Open letter to Carlos Santana
I found out, through our friend Raul Artiles, that you'll be performing in Miami soon; I find this rather ill-advised, since not too long ago you committed the faux-pas of appearing at the "Oscar Awards" ceremony, brandishing, with pride, an enormous crucifix over a tee-shirt with that archaic and stereotyped image of "The Butcher of the Cabaña," the moniker given to the lamentable character known as Ché Guevara by those Cubans who had to suffer his tortures and humiliations in that nefarious prison.
One of these Cubans was my cousin Bebo, imprisoned there just for being a Christian. He recounts to me on occasion, always with infinite bitterness, how he could hear, from his cell, in the early hours of dawn, the executions without prior trials or process of law, of the many who died shouting, "Long Live Christ The King!"
The guerrilla guy with the beret with the star is something more than that ridiculous film about a motorcycle, my illustrious colleague, and to juxtapose Christ with Ché Guevara is like entering a synagogue with a swastika hanging from your neck; it's also a harsh blow in the face of that Cuban youth from the 60's, who had to go into hiding to listen to your albums which the Revolution, and the troglodite Argentinian and his cohorts, dubbed as "imperialist music" (i.e. Rock & Roll)
I can't find all the words to express my indignation over your irresponsible attitude, but believe me that in spite of all, as an artist I always wish you luck. And you're going to need it, Carlos. Especially in Miami!.
Che at the Oscars
by Humberto Fontova
Did you catch Carlos Santana's grand entrance at the Oscars?
Well, the famed guitarist couldn't contain himself. He stopped for the photographers, smiled deliriously and swung his jacket open. TA-DA! There it was: Carlos' elegantly embroidered Che Guevara t-shirt. Carlos' face as the flashbulbs popped said it all. "I'm so COOL!" he beamed. "I'm so HIP! I'm so CHEEKY! So SHARP! So TUNED IN!"
Tune in to this, Carlos: in the mid 1960's Fidel and your charming t-shirt icon set up concentration camps in Cuba for, among many others, "anti-social elements" and "delinquents." Besides Bohemian (Haight-Ashbury, Greenwich Village types) and homosexuals, these camps were crammed with "roqueros," who qualified in Che and Fidel's eyes as useless "delinquents."
A "roquero" was a hapless youth who tried to listen to Yankee-Imperialist
rock music in Cuba.
Comprende, Carlos? Do you see where I'm going with this, Carlos?
Yes, Mr Santana, here you were grinning widely-- and OH-SO-hiply!-- while proudly displaying the symbol of a regime that: MADE IT A CRIMINAL OFFENSE TO LISTEN TO CARLOS SANTANA MUSIC! You IMBECILE!!
True, you didn't hit it big 'till Woodstock in 1969, at a time when Che had already received a heavy dose of the very medicine he gallantly dished out to hundreds of bound and gagged men and boys, some as young as fourteen. This means the first inmates of his concentration camps were probably guilty of the heinous crime of listening mainly to the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, etc. But the regime Che helped set up kept up the practice of jailing "roqueros" well past the time when you were hot on the rock charts, Carlos.
Lest we get carried away with merely laughing at your stupidity, I'll pass along the thoughts from Cuban music legend, Paquito D'Rivera. He wrote his recent letter to you in Spanish. "My command of English wouldn't allow me to fully express my indignation" at your cheeky Oscar gig, he explained. Seems that Mr D'Rivera had relatives among those your t-shirt icon jailed, tortured and murdered. In closing, Mr D'Rivera wishes you good luck in your professional endeavors. He says you'll need it, considering that you'll soon be playing a gig in Miami.
A Cuban gentleman named Pierre San Martin was also among those jailed by the gallant Che. A few years ago he recalled the horrors in a El Nuevo Herald article. "32 of us were crammed into a cell" he recalls. "16 of us would stand while the other sixteen tried to sleep on the cold filthy floor. We took shifts that way. Actually, we considered ourselves lucky. After all, we were alive. Dozens were led from the cells to the firing squad daily. The volleys kept us awake. We felt that any one of those minutes would be our last."
"One morning the horrible sound of that rusty steel door swinging open startled us awake and Che's guards shoved a new prisoner into our cell. His face was bruised and smeared with blood. We could only gape. He was a boy, couldn't have been much older than 12, maybe 14.
"What did you do?" We asked horrified. "I tried to defend my papa," gasped the bloodied boy. "I tried to keep these Communist sons of b**tches form murdering him! But they sent him to the firing squad."
Soon Che's goons came back, the rusty steel door opened and they yanked the valiant boy out of the cell. "We all rushed to the cell's window that faced the execution pit, " recalls Mr San Martin. "We simply couldn't believe they'd murder him!"
"Then we spotted him, strutting around the blood-drenched execution yard with his hands on his waist and barking orders--the gallant Che Guevara." Here Che was finally in his element. In battle he was a sad joke, a bumbler of epic proportions (For details see Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant) But up against disarmed and bloodied boys he was a snarling tiger.
"Kneel Down!" Che barked at the boy.
"ASSASSINS!" We screamed for our window. "MURDERERS!! HOW CAN YOU MURDER A LITTLE BOY!"
" I said: KNEEL DOWN!" Che barked again.
The boy stared Che resolutely in the face. "If you're going to kill me," he yelled. "you'll have to do it while I'm standing! MEN die standing!"
" COWARDS!--MURDERERS!..Sons of B**TCHES!" The men yelled desperately from their cells. "LEAVE HIM ALONE!" HOW CAN...?! "And then we saw Che unholstering his pistol. It didn't seem possible. But Che raised his pistol, put the barrel to the back of the boys neck and blasted. The shot almost decapitated the young boy.
"We erupted. We were enraged, hysterical, banging on the bars."MURDERERS!--ASSASSINS!" His murder finished, Che finally looked up at us, pointed his pistol, and BLAM!-BLAM-BLAM! emptied his clip in our direction. Several of us were wounded by his shots."
To a man (and boy) Che's murder victims went down in a blaze of defiance and glory. So let's recall Che's own plea when the wheels of justice finally turned and he was cornered in Bolivia.. "Don't Shoot!" he whimpered. "I'm Che ! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!"
This swinish and murdering coward, this child-killer, was the toast of the Oscars.
Humberto Fontova is the author of Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite