Today is the birthday (1928) of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, commonly known as el Che or simply Che, an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. He was a major figure of the Cuban Revolution, and his stylized image has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture. This poster could be found in practically every student room when I was an undergraduate.
As a young medical student, Guevara traveled throughout South America and was radicalized by the poverty, hunger, and disease he witnessed. His burgeoning desire to help overturn what he saw as the capitalist exploitation of Latin America by the United States prompted his involvement in Guatemala’s social reforms under President Jacobo Árbenz, whose eventual CIA-assisted overthrow at the behest of the United Fruit Company solidified Guevara’s political ideology. Later, in Mexico City, he met Raúl and Fidel Castro, joined their 26th of July Movement, and sailed to Cuba aboard the yacht, Granma, with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to second-in-command, and played a pivotal role in the victorious two-year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime.
Following the Cuban Revolution, Guevara performed a number of key roles in the new government. These included reviewing the appeals and firing squads for those convicted as war criminals during the revolutionary tribunals, instituting agrarian land reform as minister of industries, helping spearhead a successful nationwide literacy campaign, serving as both national bank president and instructional director for Cuba’s armed forces, and traversing the globe as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism. Such positions also allowed him to play a central role in training the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and bringing the Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to Cuba which precipitated the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Additionally, he was a prolific writer and diarist, composing a seminal manual on guerrilla warfare, along with a best-selling memoir about his youthful continental motorcycle journey. His experiences and studying of Marxism–Leninism led him to posit that the Third World’s underdevelopment and dependence was an intrinsic result of imperialism, neocolonialism, and monopoly capitalism, with the only remedy being proletarian internationalism and world revolution. Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to foment revolution abroad, first unsuccessfully in Congo-Kinshasa and later in Bolivia, where he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and summarily executed.
Guevara remains both a revered and reviled historical figure, polarized in the collective imagination in a multitude of biographies, memoirs, essays, documentaries, songs, and films. As a result of his perceived martyrdom, poetic invocations for class struggle, and desire to create the consciousness of a “new man” driven by moral rather than material incentives, he has evolved into a quintessential icon of various leftist-inspired movements. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while an Alberto Korda photograph of him, titled Guerrillero Heroico (title image), was cited by the Maryland Institute College of Art as “the most famous photograph in the world”.
The nickname “Che” was given to Guevara when he was traveling in South America. It is Buenos Aires street slang (Lunfardo) for “hi” and is very common among friends – usually followed by a humorous nickname: “che boluto” or “che gordo.” It is not common outside of Buenos Aires, so when Guevara used it, it was distinctive.
Rather than dredge up the whole biography of Guevara, which you can read for yourselves, here’s a gallery and a series of poignant quotes.
I knew that the moment the great governing spirit strikes the blow to divide all humanity into just two opposing factions, I would be on the side of the common people.
If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.
Real revolutionaries adorn themselves on the inside, not on the surface.
We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.
I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. It exists when people liberate themselves.
The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.
One has to grow hard but without ever losing tenderness.
Along the way, I had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit, convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. . .I won’t rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated.
I am not Christ or a philanthropist, old lady [his mother], I am all the contrary of a Christ…. I fight for the things I believe in, with all the weapons at my disposal and try to leave the other man dead so that I don’t get nailed to a cross or any other place.
I pondered what would be a suitable recipe to represent Che, Argentina and Cuba, and decided upon arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) which is universal in Latin America. I am going to give the recipe in Spanish; it should not be hard to figure out. If you are truly Spanish challenged use Google translate. In most Latin countries the rice is colored yellow with saffron or annatto but in Buenos Aires it is usually white. Be sure to pronounce “pollo” as Che would have: the “ll” is /zh/ like the “s” in “casual” and the “z” in “arroz” is /s/ not /z/.
Arroz con Pollo
2 tazas arroz
4 tazas caldo de ave
½ ají morrón verde
½ ajì morrón rojo
100 g arvejas (si son frescas mucho mejor)
perejil a gusto
aceite de oliva, cantidad necesaria
Cortar el pollo en ocho partes, (separar las patas de los muslos y dividir cada pechuga en dos)
Dorar las presas de pollo de ambos lados, en una sartén con aceite, hacerlo de a poco para que no se baje la temperatura.
Pelar y picar la cebolla.
Quitar las nervaduras y semillas de los ajíes y picar.
Rehogar en una olla el ají picado y la cebolla hasta que esta última transparente.
Incorporar el arroz, revolviendo hasta que transparente un poco (sin dorarse).
Agregar el pollo y el caldo.
Si las arvejas son frescas incorporarlas en este momento, de lo contrario hacerlo unos 5 minutos antes de retirar del fuego.
Dejar cocer el arroz con pollo durante 20 minutos a fuego moderado y cacerola destapada, revolviendo de vez en cuando.
Tapar la olla, retirar del fuego y dejar descansar durante 5 minutos.
Servir el arroz con pollo espolvoreado con perejil picado.