by WorldTribune Staff, June 28, 2019
Students at the University of California at San Diego have a so-called “safe space” at the Ché Café Collective, named after Cuban revolutionary Ché Guevara, the icon of liberal chic whose image appears on two-tone t-shirts that are proudly worn by many students at campuses nationwide.
In 2014, UC San Diego students delivered a petition with 13,000 signatures to stop eviction procedures and keep the student-run cooperative on campus.
But are the 13,000 who signed the petition or any current UC San Diego students aware of Guevara’s history of homophobia?
Prager University’s Will Witt traveled to the campus to speak with students about the cafe and Guevara.
A student who works at the café told Witt, “It’s part like a music venue, part like a student community center, part like a vegan kitchen and part a social space for radical ideologies and it’s also a safe space.”
Witt asks, “So, when you say radical ideologies, do Trump supporters come here?”
The student smiles and says, “Oh, no. I mean more like leftist political ideas…If they start saying stuff that violates our stated policy, which includes like no racism, no transphobia, it’s like, then we will kick them out and stuff.”
“Does that include like no homophobia?” Witt asks.
“No homophobia. No transphobia. No racism,” the student replies.
“I was just wondering because you know it’s named after Ché Guevara who put a lot of homosexuals in prison in Cuba,” Witt tells the student.
In 2013, the Ché Café Collective posted the following statement on Facebook: “In light of recent events: The Che Cafe Collective will not support any form of racist, homophobic, or sexist slurs/actions. Respect others. Respect our space. No justifications can replace our disappointments in regards to the disrespect of others while present. This has always been our policy, and we feel it a shame to remind anyone that this is our stance.”
Is the collective aware of, or just ignoring, the fact that the cafe’s namesake had a history of homophobic “actions”?
If they need documentation, HuffPost, not a right-of-center outlet by any means, ran an op-ed in 2017 highlighting Guevara’s role in oppressing homosexuals, particularly gay men, in Cuba.
Though he has been repeatedly held up by celebrities, activists and left-wing politicians as “a kind of Good Samaritan who fought against oppression and tyranny,” writes contributor Guillermina Sutter Schneider, he was in fact “an intolerant and despicable man” who helped establish the first Cuban concentration camp in 1960 — the first of many Nazi-inspired camps that included homosexual men, whose sexual preferences violated Guevara’s vision of the “new man” of the Marxist revolution.
Sutter wrote: “Anyone who deviated from the ‘new man’ was seen as a ‘counter-revolutionary.’ Such was the case of gay men — whom Guevara referred to as a ‘sexual perverts.’ Both Guevara and Castro considered homosexuality a bourgeois decadence. In an interview in 1965, Castro explained that ‘A deviation of that nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant communist should be.’
“Che Guevara also helped establish the first Cuban concentration camp in Guanahacabibes in 1960. This camp was the first of many. The Cuban government also adapted from the Nazis the motto at Auschwitz ‘Work sets you free’ changing it to ‘Work will make you men.’ According to Álvaro Vargas Llosa, homosexuals, Jehova’s Witnesses, Afro-Cuban priests, and others who were believed to have committed a crime against revolutionary morals, were forced to work in these camps to correct their ‘anti-social behavior.’ Many of them died; others were tortured or raped.”
Guevara died in 1967 in Bolivia, executed by the army there for trying to foment a second revolution with Castro’s brand of Communism.
At UC San Diego, some of the students interviewed by Prager University’s Witt had nothing but praise for Ché.
“A great man, from what I know,” one student said, “everything that he did, he did for the Cuban revolution. Even the way that he died, he was a badass.”
“I’ve listened to an interview by Che, it seemed passionate. It seemed like it was rooted in human rights,” another student said.
While many on the Left continue to revere Guevara as a symbol of rebellion and anti-imperialism, many historians say he was no more than a ruthless homophobe who ordered Cuban prisoners at the La Cabaña Fortress executed without trial.
Meanwhile, New York City mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bill de Blasio apologized on June 27 for quoting Guevara during a rally with striking Miami airport workers.
“We’re going to stand up and fight for every one of you, because in Miami-Dade we need to do something that we have to do all over this country: We have to put working people first,” de Blasio said at the rally.
He then shouted in Spanish: “Hasta la victoria siempre!”, a line which translates to “Until victory, always!” The phrase is most closely associated with Guevara, who helped oversee the summary executions of hundreds of Castro’s political enemies.
The criticism on social media of de Blasio’s turn of phrase was swift.
Sen. Rick Scott, Florida Republican, tweeted: “In case there was any doubt about the Democrats running for President embracing socialism, @BilldeBlasio is in Miami quoting…Che Guevara.”
Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat who spoke at the rally and left before de Blasio arrived, tweeted that she was “utterly disgusted.”
“This is completely unacceptable!” Taddeo wrote. “How can anyone wanting to be the leader of the free world quote a murderous guerrilla – in Miami no less! A community filled with his victims! #DeleteYourCampaign.”
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “There’s no better way to prove to Americans that the Democrats aren’t a bunch of communists than quoting… checks notes… Che Guevara. Way to go comrades!”
After being summarily mocked on social media, de Blasio claimed ignorance of the phrase’s origin in tweeting his regrets:
“I did not know the phrase I used in Miami today was associated with Che Guevara & I did not mean to offend anyone who heard it that way. I certainly apologize for not understanding that history. I only meant it as a literal message to the striking airport workers that I believed they would be victorious in their strike.”