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Useful Notes: Che Guevara
This face is one of the top selling t-shirts

"The guy's face is shorthand for 'I'm against the status quo.' He's politics' answer to James Dean, a rebel with a very specific cause."
David Segal, The Washington Post

Ernesto Guevara (1928-1967), better known by his nickname "Che", was an Argentinian Marxist revolutionary best known for two facts: his active role in the Cuban Revolution (in which he helped Fidel Castro to seize power from the United States-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista), and making a profitable market of people who bought T-shirts with his face on them after his death in Bolivia, where he was arrested and executed by the Bolivian military with the aid of the CIA. He also took part in the Congo revolution, but it wasn't successful.

Defending a socialist cause and being executed at a young age, Che Guevara has evolved into a symbol that represents both, "civil disobedience" and "political awareness" (The Other Wiki has several articles about him). More often than not, he is also used as the "Romantic Expression" of Guerilla Warfare: a tough but well-intentioned guy, willing to fight injustice (and American imperialism) over everything (one example is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker). Often treated as a hero figure and many books, film, and TV shows alike.

Lots of books, quite a few movies, and even an SNK Metal Slug-ish videogame called "Guevara" (dolled up in the USA as Guerrilla War) have been done about him.

Tropes

  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Many of his opponents like to point out that he's a mass murderer, terrorist, racist towards blacks note , and had a strong distaste for rock and jazz ("bourgeois" music, of course).
  • Artistic License - Economics: His efforts at developing the Cuban economy as part of Castro's new government were...unsuccessful.
  • Badass Beard
  • Badass Bookworm: From Wikipedia: "Guevara learned chess from his father and began participating in local tournaments by age 12. During adolescence and throughout his life he was passionate about poetry, especially that of Pablo Neruda, John Keats, Antonio Machado, Federico García Lorca, Gabriela Mistral, César Vallejo, and Walt Whitman. He could also recite Rudyard Kipling's "If—" and José Hernández's Martín Fierro from memory. The Guevara home contained more than 3,000 books, which allowed Guevara to be an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, with interests including Karl Marx, William Faulkner, André Gide, Emilio Salgari and Jules Verne. Additionally, he enjoyed the works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Vladimir Lenin, and Jean-Paul Sartre; as well as Anatole France, Friedrich Engels, H. G. Wells, and Robert Frost."
  • Banana Republic: Cuba under Batista is the least disputed example.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: A surprisingly literal form of this trope, especially when the period between "Che gets overrun by Bolivian Military" and "Che winds up dead" was relatively unknown; it's since been disclosed by the Bolivian Army.
  • Bury Your Gays: Applied quite literally. He and Castro murdered or imprisoned in labor camps many innocent people for the "crime" of being homosexual.
  • Combat Medic
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty /General Failure /The Neidermeyer: : Even those sympathetic to him point out that he often treated his men *very* roughly. On top of this, he was something of an incredibly uneven officer, showing almost suicidal bravery in one battle, and crushing cowardice in the next.
  • Enemies Equals Greatness: He believed this:
    "It's a sad thing not to have friends, but it is even sadder not to have enemies."
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: To what degree has been disputed. However, he's gone down in the Pop Culture Osmosis as the badass, rugged revolutionary to end all revolutionaries with the ability to singlehandedly topple governments. In reality, his track record outside Cuba was dismal, he constantly underestimated his enemies to the point of disaster, and he probably killed more helpless prisoners than he ever did fighting enemies.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade/Historical Villain Upgrade: Yes, and let's leave it this way.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Alberto Granado, a fellow doctor who joined him in his Motorcycle journey
  • Irony: He was a communist guerilla leader. Nowadays, his face adorns untold numbers of t-shirts and posters sold in shopping malls across America.
  • Necessarily Evil: How the handling of La Cabaña prison is often treated by those who like him.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The ultimate result of the Cuban Revolution.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Despite the sometimes firsthand executions of Batista supporters and officials, it's also known that he would release captured Bolivian soldiers after taking their weapons and uniforms.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: He engaged in mass murder against many, including homosexuals; on top of this he was generally extremely crude and prone to decidedly non-PC insults. This has caused many people- mostly his opponents - to accuse him for being racist towards blacks. This is taken from a personal diary entry he had, and eyewitness accounts of some rather derogatory language he used towards some of his men. In reality, he wrote this said diary entry when he was touring around South America and encountered the black population for the first time in a Venezuelan slums. Three days after he wrote that said diary entry, he complained to his friends about the "white discrimination against blacks" when he was at Miami; called for racial integration of in Cuba years before United States did so; fellow revolutionary Juan Almeida, one of his best friends, was Afro-Cuban; had a personal bodyguard who was black; taught an illiterate black man how to read; promoted several black artists and Civil Rights leaders like Malcolm X; and gave a "The Reason You Suck" Speech at the United Nations criticizing U.S. segregation laws and the South African apartheid society (the speech can be heard here). Note that he tried to help a communist revolution in Congo and is praised by Nelson Mandela and Black Panther's Stokely Carmichael for his actions.
    • Of course, by a lot of eyewitness or "eyewitness" accounts, this never stopped him from being rather verbally abrasive towards Blacks, including some of his men (though that could be largely written off because Che was usually abrasive to *everyone* in his unit, and more ambiguously he's been alleged to have had some stereotypical views of Blacks even if he didn't approve of discrimination against them personally.
  • Verbal Tic: "Che" is a common Argentinian verbal tic. People noticed that Guevara used it.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: One interpretation of his death has Castro, the USSR (or both) sending him to Bolivia out of fear that Che's popularity would lead him to become a serious rival. Could be one possible explanation for the attitude of Bolivia's communist leader, Mario Monje, towards Guevara: apathy at best and hostility at worst.
  • Young Future Famous People: The Motorcycle Diaries
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Compare how the Cuban Exile organizations view him with how he's regarded in socialist circles.
  • Warrior Poet: Che wrote at least one book, The Motor Cycle Diaries, and also... well, the warrior part is pretty obvious.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A possible interpretation of him, although certainly not the only one.

Charles MansonUseful NotesChristopher Hitchens
Genghis KhanHistorical-Domain CharacterAlexander Hamilton

alternative title(s): Che Guevara
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