Friday, June 30, 2006

An Open Letter to the Victoria and Albert Museum

by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

After my article about the Che exhibit, Zoe Whitley, Curator of Contemporary Programmes of the Victoria and Albert Museum wrote me a thoughtful and caring letter addressing the issues I raised in my article published on June 28 on LaurenceJarvikOnline.

In it Miss Whitley acknowledged that she received many criticisms for this exhibit and that the issues I raised are important and serious. She proceeded to explain, “The content of the exhibition has to do with the legacy of an iconic photograph taken by Alberto Korda in 1960 - not the life of the man in the photograph.

“Again, in no way is the V&A seeking to honour a murderer. We have created a vibrant design exhibition, as is our remit, which in the process raises many issues for visitors to consider. I fully realize this response will not change your valid point of view, but I do hope it might go some way to explaining the Museum's rationale.”

Through the worlds of Miss Whitley I can see that she was aware of Che’s criminal history and that the exhibit focused on the image the late Alberto Korda’s photo – ironically taken while Che was very uncomfortable suffering from asthma - and how it became an icon. There was sincerity in her words and clearly expressed her regret that the exhibit had offended so many Cubans.

I feel compelled to point out the extent of her efforts to respond to the issues I raised. I certainly thank her for the concern and compassion expressed in her response to me. My expectation was that my letter to the museum would not result in a reply, as is the norm when I have written to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – either silence or an arrogant, snobbish reply.

The problem for Cuban Americans is, why do people and organizations continue to offend us? Why is OK?

As I wrote to Miss Whitley, “The point of your exhibit is certainly an interesting and valid one and the case of the Che photo is a rather unique one, but there are so many, many other examples of the same phenomenon that are not offensive.

“I hope you can understand that every time Cubans see on the streets the careless display of Che paraphernalia we are genuinely offended - it feels like a dagger in the heart as our nemesis is used as a hero.”

After recently returning from Europe a filmmaker colleague told me what she saw there was revolting. “In Lisbon there are complete stores dedicated to Che and Castro merchandising. I entered one of them and complained to the owner and he laughed at me. There is no solution!”

A Cuban intellectual told me in relation to the cult about Che, “Oswald Spengler was correct when referring to the decadence” of the Western Civilization. “Canonizing an assassin, a killer an opportunist only shows once more our profound gullibility and blind search of false prophets.

“Trisha Ziff was absolutely correct arguing that Guevara has become the only symbol and banner of revelry for the oppressed.”

I have watched the sorrowful spectacles of so many Central Americans in my area, both legal and illegal, proudly sporting Che merchandising. I have been deeply offended and felt pity for them because if they knew of Che’s human and social crimes, they would be spiting on his image rather than wearing it.

This intellectual said, “The dreadful thing is, why Guevara? Why has such a nefarious figure become an ‘alter Christus’ in our era? In part it is due to the systematic misinformation and in part to the stupid stubbornness of the left academic-bohemians in relation to the Cuban Revolution. Their brains are profoundly clogged - I don’t want to say cretins.”

A former actor said about my Victoria & Albert Museum’s article, “Magnificent piece, very real (as Cubans know). But sadly we are fighting against something evil hidden under a great lie that to date we haven’t been able to unravel, because these people have a pact with the devil and it is a very hard fight.

“Thanks for your efforts to try to make the world understand our sad situation, but unfortunately it is a lost cause. I hope one day we can prove what we have been trying to convey for so long is true.”

As I replied to Miss Whitley’s nice letter, “As a filmmaker, writer and artist, I certainly appreciate what you are trying to convey in this exhibit. However, as a byproduct of the exhibit, the image of Che Guevara will become even more popular and generate more interest in the generally misinformed public about what he really was.

“Unfortunately, the exhibit will contribute to the Che fashion and interest in Che paraphernalia will increase generating sales, that because of Castro's policy of manipulating royalties will end up in his own pocket, which means more repression for the Cubans on the island.”

Would a respectable institution or a human being want to carry that on their conscience?

© 2006 ABIP
Agustin Blazquez, Producer/director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA, premiered at the American Film Institute in 1995, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation, premiered in 2001 at the U.S. Capitol in and at the 2001 Miami International Book Fair COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival, the 2004 American Film Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival, COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below, premiered at the Tower Theaters in Miami on January 2006 and the 2006 Palm Beach International Film Festival, Dan Rather "60 Minutes," an inside view and RUMBERAS CUBANAS, Vol. 1 MARIA ANTONIETA PONS

For previews visit:

Author of more that 300 published articles and author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.