If you go to Cuba today, the single most obvious image is that of Che Guevera. While he has been dead for 45 years an industry has grown up around that single photo. He, more than any other embodies and perpetuates the revolution. While most of the countries I’ve visited have portraits and posters of the current leaders (especially dictators) plastered on buildings or hung in offices, I saw two public pictures of Fidel and not a single picture of Raul. However, fashion photographer Alberto Korda’s photo of Che Guevera (Guerrillero Heroico) is everywhere – and that is not overstating it. Everywhere. While the photo itself was taken in 1960, it was not until Jim Fitzpatrick, an Irish artist, created the now-famous stylized poster, that Che became possibly the most famous icon in the world. It has made Che larger than life and, ironically, deified an atheist and in his own words a “cold-blooded killer” into a Christ-figure and “romantic epitome of worldwide rebellion” for generations of young people.
In his book “Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes Icon”, Oxford art historian Martin Kemp writes that Che’s image has a quality that allows it to signify anything to anyone and most everything to everyone. Whatever a person wants to see is there. His picture has become what Michael Casey calls the “quintessential postmodern icon”.
Of course, one of the ironies is Che has literally become a saint to which people in Bolivia and other countries pray. "It's like he is alive and with us, like a friend. He is kind of like a Virgin Mary for us. We say, 'Che, help us with our work or with this planting,' and it always goes well." Che was an ardent atheist and violent opponent of religion and has become not only an icon but as one congregant in the church of Che put it "we have a faith, a confidence in Che. When I go to bed and when I wake up, I first pray to God and then I pray to Che - and then, everything is all right.”
The other positive irony is Jim Fitzpatrick has signed over the copyright of his Che image to the William Soler Pediatric Cardiology Hospital in Havana to provide training for Cuban doctors to deliver high-quality pediatric medical care all over the world. So, in a way the “business of Che” which he would have despised will have an impact he could never have envisioned.
|TB||June 9, 2012, 1:21 am|
|Very good observation of how Cuba has used the image of a cold-blooded killer to make their "revolution" seem like a wonderful experience led by beautiful people. They made him into a god to replace our GOD. While using the image and memory of an atheist who persecuted Christians and established the basis for this persecution for decades. Even now, freedom of religion is minimal in Cuba due to his policies of hate of organized religion. You have done a great job of exposing this truth. Congratulations!|
|Andrew||June 7, 2012, 10:49 pm|
|A fascinating article in the New Yorker last week on the Cuban revolution which reveals something of Che's character: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/05/28/120528fa_fact_grann|
|Doug Mitchell||June 7, 2012, 2:25 pm|
|Che was a mass murderer-there is nothing in his iconic image worth celebrating.