It is fashionable, especially among younger people, to sport t-shirts, caps and other apparel displaying Che Guevara’s face. I have asked many such people as to who the man is on their t-shirts. Many of them said they don’t know (I guess they wear these t-shirts just because they cool and worn by their friends too!). A few others would utter “Che” with a spectrum of pronunciation of “Guevara”. But hardly anyone knew anything about the man whose image they wear so smugly.
Therefore, today I decided to bring you this famous photograph of Che and would tell you a few facts associated with this image.
Well, first of all, like many other iconic photographs this photo also has a name. It is called Guerrillero Heroico (Heroic Guerrilla). The photograph was taken by Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion. It is the expressions on Che’s face caught in this photograph that made it iconic. Today this is one of the most reproduced photographs in the world and it has played a significant role in making Che popular all over the world. The cropped version of the original photograph became symbol of counterculture in youth.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara, born in Argentina on June 14, 1928, was a Marxist revolutionary. He is one of the most important figures in Cuban Revolution. Che was studying medicine when he decided to travel throughout the Latin America. This travel is the subject of a 2004 movie The Motorcycle Diaries (a must watch, I would say). During his voyage Che was deeply pained to see poverty throughout the continent. This experience transformed Che and later he moved over to Cuba. There, he quickly rose through the ranks among Cuban insurgents and played a very important role in over-throwing the rule of Fulgencio Batista -a dictator supported by the USA. Then Che went on to take many key responsibilities in the newly formed socialist government of Cuba. He also tried to fan revolution in other Latin American countries but his efforts failed. During one such attempt Che was captured by the US-backed Bolivian forces and executed on October 9, 1967.
There is another very famous photograph of Che. It is called “The Corpse of Che” and was taken by Freddy Alborta on October 10, 1967 in Vallegrande, Bolivia, when Bolivian soldiers displayed Che’s dead body to photographers.
This photograph made Che even more popular as some people actually see a “Christ-like” image in Che’s visage in the photograph. The body of Che in this photo resembles the crucified body of the Jesus as painted during the Renaissance period. Che’s face is peaceful and therefore gives a notion of his forgiving his killers. All these factors made people worship him.
While the Guerrillero Heroico photo made Che an extremely famous person; the Corpse of Che made him the patron saint of revolutionaries around the world. Bolivian Army must have regretted making such a stupid display of El Che (as Che was popularly known among his colleagues). They killed his body but made him immortal. Soon after the Corpse of Che was circulated; slogans of “Che lives!” became household in many countries.
Please do share your thoughts about these iconic photographs and also about Che Guevara. Your feedback and suggestions are always welcome. Thank you for reading and stay connected with this website as I will continue to write about more famous photographs.