Professor Landan Gross
English 160 37
15 November 2012
Ernesto “Che” Guevara
Ernesto Guevara. For many, the name means nothing. Although people can instantly recognize his face, many have no idea who the man was or why you see his face on T-shirts, posters and other merchandise all around the world. Most people know him as Che. He is the man in the iconic picture wearing a beret looking outward with his pained and hopeful eyes. The famous image of Che has come to represent many things since its rise in popularity. The image has become so popular that it has come to represent more than just the ideas and life of Che. Che’s portrait has outgrown his own legacy and become an icon itself. The reason that the picture has become so popular is that the man in the picture, Che, has achieved the status of a modern day legend. Ernesto Guevara is culturally significant on many levels. Che is significant as the nameless icon of revolution whose face spans the globe, and as the real life revolutionary hero that he was.
Che Guevara has become important not only as a person, but as an icon. “Ask Che T-shirt wearers who he is and answers will range from freedom fighter to idealist hero. Few will know his name, origins and life story - they might wear his face as an easy replacement for real activism or as a surrogate for it... For many Che has metamorphed from man to nameless icon” Citrin 2
(Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon page 8). Although many people walk around with his face on their shirt, a good amount of those people know little to nothing about the man or his ideals. Wearing the shirt shows others that the wearer is rebellious which is deemed as cool. This is because the image has come to represent many different things, which has made it popular to wear whether you support the specific ideals of Che or not. “Che’s individual destiny has mutated into something both greater and yet far from what he intended. The true bravery and generosity of the man have for many been eclipsed by T-shirts with a stylish symbol of resistance, protest and desire for change, used for a spectrum of anti-war, anti-world debt and anti-Americanism, as well as individual liberation and human rights movements. Che’s face spans the globe - and all causes” (Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon page 9). The image of Che has come to represent more than just the specific ideals of the man portrayed. The symbol has transformed to represent a myriad of different ideas. This has given the man and the image more cultural significance. Due to the image taking on many different meanings having to do with revolution and political activism, Che’s influence has spread to anywhere people have become dissatisfied with their governments and have protested or started revolutions. Because of this, Che’s influence has spread to the entire world since there is no place on earth where people have never felt the need to protest, revolt, or make changes to the existing government. Che has been an example to all these revolutionaries. They carried his posters during the Vietnam protests; the Occupy Wall street movement, and his face could even be found among the posters Citrin 3
in the Arab Spring movement. There is no question that Che has become an important historical figure of the modern era. His influence has spread across the world as an icon of societal dissent. Although Che has become important as an icon due to his famous photograph. Che is culturally significant as the revolutionary legend that he was while he was alive, he still inspires many young people and revolutionaries today with his real ideals.
To understand why Che, the real person, not just the facial icon is important we must understand who he was. We have to understand how he grew up, what caused him to think the way that he did, what made him become the idealistic socialist revolutionary that defined him. Ernesto Guevara was born on June fourteenth, nineteen...
Cited: "Ernesto Guevara." Activists, Rebels and Reformers. Ed. Diane Sawinski. Vol. 2. Detroit: UXL,
2001. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.
Harris, Richard. Death of a Revolutionary. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Inc., 1970.
Lowy, Michael. The Marxism of Che Guevara. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973. Print.
Ziff, Trisha, Hannah Charlton, and Brian Wallis. Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon. New
York: Abrams Image, 2006. Print.
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