A paper model of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, on sale at the gift shop at the Pérez Art Museum Miami over the weekend, prompted outrage and criticism of the facility from some Cuban Americans in South Florida.
The controversy erupted Saturday when Maria Werlau, head of a nonprofit that investigates and documents human-rights violations in Cuba, visited PAMM. And what she saw surprised her.
“I went with the idea of spending some free time there, but when I went into the museum’s gift shop I found a Che figure,” Werlau said.
Werlau, head of Cuba Archive, said she spotted a box with a paper model of Che Guevara’s head that could be put together in 60 minutes.
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“I took a photo and put it on Facebook,” Werlau said. She immediately began to receive comments from outraged people, she said.
“It’s shameful,” some of the comments said. “An insult to the Cuban community,” another commenter said.
Werlau’s organization has documented brutal human rights violations committed by Guevara, an Argentine physician who supervised the executions of scores of Cubans after Fidel Castro’s revolution seized power in 1959.
“That’s why it’s an insult to celebrate a figure like this one, especially in a museum,” she said.
PAMM gets its name from Jorge Pérez, a Cuban-American developer who donated $40 million in cash and artwork from his private collection. PAMM was built on public land and financed in part with taxpayer funds.
Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami, told el Nuevo Herald that celebrating the figure of Che Guevara makes a mockery of Cuban history.
“It’s like Jews seeing a picture of Hitler in a museum,” he said.
PAMM spokesperson Alexa Ferra, in an email to el Nuevo Herald, said the paper model of Che’s head went on sale at the gift shop as part of a broader line of products that use the images of well-known historic figures. Its sale should not be interpreted as a political statement by the museum, she said.
Ferra added that the gift shop was no longer selling the Che model.
Follow Laura Gamba on twitter: @lauragamba52