Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Che Day

Forty years ago today, a jittery Bolivian army sergeant named Mario Teran, having drawn the short straw, shot Che Guevara to death, breathing the new life into the then-fledging t-shirt industry. (Including these, which I love; The same people who recoil at the Guevara myth-making would have you believe that nutty right-wing conservative chicks are really this hot. Please. Your dictator lost. Get over it.) Teran still lives in Bolivia, old and nearly blind from cataracts - or at least he was until last year, when a team of Cuban doctors, working as part of a Cuban government program to provide health care across Latin America, restored his vision free of charge. Now he can watch all the Che commemorations on television. Oh, the horrors of socialized medicine!

Che spent two years in Mexico right before the Revolution, where, among other things, he got married, met Fidel Castro, and spent a year training an guerrilla army to overthrow Batista. Unlike us, he didn't actually care for the place very much. According to his Mexican biographer Jorge Castenada, Che honeymooned in southeastern Mexico,

whose Mayan ruins cannot but have dazzled him, though he wrote nothing about them in his letters home....Was this curious omission a sign of his ongoing Mexican depression, or of his concentrating on the struggle ahead? Either way, the skillful, affectionate descriptions he devoted to the rest of Latin America are missing in the case of Mexico - a country that has enthralled far less sophisticated than Che, and that should have fascinated him much more than the other stops in his Latin American wanderings.

Mexican pride wounds pretty easily, no? Finally, on Nov. 25, 1956,

the Granma glided through the estuary of the Tuxpan River with lights dimmed and motors muffled, Che was leaving Mexico forever, without ever having lived in or loved the country. His stay of over two years was made meaningful by its ending, not by his initially monotonous life in the city. In Mexico, towards the end of his stay, he experienced some of the most meaningful moments of his twenty-eight years: there he had met Fidel Castro and joined the Cuban Revolution. But the country had little to do with these events; they could just as well have happened anywhere.

Well, not anywhere - not Havana, for instance. But you get the point. I've still got a couple hundred pages to go in Castenada's book, so I've been avoiding the news coverage today (I mean, they've already blown the ending for me). But one of the papers ran these two pictures side by side, which I thought was kinda cool:

He was, after all, a doctor.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Can you help us less worldly readers out and explain the pair of pictures... thanks

Burro Hall said...

One's an iconic image of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the other's an iconic work of art by Rembrandt "Rembrandt" van Rijn. I'm not sure which is which.