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Useful Notes / Che Guevara

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"It would take a thousand years and a million pages to write Che's biography."

Ernesto Guevara (14 June 1928 – 9 October 1967), better known by his nickname "Che", note  was an Argentinian Marxist revolutionary who attained fame for his active role as a guerrilla leader and strategist in the Cuban Revolution (in which he helped Fidel Castro to seize power from its dictator Fulgencio Batista) and then later, his death in Bolivia, where he was arrested and executed by the Bolivian military with the aid of the CIA. He also ran Castro's most infamous prison, La Cabaña, and oversaw Revolutionary Tribunals and summary executions, for which Cuban exiles would call him "El Carnicero de La Cabaña" (or "The Butcher of La Cabaña"). After that he worked as a government bureaucrat and took a lead in introducing literacy measures. Eventually he became restless and decided to engage in revolutionary causes again. He later took part in the Congo revolution, but it wasn't successful. Then he conducted a complicated scheme in Bolivia that eventually led to his capture and execution.

Defending a socialist cause and being executed at a young age, Che Guevara evolved into a symbol that represents both "civil disobedience" and "political awareness" (The Other Wiki has several articles about him). A photograph of Che by Alberto Kordanote  became one of the most famous photographs during The '60s, which thanks its subject's youth, good looks, and intense gaze, made him an Icon of Rebellion well into the 21st Century. More often than not, he is also used as the "Romantic Expression" of guerrilla warfare: a tough but well-intentioned guy, willing to fight injustice and American imperialism over everything. Che is often treated as a hero figure in many books, film, and TV shows alike, and he remains a popular icon in much of the Global South.

According to Guevara's detractors, these aforementioned portrayals also gloss over the fact that Guevara openly admitted to revolutionary violence (as means for establishing a firm government in times of war), including executing perceived traitors during the Cuban Revolution and famously admitting in his speech at the UN that his administration executed political prisoners who were integral to Batista's dictatorship. Supposedly, he even openly advocated for war with the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis and after the US-backed invasion of Cuba. According to other detractors, he also held a low opinion of the guerrillas he fought with in the Congo, which some argue was due to Che being racist, even though there's no clear evidence to support that theory, which blatantly ignores that Guevara's personal assistant/driver and friend was in fact a black man.

All of this being said, an oversimplified and arguably sanitized portrayal of Che Guevara is necessary for his commodification in the West into a mass-market consumerist image providing money that mostly goes to western capitalist nations, so it's unlikely to change as long as Che continues to be in demand.

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

Tropes as portrayed in fiction:

Appears in the following works:

  • He appears alongside Castro in Stock Footage in Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz
  • Richard Fleischer's 1969 Che starring Omar Sharif. It was not very successful.
  • Andy Garcia's The Lost City, a loose adaptation of Gulliermo Cabrera Infante's Three Trapped Tigers, has one of the few negative depictions of Che.
  • His ghost is present in Generation P by Victor Pelevin. He is summoned by the main character and expresses his thoughts on depravity of the consumerism and of the contemporary humanity in general.
  • Gael Garcia Bernal played Che in The Motorcycle Diaries. Notably, the first film on Che in the Spanish language to be internationally successful.
  • Benicio del Toro played him in Steven Soderbergh's two-part Biopic, Che. Also shot in the Spanish language, but more of an Acclaimed Flop.
  • Underground Comics artist Spain Rodriquez published a graphic novel in 2007 called Che: A Graphic Biography. Rodriquez always identified himself as a Marxist, so his depiction of Che is positive.
  • A playable character in the game Guerrilla War. The North American version downplays this a lot, but the original Japanese version is even named after him.
  • Appears in the hellishly dystopian Alternate History tale For All Time, where he leads a revolution in Argentina alongside Leopold Galtieri in 1960. He eventually takes power himself, establishing the Democratic Republic of Argentina, forging close ties with the People's Republic of China, and launching an invasion of Chile on December 2, 1966, complete with nuclear bombings in Santiago and Valparaíso. He pulls out of Buneos Aires just before the Americas nuke it out of existence and occupy Argentina, and continues encouraging a communist revolutions through radio and media.
  • Season 6 of Epic Rap Battles of History features Guevara facing off against Guy Fawkes, who was the most famous figure of the Gunpowder Plot.
  • Features as the narrator of Evita, sort of. The original stage musical was explicitly him, but later versions erased the lines that identify him and just made him a narrator (who's still credited as Che).
  • Another Alternate History, New Deal Coalition Retained, sees Che seizing power from Fidel Castro after the latter has a nervous breakdown in light of a more successful US-backed counterrevolution.
  • He makes an appearance in Monty Python's Flying Circus, in a game show with several other famous communists, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Karl Marx. Sadly, all the questions on the show are not ones relating to communism, so apart from Mao, and, briefly, Marx, none of the contestants get any of the correct answers. Later on in the same episode, Guevara and Marx end up having sex.
  • In Heat Guy J, he appears as a poster in Daisuke's apartment. What's really striking about this particular example is that the series takes place 20 Minutes into the Future, After the End.
  • He also appears in CollegeHumor's "Be Our Bachelor" parody. The young man is microwaving a mug of instant soup or something, that has Guevara's picture on it...and has left his spoon inside. The Che Guevara picture sings "I think you've left your spoon inside and it's metal" before the microwave explodes.
  • The liner notes for Weird Al's album Mandatory Fun include Al's recreation of the famous photograph.
  • He is referenced in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker where the Sadinistas fondly compare Big Boss to El Che (to the point that he is called Vic Boss out of respect). Numerous MSF characters also voice nothing but praise for him. This unconditional praise is quite ironic, given Metal Gear's anti-nuke, and anti-war themes (see the description above).
  • He appears in Persona 5 Tactica as Toshiro's Persona Ernesto.

Hasta la victoria siempre / Ever onward to victory