Remember that Chairman Mao bag that
you…your “friend” bought the first time you came to China? These bags are found all over China and they are easy to spot. The bags are dark green with a red star or red portrait of Chairman Mao on the flap. Usually, the bags will contain some quote from Mao’s The Little Red Book (the second best selling book in the world, by the way), written in red Chinese characters. Judging from personal observation, these bags are rather popular with laowais and tourists alike. With Che Guevara and Soviet Russian symbolism on many items of clothing nowadays, communist and socialist icons are quite fashionable with the youngsters, despite the fact that consumers may not always be aware of what controversy can occur when donning such apparel.
American actress and Justin Timberlake’s ex-girlfriend (shocking I know), Cameron Diaz learned this lesson during her recent trip to Peru. Ms. Diaz is in Peru visiting the
Mayan Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. While not known by Hollywood for her intellect (see Lost in Translation), Ms. Diaz thought that toting her Mao bag would be a perfect accessory for her ruin climbing ensemble. Her particular Chairman Mao bag contains a classic quote from the Chairman, “Serve the People.” written in Chinese of course. While the quote is fairly innocent in itself, in a place like Peru, it has turned out to be quite controversial. You see, during the 1980’s and 1990’s, nearly 70,000 Peruvians were killed during the Maoist Shining Path insurgency.
A prominent Peruvian human rights activist, Pablo Rojas said “the star of There’s Something About Mary should have been a little more aware of local sensitivities when picking her accessories”:
“It alludes to a concept that did so much damage to Peru, that brought about so many victims.”
“I don’t think she should have used that bag where the followers of that ideology” did so much damage.