By now I personally think it’s more than clear what kind of man Che really was and how the vilification of his person in the media exists purely to damage his reputation and dissuade people from following his ideas. It would be completely narrow-minded to ignore the reach and power of Che’s example, why his ideas have endured through time, why he’s become a national icon in Cuba and Argentina and why he is divisive even to this day. Had it been proven that he was what the US claims, he would have as much popular and political support today as Adolf Hitler. But his popularity soars not only in Latin America, but throughout the entire world, because capitalist injustice and poverty still rage on. He’s an example even to non-leftists, who admire him for his hard-working nature, noble character and relentless willpower. Nothing is more dangerous to the US and its interests than the kind of revolution Che fought for, than a Latin America united and independent from US influence, so it’s not only natural that Che is demonized, but predictable.
In Latin America, all intellectuals, including painters, writers, film-makers, actors and musicians universally praise Che, without exception. It is highly controversial and I might add distasteful to admit to disliking him. Even people who do not concern themselves much with politics see a vilification of Che as suspicious and of bad taste. They do so because they know his story well, what he fought for and the feelings he invokes, and know the vilification process he has undergone. Most intellectuals and artists are left-leaning for a reason, and in Latin America this is no different. Che’s image is thus constantly revered by Latin American intellectuals of the highest caliber, such as Mario Benedetti, Gabriel García Márquez, Eduardo Galeano, Pablo Neruda and more. Also, it should be noted that to us, Che is a symbol of love. His quote “one should harden without ever losing tenderness” and “a true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love” represent well Che’s approach to revolution and to his fellow man. A person who expresses such love is obviously loved back, and Che is certainly loved genuinely by many throughout the world.
We will now have a look at some poems about him written by my compatriots Eduardo Galeano and Mario Benedetti, so you may see for yourselves how intellectuals of the highest order, some of the most intelligent, free-thinking, sensible and analytical members of Latin American society, view him.
The following was written by Eduardo Galeano. Keep in mind, I have translated it from Spanish myself in a literal way, it doesn’t represent the official translation (which I wasn’t able to find).
“Why is it that Che has this bad habit of keep being reborn? The more they insult, manipulate and betray him, the more he is born anew. He is the one who is reborn the most. Can it be because Che said what he thought and did what he said? Can it be because it remains so extraordinary, in a world where words and deeds rarely meet, and when they do meet do not greet each other, because they do not recognize one another?”
-“The reborner” by Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and poet.
Interesting, huh? Let’s take a look at another compatriot of mine, the celebrated Mario Benedetti, and see just how differently Che is perceived in Latin America in contrast to the US. This is an official translation I found;
“They have covered him with posters / with placards
with voices on walls
with retroactive offenses
with honors that come too late
they have transformed him into a product
a trivial memory
a distant yesterday
a well-embalmed sense of rage
they have decided to use him as an epilogue
as the last gasp of useless innocence
as an aged archetype of a saint or satan
and perhaps they’ve discovered that the only way
to get rid of him
or let him fade away
is to suck the light out of him
make him into a marble
or plaster hero
which is to say motionless
like a myth
or silhouette or ghost
from the past
and yet che’s unclosable eyes
keep staring at us as if they couldn’t stop
maybe they’re surprised that the world doesn’t understand
that thirty years later he still fights
caringly and bravely for the joy of mankind”
-“Che 1997,” Mario Benedetti.
A person who is considered little more than a cold-blooded mass-murderer could never harness this much love and popularity, especially not from writers, poets and intellectuals. Nevertheless, in the US this is the general view people have of him.
Here’s a real-life example of how divisive Che is, and how speaking ill of him is viewed in our society; recently in my mother’s home in Uruguay a friend of the family brought her new boyfriend along, and my mother showed him a picture of me next to an image of Che. Instantly, this person said, in a poisonous tone; “why is it that this man (Che) has this effect on the youth?” He said that in the same house that anti-Communist right-wing nationalist genocidal torturers and sadists of the dictatorship broke into to persecute a left-wing guerilla fighting for democracy, for the poor and for the rights of workers and peasants, my very own uncle, my mother’s brother. People like this man, thankfully of ages 50 and above, clearly represent the manipulators who distort the truth of Che in order to demonize him so people may not look at the examples he left behind. People like this man cynically allowed for our constitution to be destroyed, for our country to be taken over by a genocidal military backed by the US, for workers and peasants to be denied their rights and for countless people to be arrested, tortured and murdered on account of nothing. That is why that man is not allowed in my house anymore. And not because of us denying him the entrance, but because the friend who brought him along was so ashamed at what he said that she even excused herself afterwards. My aunt, who is highly apolitical, was horrified at this man’s remark, uttering “how can he say that?” Che is an extremely important matter for us, especially those of us who have relatives who fought against the US-backed dictatorship with the guerillas, like my uncle. Up to this day, remains of “disappeared” people are still found buried in remote areas, and marches are still held urging the government to find those who were “disappeared” by the US-backed regime. Can you understand now why he’s not to be taken lightly in Latin America? He’s a divisive figure for a reason. In Latin America, whether you admire Che or not says a lot about you, more or less in the same way that in the United States people judge you on account of your religious beliefs (or lack of). When someone who seems friendly suddenly speaks out against Che, it has the same effect as someone who unexpectedly lets out anti-Semitic remarks in the US. Sadly, with people like this man spreading these lies around and with the situation in Venezuela being manipulated by the media, even the youth is beginning to become deluded about socialism and about Che. A friend of mine once asked me whether I knew that Che was a sadistic killer, mass-genocide and rapist pedophile. I was just stupefied by the comment, and calmly explained to him this entire situation. His ignorance on the subject was clearly shaped by the same regurgitated lies spread by Che’s detractors, so it didn’t surprise me. But I was surprised that the lies had convinced someone young, and of Argentine descent no less.
