While we were in Cordoba, we headed off to Alto Gracia for a day, and home to the house where Ché Guevara grew up.
I have to confess I didn’t really know the full details of the Ché story beyond the iconic picture and his symbol as a leftwing revolutionary – so it was good to have explained to us in the museum that his house has become. The £10 price tag did make us wonder if it was really holding to his principles, but then as wealthy tourists it is fair that we’re playing a lot more than the local visitors.
We did find out a few things we weren’t expecting to hear for a revolutionary fighter. For starters, at school he was a bit of a geek, playing chess and getting the best marks in class. Nothing wrong with that! He also had bad asthma, which is why his family moved to the better air in Alto Gracia in the first place. Again, not quite the macho leader one imagines.
Later in life, he (and Fidel Castro) then led the Cuban Revolution, creating the state that still exists today. I’ve heard before of the ‘miracle’ of the mere 12 fighters who took on the Cuban army and won – but the fact that is often omitted is that there were actually 82 fighters who landed in the country, but all but 12 were killed during a Cuban army raid on the first night.
The final shock came from the passport he travelled with. His birth name is actually Ernesto Lynch, and, well, his photo is hardly that of the Marxist revolutionary. Granted, he used this passport when going undercover into the Congo, and later into Bolivia, but it is somewhat surprising!
It made me think about how we idolise people and turn them into over-saturated icons, airbrushing away the details that don’t quite agree with the popular narrative. It’s not to say that Ché wasn’t a hugely successful revolutionary who certainly made a big impact on the world stage (albeit through violent means). It’s just that when we depict our idols and role models without blemishes, although their achievements appear all the more great for it, we end up making their successes unattainable – and our attempts to imitate them impossible. Everyone has their flaws.
So, to redress the balance, as a gift to the geeks and thick-spectacle wearing, balding men of the world, I hereby present the alternative image of Ché the revolutionary. Marxist, yes. Pinup? Well, I’ll leave that decision to you!