Che and young Cubans in the island
Want to insult a Cuban American? Show up with a Che t-shirt and talk about the idealist on a motorcycle.
It is sort of like showing up at a Jewish home and talking about some of the portraits that Hitler painted as a young man in Austria.
Back in 2007, Cuba was remembering the 40th anniversary of Che Guevara’s death.
He was killed in Bolivia by U.S.-trained special forces.
More importantly, he was captured because his revolution failed, as we read later when a diary was found:
In Bolivia, Che was defeated again, and for the last time.
He misread the local situation. There had been an agrarian reform years before; the government had respected many of the peasant communities’ institutions; and the army was close to the United States despite its nationalism. “The peasant masses don’t help us at all” was Guevara’s melancholy conclusion in his Bolivian diary.
No, they didn’t support Che. Bolivia was not Cuba. In other words, in Cuba they promised elections and democracy. In Bolivia, they said that they were communists out to destroy capitalism. In Cuba, a middle class stood up to Batista. In Bolivia, peasants in the mountains couldn’t figure out what a white guy from Argentina was going to save from.
After his death, Che became a symbol in Cuba, the face on a big government building. Eventually, his “Jim Morrison” lookalike face made it to T-shirts and placards.
But what about Cuba? Do they love him down there as much as some college professors do up here?
Not really. They seem more interested in the present than the past. This is from Anthony Boadle:
Dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe says Guevara remains well respected “for his courage as a guerrilla fighter” but that no one advocates his economic ideas in Cuba today.
“Cubans are having a very hard time because of the economic crisis. They are no longer motivated by these ideals. Their only worry is eating three meals a day,” he said.
Based on his comments, as well as my own conversations with young Cubans, Che is more appealing to spoiled Western kids who have never faced repression, than to young Cubans who deal with repression daily.
Che is a myth, a face on a t-shirt, a legend, unless you live in the Cuba that Che and Fidel created.
Thank God that someone took out Che many years ago! Che is dead and that’s the good news of the day!
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