Che as a Religious Figure
I will start this section by saying that I am a staunch atheist, raised by an atheist father and a Roman Catholic mother who never interfered in my religious views.
There is a world of difference between Anglo-Saxon Protestantism and Hispanic Catholicism, something which sets the basic cultural differences for North American and South American cultures. In South America, just like in North America, we keep in high regard figures such as Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, but unlike Unitedstatians, we can identify more with Jesus Christ’s examples and teachings especially in regions of extreme poverty. Unitedstatians mostly struggle to put Jesus Christ into their lives and ultimately fail due to the dog-eat-dog competitive society, which is savagely capitalistic, selfish and individualistic.
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Judging by the above, Unitedstatians seem to have become hopelessly lost along the way. All societies are overly materialistic to some extent, but Unitedstatians took this to a whole new level, and I’m sure nobody with a basic understanding of Unitedstatian society will deny it. This is the main reason why Unitedstatians struggle with the image of Jesus Christ and how to apply Christianity, anti-materialism and Samaritanism into their daily lives. The answer is that it’s simply impossible. You cannot follow these teachings in the hyper-aggressive and ultra-competitive society capitalism creates. This is why Mikhail Gorbachev said that Jesus was the first Socialist, and why today many Christian Communist movements exist formed around the original concepts of Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and his Communistic way of life.
In Latin America, the figure of the Pope is also held in very high regard, something Protestants don’t have as they don’t consider the Pope the authority of God on Earth, thus their religion is decentralized, while Catholicism is centralized around the authority of the Pope. Having such a thing for caudillos and strong leaders, Catholicism further influences our tendency to believe instrong and iconic personalities that encapsulate an ideological, philosophical or religious current.
It is no coincidence that figures like Che Guevara and Evita Perón are regarded as divine figures in these regions. The poorest sectors of Latin American society are incredibly catholic, and figures like Che and Evita who fought for the poor are elevated to sanctity for standing up for those forgotten. Chavism in highly-catholic Venezuela is repudiated by the middle and upper classes and praised by the lowest classes. Coincidence? No. Never.
“I think Che had perseverance and morality … being the underdog and fighting against injustice and standing up for the forgotten moved him so hard. Kind of like Jesus, in a way – only Jesus would turn the other cheek. Che wouldn’t.”
This statement by Benicio del Toro, who played Che in the 2008 film of the same name, pretty much sums up the entire thing. The similarities between Che and Jesus Christ have been pointed out in the past, and certainly play a role in highly-catholic Latin American society. The fact that both Che and Jesus rebelled against the imposed order, led people with revolutionary ideas and great charisma, and managed to survive death becoming icons of faith and ideology cannot be denied. But it’s even more amazing than that when considering that both of them were betrayed as well, Jesus by Judas and Che by Mario Monte. Both were cynically exhibited as hunting trophies, mocked before their executions by their enemies who thought that by killing and humiliating them their ideas would die with them. But, as Benicio pointed out, while Jesus promoted an ultra-pacifist and humane way of life way ahead of its time because he had faith in his mission and in humanity, Che chose to instead rise in arms and force a change that clearly would never come to pass unless action was taken.
Eduardo Galeano is actually a perfect example of the comparisons between Christianity and Marxism/Guevarism. Just take a look at this interview by Jonah Raskin:
“JR: Looking back at Che from this point in time, and after all the Che T-shirts, movies, and mammoth biographies, as well as the awe and respect that people all over Latin America have for him, how do you see him now?
EG: Che continues to be Che. He is a stubborn fellow and keeps being reborn, and refuses to die.
That is because he was an exceptional human being. He did what he said he would do, and he said what he thought, and that is unusual. In our world words and deeds rarely find themselves in alignment; when they do they rarely recognize or salute one another.
JR: In what ways has Marxism helped you or hindered you as a writer of fiction?
EG: I had a Catholic infancy and a Marxist adolescence. I could be one of the few individuals who poured over Das Kapital and the Bible. They ought to exhibit me in an anthropology museum. Of course, both influences are still alive in me, but they do not own me.
Comparing Che again to Big Boss, we can find that the latter is also portrayed throughout the series as a messiah and a saint by some characters, particularly EVA.
Here is an excerpt from German newspaper Der Spiegel, about Che’s idolizing in La Higuera.
“Tourists from all over the world visit La Higuera on pilgrimage. A Frenchman has opened a hostel at the telegraph office where the guerrilla fighters made their last attempt to establish contact with the outside world. Next door, Cuban doctors provide treatment to the destitute farm workers free of charge. Images of the revolutionary hang in the villagers’ huts, and many people pray to “Santo Ernesto” (Saint Ernesto) who is said to bring about miracles.”
