Che, the Man and the Myth
When people in America think of Cuba, usually the first figure that comes to mind is Fidel or Raúl Castro, it seems that they would be the representatives of what Cuba is, but there are other figures that make up more of the country’s culture. One of these famous figures, that is known around the world, is Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Che is by far one of the most popular figures in Cuba, with the amount of statues and memorabilia that rival even Jose Martí’s. Known as being one of the youthful faces of the revolution, Che is a martyr that the public will remember for time to come.
Born in Argentina, Che became a doctor and traveled around the Central and South Americas, writing his bestselling book, the motorcycle diaries. During this time Che saw poverty and injustice that turned him onto the path of the revolution and communism. In June 1955, Che came to meet Fidel Castro and the two became fast friends together in their quest for a free Cuba. With his gift for tactics and guerilla warfare strategy, Che quickly rose in the ranks becoming the commander of the second army column. Che’s most famous moment in the revolution was on New Year’s Eve in 1958-1959 during the attack on Santa Clara. There had been a shipment of soldiers that had been sent from the other side of Cuba to assist the previous dictator, Batista, in Havana. Che, along with his men, diverted the armored train carrying the soldiers with the use of a bulldozer and kept the 350 soldiers from reaching Havana. The capture of the train is known as a turning point in the revolution because many of the men from the train would join the revolution, and it was carrying guns and weapons that the revolution could use. That armored train is now a museum that stands in Santa Clara and attracts many tourists.
After the revolution, Che remained in the public eye, he became an integral part of the government. He led the national bank, became the Cuban ambassador, and instituted national literacy campaign. One reason why the opinion on Che is so controversial is because one of these duties of his in the government after the revolution. Che was put in charge of “reviewing the appeals and firing squads for those convicted as war criminals during the revolutionary tribunals.”Che was also in charge of the “export of revolution” which meant that he encouraged other countries to convert to socialism and rise up against unjust dictator. This eventually led to him leaving Cuba in 1965 to actively participate in revolutions in the Congo Kinshasa and later Bolivia where he was killed in 1967 by CIA-assisted Bolivian Forces.
Some of the most beautiful places in Cuba carry Che as a theme. He’s known as a hero, a martyr of revolution and you’ll see him everywhere. Almost every tourist shop has at least one painting of his or a magnet, or something. The famous beret of his is sold en masse. The largest of these is probably the Che Guevara Mausoleum, which holds Che’s body along with the bodies of the comrades that died with him in Bolivia and a museum of his life. On the top is a huge complex of statues which commemorate his life and work along with a 22-foot tall statue of a bronze Che. Another famous site of Che is at the Plaza de la Revolución, the largest city square in the world. Next to the obligatory memorial dedicated to Jose Martí stands a building with the famous outline of Che, with his most famous words. These words will live on in the hearts of the Cuban people, where they are celebrated and kept as a reminder of what the people stand for. “Hasta la victoria siempre,” or “Until the everlasting victory, always.”
Antonia Januszewicz, Class V