Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Remembering Che

This young man wore his Che T-shirt in Damascus, Syria last year.

Forty years ago today in the Bolivian highlands, a Cuban-born CIA agent, gave the order to a Bolivian soldier to shoot their captive, Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Yet somehow the guerilla leader, the Argentine doctor who sought to lead an uprising of the poor, lives on as an international icon. Of what he is an icon is not so clear, but that that somehow he lives in popular imagination is undeniable.

The villagers in the town where he died venerate him as a saint to be invoked in time of trouble.

The winding road that connects Vallegrande to La Higuera leads to a cluster of humble houses, walls plastered with Che's images and graffiti. In the middle of the village is a cobbled star-shaped square with a small bust of Che; next to it is a large altar with a cross and a big grey sculpture of Guevara.

Melanio Moscoso, 37, sits against a wall next to a Guevara poster. 'We pray to him, we are so proud he had died here, in La Higuera, fighting for us. We feel him so close,' he says.

His neighbour, Primitiva Rojas, professes devotion: 'I have lots of faith in him. Because he stopped existing does not mean he is not here with us.' A few days ago, when feeling sick, she prayed to him and soon felt better. 'That same night I dreamt of a man with a black beard and tender eyes, who was telling me: "I was the one who cured you".'

Certainly much of Che's enduring magic arises from responses to Alberto Korda's iconic photo of the bearded, long-haired revolutionary in the beret. It is a source for all those T-shirts and posters. Wikipedia reports: "the Maryland Institute College of Art called Korda's picture, 'the most famous photograph in the world and a symbol of the 20th century.'"

Somehow the image and the man's history have merged in imagination to call up a deep archetype of the heroic leader who brings justice to the poor.

I only know that when I was around the Catholic Worker movement in the 1970s -- that is, in the heart of in what was Roman Catholicism's U.S. alternative to godless communism -- Che's famous dicta from a letter on Socialism and the new man [sic] hung in the crowded office:

Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. It is impossible to think of an authentic revolutionary without this quality...

The dream endures.

1 comment:

a victim of communism said...

The “Che” was a cold blooded killer, whose only worth while contribution to humanity was to take a bullet and ship out to a well deserved everlasting Hell.

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