— Der Spiegel, October 2007
The U.S. As The Bad Guy
Having relatives in the Unitedstatian State of Connecticut, (first, second and third generation immigrants) I am able to understand Unitedstatian society from both a personal and geopolitical perspective, but not many in the US can do the same regarding Latin America, especially those who do not have Latin American ties. Needless to say, anyone with basic English skills will be able to, through Unitedstatian media such as films, books or even video games, get glimpses of Unitedstatian society and the general mentality that proliferates in the nation. And the truth is, while many Unitedstatians can be quite self-critical and capable of showing empathy and solidarity with countries affected by US foreign policy, most view foreign nations with a mixture of distrust and ignorance, always putting their nation self-righteously first and looking down on developing nations with arrogance and disgust. Many do so not because of an outright evil nature, but because of being deluded by the jingoistic media. Most recently, John Kerry caused an uproar by calling Latin America “the backyard” of the United States, which to our understanding, basically revealed what Unitedstatians truly think of us and how we are generally viewed. The Unitedstatian media is very powerful, and the peoples are obviously affected by lies that are repeated often until they become invariable truths.
In Spain, the media is similar to that of the US and equally demagogical and manipulative, and until a few years ago, the Spaniards often looked down on Latin Americans too as dirty immigrants seeking to take their jobs or cause random mayhem. That is, of course, until the economic crisis hit Spain. Now, the Spaniards, especially youths, are leaving in packs for Latin American, Asian and European countries, such as Chile, China and Germany (examples of destinations some friends of mine chose) to look for better professional opportunities or just simply any kind of work at all. Once we were called “bananeros” (bananamen) by the Spaniards, aside from other pejorative terms of a worse nature, but with the economic crisis Spain has now humbled down. Today, when people get interviewed by the media about negative events regarding society, not a single pejorative word about Latin America is ever uttered, and people who once used to say “what is this? The third world? A banana republic?” now protest with the slogans and mottos we created in Latin America to protest against US imperialism, IMF blood-sucking and US-backed dictatorships during the ‘70s, in the height of the genocidal Operation Condor. The Spaniards, when I first came here for the first time (even though I had Spanish relatives in Uruguay and was deeply in touch with Spanish culture) shocked me for their ignorance and intolerance, especially towards Latin American, Asian and Middle Eastern foreigners. Some openly admitted to their dislike of foreigners while most usually kept it hidden for the sake of everyday diplomacy. I am glad I met many Spaniards who were openly friendly and tolerant of other peoples’ cultures, thankfully most of them, but this racist ignorance which sadly can be found regularly in US society existed nonetheless, and still exists, although it has been greatly reduced due to
Spaniards being hit by the economic crisis and being exposed to the cultures of people from all over the world throughout the years.
Owing to the general right-wing nature of the media, in Spain a full-fledged media campaign to discredit Socialist leaders exists, and is as strong and manipulative as the media of the US. In Latin America, we know the lies they use to discredit us well. Those who manipulate the truth so the ideas and examples of our icons like Che Guevara are not taken seriously by us are slowly exposing their lies on their own, lies that fall under their own fallacious weight. The generally right-wing and pro-US media of Latin America has been subverted with networks such as TeleSur and Prensa Latina, and presidents of nations are so devoted to the Latin American cause of the “patria grande” that they have virtually no opposition, with the exception of countries like Venezuela facing destabilization attempts by CIA and anti-Chavist mercenaries and criminals paid and trained by US agents; stashes of weapons, money and drugs found by the Bolivarian government never get reported internationally, and the evidence discovered by the government of proof of the US acting to destabilize the country is often ignored or treated as fake evidence fabricated by the Bolivarian government. The burnings of Socialist political headquarters, beatings of Socialist students and murders of civilians and government agents are seldom reported either, and treated as mere casualties of the general violence of the protests. Furthermore, doctored photos with riots from other countries such as Egypt make it appear that riots in Venezuela are equally lethal. Destabilizers, often known criminals who will do anything for a few bucks (called “malandros”, literally “thugs”), often murder and steal basic necessity items to create illusions of lack of safety, food-shortages and general Socialist mismanagement. These tactics were created in the US by Gene Sharp, and are called “soft coups,” and they’re not even a secret. The reality of this massive media manipulation campaign is, however, thankfully being exposed in the mainstream media, and portrayed in videogames like Peace Walker, where some of the exploits of the US in Latin America are described in detail and with anger. Let’s take a look at some of Peace Walker’s pro-Latin American and anti-US content, from a briefing file;
La CIA calls their new toy Peace Walker, eh?
It is an insult to us Nicos.
Because of the guy you were talking about? Walker?
Si, although it happened over a hundred years ago. Back then, the political parties in Nicaragua were at each other’s throats. The Nicaraguan Democratic Party hired an American mercenary to help counter their enemies, the Conservative Party.
And that was Walker.
After taking care of the Conservatives, Walker decided to seize power in Nicaragua for himself, eventually making himself president.
The Democratic Party gave him an inch, and he took the whole country.
