At the recommendation of a current professor, George Mason
University hosted feminist, poet and social justice activist Margaret Randall
on campus Monday for a presentation and signing of her latest book,
“Che on My Mind” and some students weren’t too eager to grab a
As Randall discussed “the inspiration and lessons” social
justice activists and freedom fighters can learn from Che, about 10
students gathered outside the event’s location to honor those murdered by
him in a candlelight vigil.
“Once this event came up we looked at it as the last straw and it
was really embarrassing that it was happening at our university,”
said Anthony Travieso, a senior majoring in economics, government
and international politics who helped organize the vigil.
Travieso and his friend Daniel Pedreira , who’s a graduate student
at GMU, are both Cuban-Americans and were deeply upset with the University’s ongoing promotion of programs and guest speakers
that encourage travel and trade with Cuba.
“Both Daniel and I are Cuban Americans and my grandparents and
his parents left the island during the communist revolution and
our families were affected by what Che Guevara did. The University
has been having a lot of programs and guest speakers that promote
travel and trade with the island [Cuba] and we disagree with that,”
Travieso said. “We had this guest speaker who was trying to vindicate
him [Guevara] and she knew him and his family personally and so I
think even she knew the truth.”
The truth being that Che was a Marxist guerilla fighter who
murdered dissenters of his revolution without hesitation or a fair
trial. Furthermore, he viciously opposed freedom of speech, religion,
protest and assembly and is often referred to by the Cuban Exile community
as “the Butcher of La Cubaña.”
Nonetheless, GMU’s Latin American, Women and Gender, and
Cultural Studies departments joined by the University Life, Office of
the Provost and Global Affairs Department agreed to sponsor
Randall’s lecture series about the “inspiration and lessons that Che’s
struggles might offer early twenty-first-century social justice activists
and freedom fighters” and described her as “deeply admiring of
Che’s integrity and charisma and frank about what she sees as his
strategic errors,” according the University’s Global Affairs website.
Travieso estimated a crowd of 70 professors and students
attended Randall’s lecture while he, Pedreira and their friends braved the
cold honoring Che’s victims rather than Che. The two young men also
carried YAF posters portraying the iconic portrait of Che that’s been
printed on t-shirts and hung in college dorm rooms- on these posters
however, Che’s face is illustrated using those of his victims.
When asked if the University had considered the potential for controversy prior to hosting Randall, a spokesperson for the Women
and Gender Studies department – who donated money to help sponsor
the event – declined to comment.
“No we did not,” added Jason King, a program assistant for
GMU’s Global Interdisciplinary Program.
Gabriella Morrongiello is a recent graduate of Young America’s Foundation’s National Journalism Center.