Rest in Peace, EL CHE

Monday, October 08, 2007
Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of Ernesto "Che" Guevara's death/murder. I'm not going to go into great detail about his life. Instead, you can read the Wikipedia article or you can read my summary of the documentary "El Che" for more information.

It's fascinating to look at the legacy he's left us. Or rather what we've made of his life now that he's gone. In many parts of the world, especially Latin America, he's still seen as a symbol of revolution, social change, and equality although it seems to be lessening among the younger generations. In North America (excluding Mexico for the purposes of this post), things are a tad bit different. Oh sure, if you ask someone to name a "revolutionary" figure, they'll likely mention his name, probably Fidel Castro, and possibly Lenin or Marx. However, rather than being a poster boy for change and the power of the people, he's become...trendy.


As I mentioned in my review of El Che, it's become very popular to sport Che t-shirts, pins, mugs, stickers, bags, etc. or even wear a beret. It seems to symbolize that the wearer/owner is "alternative" or anti establishment but his message seems completely lost on these (mostly) young folks. Doubtful that they could even tell you much about him. Oh wait, they probably saw that movie about him on the motorcycle so they know that he and a friend drove around South America getting drunk, getting laid, and occasionally helping sick people. Sure it was a good movie and it gave some insight into why he ended up chosing the life he did, but it didn't say anything about how he spent the majority of his life and the most important work he did. If anything, Guevara has become (for North Americans) a symbol of capitalism and the almighty dollar considering all the Che-gear out there available for purchase. Yep, great way to be remembered. Perhaps sweet revenge for those that were instrumental in his capture and ultimate execution?

Fidel Castro, with whom Che partnered during his early revolutionary days, has not forgotten him, nor have the people of Cuba, the home of Guevara's final resting place. While he did not attend the memorial service in person due to his continuing health issues, Castro's words were read out at the ceremony:

"I halt in my daily combat to bow my head, with respect and gratitude, to the exceptional combatant who fell on the 8th of October 40 years ago. I give him thanks for what he tried to do, and for what he could not do in his country of birth because he was like a flower yanked prematurely from its stem."

In a related story, last year Cuban doctors performed cataract surgery on the man who executed Guevara. I guess Cubans are nicer people than I am. Isn't it lovely that this man "can once again appreciate the colours of the sky and the forest, enjoy the smiles of his grandchildren and watch football games" and one of the men who tried to bring a positive change to Latin America was cut down before being able to see his dreams fulfilled.

I'm not trying to paint El Che with a rose coloured brush. He had good intentions when he began but these were eventually became distorted and mangled along his path. And his advocacy of armed revolution is what I'd recommend only as a last resort. He was an idealist who, I think, eventually realized that the world will never be an ideal place.

It's been mentioned before but I thought I'd do it again. Benicio del Toro is portraying Guevara in a new movie due out in 2008. IMDb.com has it listed under two different titles (Guerilla and The Argentine) so I couldn't tell you which is correct. In my opinion, the resemblance is about as close as you're ever going to get.


Left - del Toro / Right - El Che
Not to diminish the real message of this post, but am I the only one who thinks Guevara was quite the handsome man? Mind you, a younger Fidel wasn't so bad either...

3 comments:

scout said...

FSP is on at Harper Valley :D

i have che tattoed on my arm...got it done in cuba at an underground tat shop :D

Milla said...

Well, Guevara WAS an handsome man, and a sexy beast too, that is why he became so popular. He is on mousemats, coffe mugs, hats, t-shirts etc etc. They even did an exhibition on him at the V&A museum in London.

There is these days a great bias towards left wing figures in our society. I mean, I can't imagine anyone doing a mousemat out of a picture of Galeazzo Ciano for example, never mind an exhibition.

SME said...

Truthfully, I wanna vomit every time I see him, or his ridiculously over-glamorized mug on Che merchandise. He was a mass murderer and thug who would have done the world a greater service by sticking to the treatment of lepers. He was a good man at one point in his life, and he became a monster. I hope people will learn to see beyond the image. Funny how we excoriate the president of Iran for his country's mistreatment of gays, but we smile upon Fidel & Che - who behaved basically the same way towards everyone who didn't fit their image of the ideal Cuban citizen.

Revolutions are not sexy and fun. They're bloody, terrifying, and usually completely ineffective; the people who stage them aren't the common people as we all are led to believe, but the power-hungry second-string players who manipulate the situations to their own ends. No, I'm not saying Cuba was better under Batista. I'm only saying things aren't so hot now, either. They just swapped some problems for others.

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