But it didn’t end there. Not only did he make English an official language, he tried to reintroduce slavery. Walker’s goal was to build a “Caribbean Empire” centered on the American South.
Caribbean Empire… hmh. Sounds kind of like what Coldman is trying to pull off.
The gringos are always like that. They invent some convenient excuse to trample all over foreign countries like they own the place. Peace Walker… ha!
What happened to Walker in the end?
A united Central American army led by Costa Rica kicked his ass and sent him running back to America.
Then why don’t we do the same? I for one don’t intend to let Coldman get his way.
Good idea… I’m glad we have you, Boss.
The US will do anything to secure its interests, and Latin America has been a witness of this for decades. The way the CIA operates in the region is not even a well-kept secret. Detailed evidence about US foreign policy involving CIA destabilization attempts to overthrow democratically-elected governments, like that of Salvador Allende in Chile, are all over the Internet for you to patiently read.
Che’s positive portrayal in the game and the blatant anti-US content found in the narrative make for the ultimate controversial game in the US, and to be honest, I’m surprised the backlash wasn’t bigger. Peace Walker fills a much-needed gap in the gaming world, demanded by gamers more and more as time passes by; the need for games with anti-US content, which portray the worst historical crimes of the North American nation, in this case, Operation Condor during the ‘70s. It’s not like Kojima doesn’t give you reasons as to why Che Guevara, the Sandinistas and Big Boss himself hate the US. Che Guevara was fighting against imperialism, poverty and social inequality, all promoted by the US so that Latin America would remain a powerless backyard. The Sandinistas fought for the same cause as he, and their plight is expressed through Amanda’s tapes which detail William Walker’s and the CIA’s activities in Central America, which mind you, are absolutely deplorable. Then we have Big Boss himself, who as we previously saw in Snake Eater, was forced by his government to kill his former mentor and lover not just for the sake of protecting the country’s interests and reputation in front of the Soviets, but to eliminate a potential internal threat the CIA believed was getting too powerful for their own good. I should remind you that this is a parallel to President Kennedy’s popularity. The most reliable explanation, widely accepted by many today is that Kennedy was selected for assassination by the CIA, an agency Kennedy strongly disliked and vowed to destroy. Kennedy was quoted as telling an official within his administration: “I want to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” According to author James Douglass, Kennedy was assassinated because he was turning away from the Cold War and seeking a negotiated peace with the Soviet Union. A cell of Cuban exile mercenaries and Bay of Pigs veterans distraught about Kennedy’s lack of support during this incident would carry out the hit, with Lee Harvey Oswald serving as a patsy.
Known for their ruthless assassinations of highly protected VIPs, like the failed attempts carried against Castro, one can assume that the CIA would not encounter many obstacles in killing a president in their own turf. The CIA was also known to be involved with Mafia groups, as evidenced by Jack Ruby’s assigned role to rub Oswald out so he wouldn’t talk. It’s like the “the patriots have been 100 years dead” message at the end of MGS2. There weren’t any more trails to follow and uncover the conspiracy. With Kennedy out of the way, Khrushchev lost his most crucial diplomatic partner. Even Fidel Castro resented this in retrospection. Thus, the Cold War began to get hotter. in Latin America, for instance, the ‘60s and ‘70s saw the rise of brutal right-wing military dictatorships, all backed by the US, starting in 1964 just one year after president Kennedy had been murdered. Does this make sense to you? Kojima seems well aware of this fact, and this is the reason he made The Boss the initial reason Big Boss begins to hate his own country. At the end of Snake Eater, we feel like Snake, now formally Big Boss. We are given a titled for killing someone we were more loyal to. And as the final insult, the title we are awarded points us as being superior to the person who holds our loyalty. Snake performs a military salute to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who wants only to shake his hand, and Snake doesn’t cease saluting. It’s like he wants President Johnson to dwell in his pain, in his respectful, cold and detached military salute devoid of any loyalty. Snake eventually shakes his hand when feeling pressured, a somber expression on his face lit by the cameras around him. It’s also no wonder Big Boss refuses to shake the hand of the CIA director. He knows that due to people like him, his former lover and mentor is dead. And Lyndon B. Johnson seems to know Big Boss’s thoughts too. Just look at how he stops applauding and smiling the moment Big Boss walks out of the room. Cynical as ever, almost as if already predicting he’ll go rogue and planning on how to get rid of him. It certainly is a grim and subtle image of US politics and CIA methods to eliminate possible threats to the US power structure. In contrast to the US President however, the Premier of the USSR Nikita Khrushchev is called by Major Zero a “shrewd leader” and generally portrayed in good light (he even stops MiG fighter planes from shooting down Big Boss and EVA in midflight). I can’t explain exactly why Kojima would set for such a positive portrayal of Khrushchev and a negative one of Lyndon B. Johnson, but I would say it must be due to Khrushchev’s policies of peaceful coexistence with the West.