Friday, Feb. 04, 2011

Ernesto "Che" Guevara

He set out to do more than just upend the world's economic system — he wanted to change what it means to be a human being. Ernesto Guevara's hombre nuevo, new man, was endowed with the ability to permanently prioritize the "other" over the "self." The embrace of the nickname "Che" fit perfectly into his everyman philosophy; the interjection, which has no English equivalent, comes from Guevara's homeland of Argentina and is used as a salutatory title with no consideration for rank or gender.

The portrait of a rugged, beret-wearing Guevara hangs on the walls of both Latin American kitchens, U.S. college dorm rooms and over Havana's Revolutionary Square because Che was the embodiment of a man true to his word who never backs down. That Guevara would by all modern definitions be judged a war criminal only serves to amplify his icon. As he joined Fidel Castro's march through Cuba in the 1950's, Guevara never wavered on the principle that you were either for the revolution or you weren't. It was Guevara who orchestrated extrajudicial killings on the mere suspicion of disloyalty. Che could only become the familiar mugshot on t-shirts if he was willing to pay the ultimate price. After Guevara was captured fomenting revolution in Bolivia in 1967, he said, "Go ahead and kill me, I am just a man."