Without a doubt one of the most controversial leaders to have emerged during the 20th century, Argentine-born Ernesto "Che" Guevara and his famed image are difficult to avoid here in Latin America (and on liberal college campuses throughout the U.S.). More than 40 years after his death, Che Guevara remains a deeply polarizing figure whose revolutionary ideals and actions inspire either admiration or hatred. Then, of course, there's the guy in Venice Beach, California who thinks Che was the inventor of the mojito.
Che is quite popular among college students who sport t-shirts with his image, more as a fashion statement than a political one. Others prefer spray painting Che's face to wearing it. And look, here's Che's ubiquitous mug reminding us to practice safe sex:
Che's bearded, beret-wearing visage is plastered or graffitied everywhere—and I do mean everywhere. But who the #@%^ is Che?
The quick and dirty answer according to Wikipedia is as follows:
"Ernesto 'Che' Guevara (June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967) commonly known as Che Guevara, El Che, or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, military theorist, international statesman and major figure of the Cuban Revolution. Since his death, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol and global insignia within popular culture."
If you'd like to know more about Che Guevara, here are some interesting articles that I came across. The first selection presents a fairly unbiased overview of Che's life, while the other articles take a more definitive stance (either positive or negative) about his life and accomplishments.
American Experience>People & Events>Che Guevara (1928-1967) – PBS.org
"CIA Man Recounts Che Guevara's Death" – BBC News
"Che Guevara's Daughter Recalls Her Revolutionary Father" – The Guardian
"Time 100: Che Guevara" – Time Magazine
"This Endless Myth-Making About the Blood-Soaked Che Guevara Must Stop" – The Huffington Post
On a final note, yesterday morning I couldn't help but let out a chuckle when I opened my email and found this t-shirt featured in the weekly dispatch from my favorite tongue-in-cheek news source, The Onion.
I give you the description of the Che Wearing Che T-shirt T-shirt: "This scarcely seen iconic image dates back to 1958, shortly after revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara freed thousands from the restrictive yoke of T-shirt selection."
Now, I'm glad to see Che's involvement in the t-shirt industry being recognized, but please, whatever you do, don't forget about his crucial role in the birth of the mojito. ;)
[Photo credit: Carlos Adampol]