Cult of Che: why the Latin American revolutionary turned into a pop icon

Cult of Che: why the Latin American revolutionary
Ninety years ago, the leader of the Cuban Revolution and the main romantic hero of Latin America, Ernesto Che Guevara, was born. Even half a century after his death, the commandant is very popular all over the world. RIA Novosti understood how a mass culture turned a revolutionary into a replicated glamor character.

The heroic partisan

“My dreams do not know the boundaries until the bullet interrupts their flight,” Che Guevara said as if anticipating his death. In 1967, the world lost a bright political figure but found an immortal pop icon. Although in fact the world legend about Che Guevara was born a little later.

It all started with a successful photo. The canonical picture, known as the “Heroic Partisan”, was made on March 5, 1960, by Cuban photographer Alberto Corda at a rally in Havana: Che Guevara full face in a beret with star Jose Marti.

A year after the death of the revolutionary Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick created for this photo a stylized two-color portrait. This is one of the most famous visual images of the twentieth century – along with the fluttering skirt of Marilyn Monroe or the photo of Albert Einstein with his tongue hanging out. At first, the portrait became the emblem of the left European youth in Europe, then it was raised to the flags of hippies, anarchists of all stripes and even activists of Greenpeace. And in recent decades, in demand in advertising.

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Commercial Star

It is not surprising that from the symbol of protest the image of Che gradually turned into kitsch. Today, a cult image can be seen on T-shirts, beer cans, advertising signs, lighters, trinkets and even mouse pads. Young people around the world are doing tattoos with Che Guevara. Posters with him are an indispensable attribute of rallies and protest actions, regardless of who acts for what.

Che is immortalized on Cuban banknotes in denominations of three pesos, facades of buildings, stamps and street graffiti. It is impossible to fight the commercialization of the image – Alberto Corda considers his photo public domain and does not require royalties. He intervened only once – when the picture was used in advertising Smirnoff vodka. He sued and won the case.

The head of the government economic mission of Cuba Ernesto Che Guevara and the first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Nikita Khrushchev in the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Moscow

A noticeable trace of Che left in Soviet and Russian literature. He appears in the “Cuban cycle” of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, in the poem by Yevgeny Dolmatovsky “Hands of Guevara”. He devoted a famous poem of Yaroslav Smelyakov “Major”, where there are such lines: “He was a responsible person of the fatherland of the poor, / Minister with the apostolic face and beard of a pirate.” The spirit of Che is active in Pelevin’s novel “Generation P”.

But most often the image of a revolutionary was used by Russian musicians. From the song Kobzon “In memory of Che Guevara” and “Ballad of Che Guevara” group “Pesnyary” to contemporary artists: Uma2rman, Caste, Alexander F. Sklyar. In Russia, they also sang the famous “Hasta Siempre, Comandante”, written before the death of Che by Cuban singer Carlos Puebla.

The fate of the Comandante did not leave the filmmakers indifferent either. About Che Guevara have shot many documentary and feature films. Among the most successful – “Che!” with the cult Egyptian actor Omar Sharif in the title role, as well as the same name by Stephen Soderbergh, where Guevara played the Puerto Rican Benicio del Toro.

Cult of Che: why the Latin American revolutionary

The leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro. It seems that the comandante finally turned into an abstract symbol. “Che was killed twice: first – a gun burst sergeant Teran, then – millions of portraits,” – said the French philosopher Reggie Debre.

Today, the obsessive commercial image has pushed into the background the socialist ideas of Che, which were once so in demand. However, for young rebels who want to identify themselves with the tragic and romantic heroes of the past, Che is still “alive than all living.”


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