Was Che A Hero, A Villain, Or Neither?
Afterthoughts, clarification and notes on my latest DC column
Go and check out my latest column for The Daily Chela, in which I asked if Che Guevarra is still relevant in today’s ultra woke/conservative world.
As I expected, my column on Che garnered quite a few comments on DC’s Instagram page. The comments are about what I expected - they range from anger and condemnation to admiration and indifference - which is what I talked about in the article.
Make no mistake, people always have strong emotions about Che for one reason or another but the topic is so complex that it’s often difficult for people to separate fact from fiction, much less digest (or put into context) all of the crazy shit that was happening in the world during the Cuban Revolution.
Further, if you spend any amount of time researching the history of Cuba you will give yourself a headache - those poor people have been fucked over since day one!
But for me, that era in particular is fascinating and one of my favorites to study because it is layered with conspiracy on top of conspiracy on top of conspiracy. If you study Che you also have to study the USA, imperialism, the cold war, JFK, the mafia, hippies, drug culture, Black Panthers, the Chicano Movement, AIM and so much more!
Che is just a small piece of an era that was teeming with controversy and one from which we are still feeling its aftershocks.
Someone mentioned right off the bat that Che thought Mexicans were inferior. I’ve heard this argument before, as well as many others about his faults.
In fact, if you search on the web the quote you will find is this:
But here’s the thing - you would be hard pressed to find an actual and legitimate source for that quote! To put it another way…there’s zero evidence that Che actually said this and the biggest red flag about it, IMO, is that it is right wingers who love to push this quote. So, draw your own conclusions.
Further, it’s interesting to me to see political enemies find common ground in their criticism of Che. If you search for evidence that Che was a racist, you will find that Politifact says that is mostly false and taken out of context from one of his books written in the 1950s.
You will also find that people like Marco Rubio, a right wing Cuban, are the ones pushing the narrative. Again, draw your own conclusions.
It’s not like propaganda is a new tactic it’s just easier to spread these days thanks to social media.
My point with this article was not for Che worship nor demonization but to illustrate why he was relevant for the Chicano Movement and to ask if that relevance still mattered.
In today’s ridiculous political circus, I do not think it does.
The comments on the article (thus far) tell me what I already knew and that is that like most things today, people’s minds are already made up and no matter what kind of evidence you provide, they will not budge.
That said, I’m not asking anyone to change their minds…only to question where they get their information and to look at the motivation behind it.
I think the best comment that I received was that Che, like any historical figure, had his strengths and faults. To judge these people with the lens of current politics is goofy; you practically have to be a scholar of the sixties to leverage a halfway decent opinion on Che that is not tainted by personal feelings or internet myths.
Alas most folks these days are content to digest mere headlines and then run away with wild speculation.
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The late great Jesus Chuy Negrete would sing all the standard Cuban revolu pro-Che songs as performed by Carlos Puebla and others, but he knew there was a danger in idolizing "leaders" which can become the "ideology of the poster" without understanding the actual material empirical conditions which brings oppression to its end. Many, students for the most part had their Che poster brooding and intense somewhere in their place as if he was the Christ portrait their mom or abuela would have had up in the house. When people claim to be revolutionaries, but they are blood and cut-free fighters for freedom and have never lost a friend to prison or state-sponsored violence and they would never take up armed defense--you have to wonder what kind of Che do they imagine?
How small is the world? Six degrees of separation from Che? Way back in 1978, I received an envelope with a phone number of a man calling himself Ben Lucas, he was seeking to submit a "cartoon" called Chato to a small publication I worked on) It was submitted with four sets of dialog about a goatee-wearing young Chicano who had a Black pal who demanded he stand up for himself after being called a beaner and in turn the Chicano aka Chato starts coming up with terms like " Corn Flaker!" against his gringo mocker. I had a face to face meeting with the cartoonist and he was a big brown Chicano who claimed he had been in the Green Berets and had been sent along with a few others to Bolivia to track some guerillas in early 1967. He said he later found out the leader of this "FOCO" was none other than "el Che" -- he claimed to have been in Viet Nam in November 1967 about a month after the "FOCO" crew was killed or captured and he saw it was Guevara he was hunting. This is the first part of another of how small the world is...I'll save the second half for my own book.