Or villain? Che Guevara was executed 40 years ago today in a move that assured his name would be remembered for a long time. Or at least his face. His visage leaps out at us from myriad sources; t-shirts, posters, CD cases thanks to Jim Fitzpatrick’s graphic designed from Alberto Corda’s photo. I took the photo to the left in Bergen, Norway this year. An older Che wearing his younger face on his shirt. Che selling himself out.
That’s one of the confusing factors about labeling Guevara a hero. His legacy is coloured by the Che on the shirts. How many times have you seen Che on a poster at college, or even high school? That image is tied to the “adolescent revolutionary romanticism” described by Robert Conquest. The myth of Che is one of rebellion, fighting against the ‘man’, and of David and Goliath. It is tempting to teenagers looking to rebel against their parents and society in general.
The other confusion surrounding Guevara is that opinions regularly fall either side of the partisan fence. He’s a hero to the left and a monster to the right. His anti-American stance makes him an enemy to many Americans, but his apparent giving of himself to the cause makes him a god to those who seek revolution. The philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre said Che was “the most complete human being of our age” and the slogan “Che Lives!” appeared on walls around the world after his death. Yet, recently his image on a CD case was removed from Target stores after complaints compared him with Hitler and bin Laden.
So, how can we find a neutral source of information about the man? Is there such a thing? We can say he seemed an idealist in his early life, as portrayed in the film, Motorcycle Diaries. Someone who wanted to change the inequalities he saw as he traveled South America. We can also safely say he was a violent man. A man who executed people in Cuba and was labeled the “The Butcher of la Cabaña”.
What’s your opinion? 4o years after he died, he’s still very much in the public eye.