young Americans know him only as a T-shirt logo, for millions more around the world the Korda image remains a powerful indicator of rebellion and resistance.”
Both loved and hated “Guerrilero Heroico” has changed, from its conception, that fateful day forty three years ago to now. Stephanie Holmes from the BBC News, said “It is perhaps the most reproduced, recycled and ripped off image of the 20th Century.” In her 2007 article.
“Those who criticize the heroism and dedication of Guevara also use the image to express their opinions”.
By making satirical reproductions, changing the image slightly they choose express their opinion. For example there is a reproduction of the red and black Fitzpatrick image with a Nike check in place of the star on his beret. The concept of interchanging the star for the Nike sing can be interpreted in different ways. It could be a criticism to the people how love the image as a fashion statement and have no idea what Guevara actually advocated. Or it could be a direct blow to the deceased revolutionary by putting a symbol of capitalism on his head. It’s similar to another reproduction of that changes the beret for a Disney’s, Mickey Mouse ears. There are other images that leave little space guess work and interpretation. It is the iconic image but here Guevara is wearing a Muslim head wrap. To my surprise many Americans believe that he was a terrorist. I guess terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. Amongst many other satirical reproductions, it is one that doesn’t cease to amuse me, is the one were his face is cut out and replaced by numerous characters. There is so many, everything from politicians to singers and of course the regular folk. I have seen President Obama, Cher, Bush, Biggie, a sckeleton and even a chiken.
According to Lincoln Cushing, author of 2003, "Revolucion!: Cuban Poster Art", ”As a life-long communist and supporter of the Cuban revolution, Alberto Korda claimed no payment for his picture. Even though many parodies and imitations of the portrait were reproduced on a mass scale for decades, Korda never asked for anything in return. Korda reasoned that Che’s image represented his revolutionary ideals, and thus the more his picture spread the greater the chance Che’s ideals would spread as well.”
Jim Fitzpatrick did have and an interest for the Cuban revolution and claims he met Guevara at a bar where he was working. When asked about his famous art work based on Korda’s photograph he usually talk about himself. He said he wanted to make the image famous to keep the memory of Che alive and he does say that he plans to donate money to the Cuban Childrens hospital.
What the picture does not show is that Ernesto “Che” Guevara had a family, that he was a doctor by profession, that he spoke with the people he wanted to help and even after he had a good secure position in the Cuban government he chose to put himself in harm’s way to spread his ideals and if he was not killed he would not have stopped. He had big plans for Latin America.
There is a large following for Che Guevara due to the long lasting effect of that image and it did inspire people from countries that were influenced by the man, it has also does for countries which were influenced by the image. It helped inspire numerous movements around the world. It also inspired a fashion and a past time. May be it is not too late reclaim the iconic image for the ideals of equality unity and anti oppression. May be Che does not live on through of the image but through his ideals and the picture can be used as a visual reminder that some time we as a people forget what truly matters in life.

Work Cited

1.Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Paris Text 1971) (1871)
2 ."In Che's Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image, Michael Casey.
7."Revolucion!: Cuban Poster Art", by Lincoln Cushing, Chronicle Books, 2003
3.BBC News Che: The icon and the ad. By Stephanie Holmes, 5 October 2007
4. Guerrillero Heroico: a Brief History By Trisha Ziff, 2005
5. Che Guevara: Revolutionary and Icon, by Trisha Ziff, Abrams Image, 2006
6. CNN Video: Examining an Iconic

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Post # 5

African Americans, both in the north and the south faced very difficult situations. In the James Baldwin's essay "Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem," and the beginning of     l Malcolm X's autobiography, they agree that living conditions were a one of the biggest problems for black people in the north. Because of the migration from the south, the need for adequate housing grew and the North was not necessarily willing or able to provide it.
Together with bad living conditions, lack of good jobs, poor education and police brutality, and black communities had a long way to go. In the late 60s and early 70s The Black communities all over the north in cities like Philadelphia and New York (Harlem) tried to better their living condition and take more of an active role to control their destiny. They used strategies such as community organizing to educate people about their rights and encourage them to invest their money by spending in black owned business and even run for office.
It is hard to say if the techniques used in the south would be effective in the north. Though the oppression was bad in both places the issues where not the same, we some issues were. The technique of civil disobedience might not have work the way it did in the south because discrimination laws, the situation was different in the North the problem was not the law but the implementation or lack there of and the poor living condition, overpricing and police brutality in the black communities.
In my opinion one of the techniques that was used by the civil rights movements in the South that was effective also for the north and can even be utilized today and be effective was utilizing the media to unveil the injustices endured by the black community. This is a technique makes the government accountable to the people when utilized properly the media could be educational and very useful.   

Monday, October 18, 2010


I am very please with the topic of the term Paper. It gives us freedom to chose and be creative and at the same time it gives us enough structure for us to stay on track. There are so many great works of political art/ Protests to choose from that am a lil’ lost. I do have some things in mind but I have not made a final decision. The following are not in any particular order.
The famous photograph, portrait of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, is in it self a symbol of revolution. Many people don’t know or don’t agree with the his position and role in the Cuban Revolution. One thing is clear, this iconic image is known across the world and it is exploited for profit. Every one knows some one with a painting or illustration, a t-shirt or a hat, a poster or a flag. It has even been the victim of many parodies. This photograph was very much like the blue and red Obama poster by Shepard Fairey (which also could be a topic). Che’s ideal for the Americas was that of unity so I know he would be happy about people coming together because of his image but I don’t know how he would fell about the real meaning of his work getting lost in a now commercial image.
Other possibilities that I think can be great topics are the songs by Nina Simone; Pirate Jenny, Four women and the song that we heard in class Mississippi goddam (but the original version, much more powerful that the one we heard). They all express a sentiment shared by many even to this day, even the oppressed across the world I think can relate to the sense of urgency and need for a way out. I love me some Nina music.
I was thinking about the painting by Picasso “Guernica” but I don’t think I’ll do that one though the painting is amazing I don’t know if it was part of a movement or if it had political impact. Something new that comes to mind is how some painters in the renaissance painted subliminal messages in their works because the subject of all the paintings then (in the west) were religious or portraits of rich people. In the time of the renaissance, Church and state one so religious was political. I just need to come up with a specific example but that would be nice too.
This brainstorming for this project feels to me like looking up in the sky in a clear night. the longer u stare, 

more stars become visible to the eye. Its actually kind of fun. It think I know which one ill do, but is too early 

to say. I welcome advise. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nina Simone

