At the São Paulo fashion show on July 15, 2002 supermodel Gisele Bundchen catwalked wearing a glamorous bikini consisting entirely of faces of Che Guevara, who rarely bathed and constantly reeked of “boiled liver” and “rotting fish” according to his early comrades and surviving victims.
Granted, the future Mrs Tom Brady probably thought the cool, long-haired image clinging to her bosom and buttocks that day depicted Pink Floyd’s lead guitarist, or perhaps The Door’s lead singer, freshly-bathed and redolent of Guerlain--but still.
Gisele Bundchen, the world’s highest paid model and champion of “female empowerment” comes across as a genuinely decent person, devoted mom, and sincere philanthropist. Given her childhood in Brazil, her social circles today, and the educational qualities of the mainstream media, expecting her to have a clue about her Bikini icon that day seems unfair if not preposterous. Chris Matthews, after all, admitted that he learned much about the Cuban Revolution from The Godfather II. Time magazine, after all, hailed Che Guevara-- co-founder of a regime that jailed political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin’s, murdered more of them than pre-war Hitler’s, and craved to ignite a nuclear war-- as “Hero and Icon of the Century” alongside Mother Teresa.
Indeed, on this issue, being a high school dropout probably helped Mrs Brady. Given the tenor of “higher” education nowadays, an Ivy League degree in any of the social “sciences” would have probably made her into a lifetime cheerleader for Che-wear. So I offer the following more as missionary than as heckler:
Many American ladies of Cuban heritage whose husbands, sons and grandkids will be cheering for your husband this Sunday, Mrs Tom Brady, carry horrifying memories of the image on your bikini. These ladies suffered under a totalitarian horror utterly unknown in the Western Hemisphere until introduced by the Stalinist regime co-founded by the subject of your cheeky fashion statement.
Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s regime jailed and tortured 35,150 Cuban women for political crimes. Some of these Cuban ladies suffered twice as long in Castro’s Gulag as Alexander Solzhenitsyn suffered in Stalin’s. Whatever the term “female empowerment” actually means, surely the definition includes the type of fortitude these ladies (mostly girls younger than yourself today upon their arrest) called forth to survive in Cuba’s prisons, forced labor camps and torture chambers. If not, then the term is even more air-headed than it sounds.
Finally free they now find their torturer and the murderer of some of their loved ones glorified on everything from T-shirts to thong underwear. This in an age where “sensitivity” supposedly rules in every venue of public discourse.
These women’s prison conditions were described by former Cuban political prisoner Maritza Lugo. “The punishment cells measure 3 feet wide by 6 feet long. The toilet consisted of an 8 inch hole in the ground through which cockroaches and rats enter, especially in cool temperatures the rat come inside to seek the warmth of our bodies and we were often bitten. The suicide rate among women prisoners was very high.”
“They started by beating us with twisted coils of electric cable,” recalls former political prisoner Ezperanza Pena from exile today. “I remember Teresita on the ground with all her lower ribs broken. Gladys had both her arms broken. Doris had her face cut up so badly from the beatings that when she tried to drink, water would pour out of her lacerated cheeks.”
“On Mother’s Day they allowed family visits,” recalls, Manuela Calvo from exile today.” But as our mothers and sons and daughters were watching, we were beaten with rubber hoses and high-pressure hoses were turned on us, knocking all of us the ground floor and rolling us around as the guards laughed and our loved-ones screamed helplessly.”
“When female guards couldn’t handle us male guards were called in for more brutal beatings. I saw teen-aged girls beaten savagely, their bones broken, their mouths bleeding,” recalls Polita Grau.
Many of these heroic ladies (Ana Rodriguez, Miriam Ortega, Georgina Cid, Caridad Roque, Mercedes Pena, Aída Díaz Morejón, Ana Lázara Rodríguez, Ágata Villarquide, Alicia del Busto, Ileana Curra, among them) live in the U.S. today. But no producer for Oprah or Joy Behar or Katie Couric, none from the Lifetime or Oxygen TV—much less the History Channel, has ever called them. No writer for Cosmo or Glamour or Redbook or Vogue has bothered either.
But you’ve certainly seen their torturer hailed by “Feminist” reporters.
Upon the death of Raul Castro’s wife Vilma Espin in 2006 the Washington Post gushed that: “she was a champion of women’s rights and greatly improved the status of women in Cuba, a society known for its history of machismo.” Actually, in 1958 Cuba had more female college graduates as a percentage of population than the U.S.
This Castroite “improvement of status” somehow tripled Cuban women’s pre-revolution suicide rate, making Cuban women the most suicidal on earth. This according to a 1998 study by scholar Maida Donate-Armada that uses some of the Cuban regime’s own figures.
On Christmas Eve of 1961 a Cuban woman named Juana Diaz spat in the face of the executioners who were binding and gagging her. Che’s Soviet-trained secret police had found her guilty of feeding and hiding “bandits” (Cuban rednecks who took up arms to fight the Stalinist theft of their land to build Soviet–style Kolkhozes.) When the blast from Castroite firing squad demolished her face and torso Juana was six months pregnant.
In 1962, a Cuban Catholic nun named Aida Rosa Perez was overheard saying things about Fidel Castro and Che Guevara similar to those Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg routinely broadcast about George Bush. Sister Rosa Perez was quickly rounded up at Soviet gun-point and sentenced to 12 years at hard labor. Two years into her sentence, while toiling in the sun inside Castro's Gulag and surrounded by leering guards, Sister Rosa collapsed from a heart attack.
The Cuban Archive project has fully documented many firing squad executions of Cuban women by the regime co-founded by Che Guevara. Over 200 women died from various beatings, brutalities and tortures while in prison.
Thousands of Cuban women have also drowned, died of thirst or have been eaten alive by sharks attempting to “empower” themselves by fleeing the handiwork of your cheekiest fashion statement, Mrs Tom Brady. This from a nation that prior to Castroism towered over your native Brazil in every socio-economic indicator.
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.