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Star-Struck: a Spanish brand in South America

Short essay about the urban role of "the Gun"


On the morning of 7 January 1971, Geoffrey Jackson was kidnaped at gun point in the Ciudad Vieja of Montevideo, Uruguay. At the time of his abduction Mr. Jackson was the British ambassador to Uruguay. According to reports in El Diario, the group involved in the kidnapping were part of the Uruguayan National Liberation Movement, the Tupamaros.[1] In June of 1973, the Uruguayan military staged a coup d’état. For over a decade, the armed struggle between the Tupamaros and the military would raise questions about the ideological branding of “the gun”. The Tupamaros’ brand was the Star pistol. It is likely that Ambassador Jackson was struck by a Star pistol.


Following the Cuban revolution in 1959, "the gun" intensified its role as a tool used to distinguish between forms of military ideology across Latin America. Cuban leaders such as Che Guevara practiced a form of contextual revolutionary pragmatism. The Cuban revolutionary context was the rural refuge of the Sierra Maestra. Without this refuge, Guevara suggested that the revolution would take place in urban centers such as Montevideo. In clandestine documents like Notes on Urban Struggle, the Tupamaros explained this urban condition and outlined the role of “the gun”.[2] Efficient and easy to conceal, the Star pistol matched the needs of the urban guerrillas. Since the early 1900s, this pistol had been operating at the intersection between political ideology and the need for violence.


The start of many military dictatorships in Latin America coincided with the last decade of the Franco regime in Spain. The rule of General Franco marked the displacement of the Second Republic and the end of the Spanish civil war in 1939. In the Basque region of Spain, the city of Eibar endorsed the Second Republic. The Star pistol was designed and manufactured in Eibar by the Star Bonifacio Echeverria Company, a notable gun manufacturer in the Iberian Peninsula.[3] Shortly after the consolidation of the Franco regime, the Star pistol would become the gun of the Spanish military. It is a coincidence that sixty years later, in 1997, the same year that Che Guevara’s body was located and exhumed from a mass grave in Bolivia, the Star factory closed its doors. It is both unlikely and probable that the execution of Guevara involved a Star pistol.


Imagine the gun as a contemporary brand, a political tool with no given ideology. Like most tools, guns are disloyal, they follow money and contracts of all sizes. The legacy of the Star pistol demonstrates that gun brands do not sponsor revolutions—they go wherever violence is a possibility.




[1] “Tupamaros Raptan Embajador Ingles.” El Diario (Montevideo, Uruguay), Jan. 8, 1971.


[2] Alfonso Lessa, La Revolución Imposible (Montevideo, Uruguay: Fin de Siglo, 2005), 266.


[3] Igor Goni Mendizabal. “La firma Star Bonifacio Echeverria S.A” Historias de las Armas de Fuego: Ligeras, Deportivas y Militares. July 28, 2009. (Last accessed March 10, 2016.


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