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Posted November 28, 2005 by Cubana in Castro's Cuba

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Washington Blade

Friday, November 25, 2005

Constantino Diaz-Duran

We have no business joining the cult of Che, no matter how trendy, since he would have had us murdered.

PEOPLE CALL US brand whores. They say gay men are so obsessed with fashion that we will blindly embrace the most ridiculous trends, as long as they have a famous name attached to them.

I would love to say they are wrong. It would be great to claim that our choice in clothes has nothing to do with our capacity for independent thought.

But as I stroll through Dupont or Logan, what do I see? Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s face staring at me from the chest of an oblivious gay man.

I see guys who surely have “Hate is Not a Family Value” bumper stickers on their cars walk around memorializing the beast who cried, in April 1967, that justice is “hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine.”

Che was, indeed, a cold-blooded killing machine. He was personally and directly responsible for hundreds of deaths. But his thirst for blood extended beyond his personal ambition to take the lives of thousands more.

The number of homosexuals killed under the reign of horror he helped establish in Cuba is still unknown and will remain so until the death of his accomplice, Fidel Castro.

But what is known is that the forced-labor camps he started in Cuba with the founding of the Guanahacabibes camp were populated by what they considered the scum of society: gays, and later people with AIDS, as well as Christians and Afro-Caribbean priests.

MY PERSONAL LOATHING of this man goes beyond the certainty that he would have ordered me enslaved and murdered had I lived under his boot.

In 1954, an army of Guatemalan exiles overthrew, with the aid of the United States, what was set to become Latin America’s first Marxist government. Much controversy still surrounds this part of my native country’s history, so I will not dwell on it.

Yet I cannot help but be offended by what Guevara, writing from Guatemala, said to his mother in a letter: “It was all a lot of fun, what with the bombs, speeches, and other distractions to break the monotony I was living in.”

My mother, 11 years old at the time, does not remember with such fondness the hours she spent crouched in a closet, hearing bombers fly above her home.

Those who will accuse me of bias need only read Che’s own words to understand my indignation: “Crazy with fury, I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood.”

I am biased because I shudder to think that my sexual orientation alone would have landed me in that brute’s slaughterhouse.

AMONG THE VICTIMS of Che’s legacy is gay Cuban poet Reynaldo Arenas. In his important book, “Before Night Falls,” Arenas remembers life in a state-run Cuban boarding school, where homosexuality was punished by expulsion.

“The boys who were caught in [homosexual] acts had to parade with their beds and all their belongings towards the warehouse, where their classmates had to stone and beat them,” Arenas wrote. “It was a sinister expulsion, as it came with a file that would follow that person for the rest of his life and keep him from studying in any state school, and the state had already begun to control everything.”

“Watching that spectacle, I felt ashamed and terrified,” he added. “A faggot, that’s what you are,’ my classmate’s voice echoed, and I understood that to be a faggot’ in Cuba was one of the worse calamities that could ever happen to a human being.”

Arenas killed himself in 1990 after a long battle with AIDS. He bid his fellow Cubans farewell in a letter urging them to continue their fight for freedom. “My message,” he said, “is not a message of defeat, but of fight and hope. Cuba will be free. I already am.”

Gay men and women have no business joining the cult of Che. No matter how trendy it is, no matter how cool it looks, and no matter how “revolutionary” it seems, to romanticize and revere the memory of someone who would have you murdered is foolish, degrading and disrespectful toward victims like Arenas.

To honor Guevara is to continue his campaign to destroy human liberty.

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