Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Remembering Che

Hey guys,

I have some photos for this blog, but I am having a hard time uploading them-so I'll try again in the morning.

On October 8th, New York Times online had published a sound bite of Cuban children, mouthing a morning mantra "We shall study, grow up and fight like Che! We shall be like Che!" The revolutionary's legacy is everywhere in Cuba: on shirts, on billboards…even underwear (although this latest incarnation of Che's famous image is not sanctioned by Aleida Guevara March, his daughter, who hopes that the Brazilian designer will stop producing the blasphemous under garments). 40years after his death, Che remains an idealized figure in his adoptive country. Despite the controversies he might inspire outside of it, for many activists across the globe, this revolutionary fighter continues to be a symbol of strength and commitment to a cause.

After sugar, Che Guevara is Cuba's greatest export. For Wally Valdez, a friend and a performance poet born in the United States of Bolivian parents, Che is both a hero and a murderer, his legacy ridden with struggle-no pun intended. He is also a commodity, an ironic byproduct of a communist revolution that aimed to eradicate such capitalist concepts. In a poem written for a performance in 2005, Mr.Valdez talks about his dream about meeting Che in Costco. He wonders what would Che think of a gallon-sized ketchup. He approaches him, wanting to shout "THEY ARE EXPLOTING YOU – 'I'M EXPLOITING YOU –You're the inn thing – Since Jay Z wore your face on TV." It is unlikely that Jay Z wanted to start another communist revolution. Rather, Che's legacy is multifacted. His image...well, not so much. It is the image of Che gazing into the distance that graces much of today'smemorabilia. Taken by Alberto Korda in 1960, "this particular photograph has been reproduced more than any other in history ( except for the famous shot of Marilyn Monroe standing over a subway grid)" Printed on everything from key chains to hats,the image perpetuates the idealism that continues to be associated with Che but not necessarily with Cuban revolution.

Che did not live long enough to feel the full aftermath of his revolution, the bitter reverberations created by Cubans who fled for the North American shores, majority of them settling in Miami. For those initial exiles, revolution was a disaster. For their successors, however, the young generations born on the North American soil, the reality is not so black and white. A different kind of struggle exists. "We've inherited a mind frame and sentiment of a displaced community" says Rogelio Plasencia, president of Cuban American Student Association at NYU, a legacy he wants to contest or corroborate with a visit to his family who still lives in Cuba. He hopes that this coming summer he'll be able to go.

The immortalized image of Che resonates with many because it has come to represent a different, more personalized revolution. As Mr. Valdez says of Che, "[he] reminds me of a struggle, of being myself a proud Latino." Che Guevara, once a symbol of communal uprising, has been adopted into the globalized and individualistic communities as a representation of "every man's struggles," be they political, economicor personal. It is this universal appeal to the challenges of human existence that has propelled Che Guevara into one of the most referenced archives of history.

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