Эрнесто Че Гевара. Культ Че: почему латиноамериканский революционер превратился в поп-икону

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Ernesto Che Guevara. The cult of Che: why the Latin American revolutionary became a pop icon

The leader of the Cuban Revolution and the main romantic hero of Latin America, Ernesto Che Guevara, was born ninety years ago. Even half a century after the death of the Comandante, it is very popular all over the world. RIA Novosti figured out how popular culture turned a revolutionary into a replicated glamorous character.
Heroic Guerrilla
«My dreams know no bounds until the bullet interrupts their flight,» said Che Guevara, as if anticipating his death. In 1967, the world lost a prominent politician, but gained an immortal pop icon. Although, in fact, the world legend about Che Guevara was born a little later.
Ernesto Che Guevara
© RIA News
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It all started with one successful photo. The canonical photograph, known as the «Heroic Guerrilla», was taken on March 5, 1960 by Cuban photographer Alberto Corda at a rally in Havana: Che Guevara full face in a beret with the star Jose Marti.
A year after the death of the revolutionary, Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick created a stylized two-tone portrait from this photograph. This is one of the most famous visuals of the twentieth century — along with the fluttering skirt of Marilyn Monroe or a photo of Albert Einstein with his tongue hanging out. At first, the portrait became the emblem of the left European youth in Europe, then it was raised on the flags of hippies, anarchists of all stripes and even Greenpeace activists. And in recent decades it has been in demand in advertising.
Commercial star
Participants of the Balloon Festival in the Stavropol Territory
© RIA Novosti / Denis Abramov
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It is not surprising that the image of Che gradually turned from a symbol of protest into kitsch. Today, the iconic image can be seen on T-shirts, beer cans, advertising signs, lighters, key chains, and even mouse pads. Young people around the world get tattoos with Che Guevara. Posters with it are an obligatory attribute of rallies and protest actions, regardless of who stands for what.
Portrait of Ernesto Che Guevara on a city street in the Old Havana area
© RIA Novosti / Maria to Plotnikova
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Che is immortalized on Cuban three-peso banknotes, building facades, stamps and street graffiti. It is impossible to fight the commercialization of the image — Alberto Corda considers his photograph to be in the public domain and does not require royalties. He intervened only once — when the picture was used in an advertisement for Smirnoff vodka. Sued and won the case.
What is our
Head of the Government Economic Mission of Cuba Ernesto Che Guevara and First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev at the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Moscow
© RIA Novosti / V. Noskov
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Che left a noticeable trace in Soviet and Russian literature. He appears in Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s «Cuban Cycle», in Yevgeny Dolmatovsky’s poem «Guevara’s Hands». The famous poem «Major» by Yaroslav Smelyakov is dedicated to him, where there are the following lines: «He was a responsible person of a poor country, / a minister with an apostolic face and a pirate’s beard.» Che’s spirit is active in Pelevin’s novel «Generation P».
But most often the image of a revolutionary was used by domestic musicians. From Kobzon’s song «In Memory of Che Guevara» and «Ballad about Che Guevara» by the «Pesnyary» group to contemporary performers: Uma2rman, Casta, Alexander F. Sklyar. The famous «Hasta siempre, Comandante», written before Che’s death by the Cuban singer Carlos Puebla, was also covered in Russia.
The fate of the Comandante did not leave indifferent the filmmakers. Many documentaries and feature films have been shot about Che Guevara. Among the most successful — «Che!» with the cult Egyptian actor Omar Sharif in the title role, as well as the biopic of the same name by Stephen Soderbergh, where Guevara was played by Puerto Rican Benicio del Toro.
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It seems that the Comandante has finally become an abstract symbol. «Che was killed twice: first — with a gunfire of Sergeant Teran, then — with millions of portraits,» — said the French philosopher Régis Debreu.
Today, an obsessive commercial image has pushed into the background Che’s socialist ideas, which were once so in demand. However, for young rebels who want to identify themselves with the tragic and romantic heroes of the past, Che is still «more alive than all the living.»