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Guevara, Ernesto “Che” (1928–1967)

Mike Gonzalez


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Two generations after his death in 1967, Ernesto “Che” Guevara retains an extraordinary symbolic significance. His face adorns t-shirts and posters across the world in two iconic guises: the youthful and energetic figure embodied in the myriad reproductions of Alexis Korda's photograph, or the thin, sparsely bearded face which, on each reprinting, comes more and more to resemble the Renaissance portraits of Christ by Andrea Mantegna. While succeeding generations have identified a timeless quality of resolution and vision in that face, it has become disengaged from the brief but significant political history of the young Argentinian doctor. This is not to say that it is a false vision of the man – only that it is both partial and strangely depoliticized. His brief life (he was 39 when he died) was exemplary in its unwavering dedication to a revolutionary cause. Every one of his collaborators testifies to the depth of his commitment, and to the constancy he demanded of others. That resolve could be unforgiving and at times even cruel – but it was applied with equal intensity to himself. The battle for control of the image of Che continues between new generations rediscovering the value of resistance and rebellion, and the advertisers anxious to exploit the icon while draining it of ethical or political content. Yet for all it has inspired for a new generation of anti-capitalists, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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