Unfortunately, in Latin America everyone who stands up for the poor and fights actively for society and for the system to change has his/her reputation immediately smeared; Evita Perón was discredited as being a common “puta” (whore) because she had been an actress, Che is often called a sadistic murderer because he rose up in arms, Chávez a ruthless dictator when he was democratically elected … anything goes to smear the reputation of those who fight on the side of the oppressed (and by extension, against the US). But that is nothing new, is it?
Now that we’ve gone over Che’s main subjects of demonization, why demonizing him suits the interests of the clique of wealthy and powerful individuals from all over America and why intellectuals of the highest order view him in a positive light, we can move on to how he is viewed exclusively in Latin America, how his image adorns our cities and how he remains a legendary figure of inspiration, faith and ideology.
“The greatest threat presented by Castro’s Cuba is as an example to other Latin American states which are beset by poverty, corruption, feudalism, and plutocratic exploitation … his influence in Latin America might be overwhelming and irresistible if, with Soviet help, he could establish in Cuba a Communist utopia.”
– Walter Lippmann, Newsweek, 27th of April 1964
North Americans and Western Europeans often fail to understand Latin America from a cultural perspective, and many misconceptions can be born out of this. Certainly, many of my friends, who are half Latin American and half European, agree with this. I have written the following section to make non-Latin American gamers understand the cultural differences that lead us to admire people like Che and generally be hostile towards the US.
Let’s start by saying that the Latin America of today is a far cry from that of the 20th century.
In 2009, Chávez infamously gave President Barack Obama a copy of my compatriot Eduardo Galeano’s “The Open Veins of Latin America” so he would get to read by himself the sacking Latin America has been subjected to first by Europe and then by North America. It is doubtful that the drone-loving Nobel Peace Prize recipient ever bothered with reading it, but the gesture was there. It was a slap in the face aimed at educating Unitedstatians on the damage they unleash on the world, which they seem quite oblivious to. Ever since the Cuban revolution, the US has feared a Socialist Latin America which refuses to take part in capitalist exploitation. To Unitedstatian eyes, the success of the Cuban revolution was the most serious sign of rebellion, of the peoples of Latin America awaking to a new era, proof that the Socialists could win and become the worst nightmare of the criminal US government. The US didn’t want its “backyard” to rebel, as many Unitedstatian companies (United Fruit Company, for instance) had great business deals exploiting workers for nothing and sacking precious resources such as food, oil and minerals. Then, things started to change.
The so-called “pink tide,” the Socialist turn of a united Latin America in the 21st century, was a very surprising turn of events after the neoliberal 20th century, which was littered by pro-US corrupt politicians who sunk the countries in economic crises like the one the US and Europe are currently experiencing, all to satisfy the interests of the US. This is the reason my entire family was forced to move to Spain. In 2004, Uruguay was in the worst shape of its modern era. My family and I remember the empty streets, the low morale of the people, the loss of faith in politics and the economy, and the waves of immigration. Shortly after, in 2005, the Frente Amplio leftist coalition won after years of two-party politics by right-wing neoliberal and conservative factions. It was the most impressive political event in the country after the end of the dictatorship in 1985. This was the beginning of the end for right-wing pro-US politicians in the region. Latin America woke up. We would refuse to keep being slaves to the dollar, to the US, to Europe, to the IMF and in short to the global order established after the Cold War. As we speak, the poorest nations on Earth have allied themselves with Russia and China, the rival superpowers of the US and the EU, to establish a new global order based on mutual cooperation, open commerce and multilateral politics. In Latin America, we are proud to say we have very functional and healthy democracies true to the people, and that for the first time
in the region’s history even right-wing parties are more concerned with regional integration than satisfying the whims of foreign interests.