Is Ernesto ‘’Che’’ Guevara’s legacy one of a true revolutionary or a meaningless popular icon? Evaluate how this has changed over time and why. The project arose with a curiosity into the life of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, one of the most universally recognisable faces in the world. As such, the perception of him as a revolutionary, and the iconography of Che have changed considerably overtime. I became engrossed in this further when Spain Rodriguez’s: ‘Che: A graphic Biography’, depicts Che as both a revolutionary personality and materialistic icon. A considerable amount of information on the ‘popular icon’ and ‘revolutionary’ are obtained from the afterword essay ‘Che Guevara, Image and Reality’ by Sarah Seidman and Paul Buhle. Additional analysis in this essay has been extrapolated from the book: ‘Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara’s Last Mission’ by Richard L. Harris, which provides a ‘pro – revolutionary’ and romanticised historical perspective on the life and death of Che. These analyses focus on the historical debate surrounding his legacy. The objective of this essay is to examine the changing interpretations of Che’s lasting legacy from one of being a self- confessed Marxist revolutionary and to his image being hijacked by commercial interests to sell products. The underlying aim is to respond to the core questions of the construction and recording of history over time, along with understanding the changing attitudes toward the personality over time. T
he life of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara is often described as heroic; the Guerrilla fighter assisting in the expulsion of societal injustice and economic inequality from capitalist supremacies, through revolutionary means. Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (commonly known as Che Guevara) was born on June 14, 1928 in Rosario, Argentina in a middle class family. From his middle class origins he studied Medicine at the University of Buenos Aires. Guevara and his close companion Alberto Granado travelled on a motorcycle throughout South and Central America where they witnessed widespread poverty, injustice and oppression. Because of this exposure to inequality, along with his middle-class background, he began to seek out Marxism as a solution to injustice, and later in his life, would transform to become the guerrilla combatant with the belief in revolution: “socialist beliefs, struggles as a rural guerrilla, anti- imperialist…combined the realms of action and intellect…’’ He was firm in his belief against capitalism describing it as a ‘’contest among wolves’’and opposed imperialism of the West. Portrayed as a man of self- sacrifice and devotion, he believed in ‘’…the armed struggle as the only solution for those peoples who fight to free themselves…one of those who risks his skin to prove his beliefs. ’’ The own words of Che have created a capacity for the collective memory to be stirred by his ideals, and a regard for his self-sacrifice. From this position, varied interpretations have evolved – from one of ‘’Guerrilla fighter’’ to ‘’popular icon.’’ One of the most notable images in iconic History, is one that emerged to perpetuate his memory as a form of memorial; a photograph of Guevara’s face by Alberto Korda in 1960, ‘Guerrillero Heroico’ (the Heroic Guerrilla) which transmuted into an image ‘’…emblazoned on T-shirts and sprayed on to walls, transformed into pop art and used to wrap ice-creams and sell cigarettes…’’ The life of Che altered significantly from the day he was murdered and through his detainment and execution, being a man of 39 years of age and his combat as a political revolutionary, Guevara had instantly become a martyr in Bolivia. This status was particularly popularised throughout the Latin American world, where he is still considered the true revolutionary till this day. His death is clearly a significant event, and how it was received and commented on in Latin American countries and in the west, clearly influenced his history and legacy. As a result, two...
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