What Does Our New Relationship With Cuba Mean For Che T-Shirts?: Original Designer Weighs In

December 18, 2014 | Rhett Jones

Now that the U.S. and Cuba have started the process of normalizing political relations, lovers of mojitos and cigars are rejoicing, and politicians are debating — but the question on everyone’s mind is: What kind of effect will this monumental event have on the industry of manufacturing merchandise emblazoned with the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara’s image?

The famous photo of Che looking into the distance is one of the most bootlegged and reproduced in the world. Graffiti artists paint it, protesters put it on signs and it can be found in college dorm rooms right beside the Scarface and Salvador Dali posters.

Known as Guerillero Heroico, the original photograph was taken by Alberto Korda in 1960. Later, in 1967, the Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick altered the photo into a stark poster design that is now available on practically anything you want to buy.

ANIMAL spoke with John Trigiani, owner of The Che Store to see how he thought the renewed relationship between Cuba and the U.S. might effect Che merchandise. Trigiani had this to say:

I’m not sure at this point. Anytime in the past that Che would come up in culture it has increased sales, if there was a movie or a book released, a little bit … People will probably learn more about him as they visit Cuba and the culture and history becomes better known, which could be good for sales.

Trigiani added that for his business, which is located in Canada, it might hurt if someone in the U.S. started competing with him. But for the time being, The Che Store holds the image license for all of North America from the Alberto Korda family.

When asked if he thinks that Che’s cache as a rebellious figure might be harmed now that the United States isn’t at odds with the Cuban government, he says:

Anytime I see images of revolution around the world on the news, I see Che’s image … so it’ll probably continue to be an image of revolution.

The original designer of the graphic image, Jim Fitzpatrick, had no direct comment on the business surrounding Che. In an email to ANIMAL, Fitzpatrick sent a single word, “Venceremos!” Which means “we will overcome”, or “we will win” in Spanish. Moments later he followed up with a P.S.:

Now let peace break out. God bless and protect your President from the nut cases.

The struggle continues.

(Photo: Wikimedia, eBay)