            Born in 1933 in North Carolina, Nina Simone is known as the "Priestess of Soul". Nina Simone was a Talented and passionate woman and that is evident by her music. Nina Simone wrote many songs in response the violence. Unlike MLK, she advocated a violent revolution, clearly represented by her song “ Pirate Jenny
In 1964 as a response to a church bombing that took the life of children and the murder of  M. Evens, an African American civil rights activist from Mississippi who was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery after being assassinated by Ku Klux Klan member. Nina Simone released a single that was boycotted in many southern states the song was called "Mississippi Goddam". Opposite to “Strange fruit” famously preformed by Billy Holiday and other similar songs, Mississippi Goddam went straight to the point. The song begins with she letting the listener know she means every word of it. The song sounds like the head lines for the new. New that where hidden or sugar coated or excused by the media.
“Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day's gonna be my last”
“Picket lines
School boycotts
They try to say it's a communist plot
All I want is equality
for my sister my brother my people and me”
 Nina Simone told it like she saw it and how she felt it.
“Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam”
            She also mentioned the frustration about the progress of the movement and identifies some problems.
“But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
Washing the windows
"do it slow"
Picking the cotton
"do it slow"
You're just plain rotten
"do it slow"
You're too damn lazy
"do it slow"
The thinking's crazy
"do it slow"
Where am I going
What am I doing
I don't know
I don't know”
            In my opinion, the song speaks for its self.
Nina Simone lived abroad for many years in fact she died 2002 in the south of France.


Post # 2 "Myths"

            Reed, The author of "Singing Civil Rights: The Freedom Song Tradition," speaks of 'myths' that in his opinion are popular misconceptions about the movement. It is not always conducive to believe or agree with someone’s opinion without doing digging deeper. In the case of the following “myths”, I agree.

            One of the myths mentioned in "Singing Civil Rights” is that the role of woman in the success and/or effectiveness of the civil rights movements. According to the reading, Reed, thinks that woman don’t get the credit they deserve for their contributions. Dorothy  Heightv, Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, Daisy Bates, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King amongst many many others.

            Directly connected to the first myth and a myth, not by accident or by popular demand. Many people believe that Dr. Martin Luther King was the one and only mastermind of the movement they believed that it began and ended with him. As we saw in the documentary the eyes on the prize, 26 year old MLK  was asked to lead the protest against bus segregation. In his response he said that if there was no one else to do it he would do it. Clearly there was a movement all ready since he was asked to help. I can only name a few names of people and organizations that steamed the movement. Even before there was a movement countless individuals lost their lives standing up for what today we call civil rights.
The ugly truth about this myth, the root of this “ignorance” is no accident. portraying King as the only champion of the civil right movement, hides the true horrors and suffering inflicted by the institutionalization of hate. In high schools around the country, students are taught the glory of this country by hiding the ugly mistakes to inspire a

            Superficial sense of  pride in its population from young. Pride is good, but it should come form understanding of the evolution of the nation. MLK name should definitely be celebrated along many others champions of the movement. If the understanding of what really went on, the reason why great leaders like him where forced to rise is not there, then we are not really honoring them the right way.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Ethics of living Jim Crow

What would possess someone to behave in such a cruel manner?  It goes way beyond ignorance. For a lack of a better term, I’m going to call it institutionalized hatred.  Both the documentary “Eyes on the Prize” and the reading “Ethics of living Jim Crow” by Richard Wright, give a tiny glance of the calamities and atrocities that our fellow humans had to endure because of this institutionalized hatred. It is clear to me that I will never understand the reason why history unfolded the way it did. In analyzing readings, documentaries, and paintings I hope to pay respect and empathize more with a wounded people. Wounded very much like my own people in the different hemisphere.
                In his autobiographical sketch, Wright narrates living injustice as law. His first lesson as black American was given by his mother.  How do you explain to a child, your own child that he was lucky, the deep gush that bleeds perfusely behind his ear was the only consecuence for him interacting with a white group of rotten kids. The message that his mother tried to inculcate in him thru a beating seems to echo throughout the reading. The institutionalized hatred on the part of whites translated into a sense of conformism and self worth.  Wright thought that him as a black man was lucky to be humiliated, lucky to be beat, exploited at work. Like his life did not belong to him and his destiny was in the hands of the whites, that he was lucky to be allowed to live.
                Watching others suffer is another hard lesson to digest. When the woman was taken to the back of the store by those two white men, he knew that he could not do anything for her. Imagine even if he tried to help, not only he would get himself beat or kill but it would fuel those men hatred more and the old woman would still suffer the wrath of the white man. He also mentions the young man that was forced to marry one of the black maids at the hotel where he, Wright worked. It is implied that the poor girl was raped by a white man, to pour salt in her wound, whenever they spoke of her misfortune it was like a joke to laugh at.
                It is no coincidence that Langston Hughes wrote about black artist wanting to be just artist, in “The Negro artist and the Racial Mountain”.  Generations of living “Jim Crows lessons” influenced every aspect of life.