600 Days: The repatriation and resurrection of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara


‘From this murdered man are born all the men of tomorrow’: ‘The death and resurrection of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’ PHOTO/Alicia Leal.

An Interview with Dr. Jorge González, former Director of the Cuban Forensic Institute in Havana.

Fifty years ago ‘Che’ Guevara was captured and brutally executed in the jungles of Bolivia by Bolivian recruits who were trained, equipped and guided by U.S. Green Beret and CIA operatives. Almost immediately afterwards Che was drafted into the canon of post-Catholic sainthood. The Bolivian army’s official photograph of Che, taken after he was executed— his head raised, eyes open, a faint smile on his lips — became an icon of saintly rebellion. Che’s death not only gave meaning to his life, but to multitudes of ordinary people around the world. His Christ-like image had immediate resonance among the poor and oppressed of Latin America who believed that their popular saint, ‘Querido Che’ would some day rise again. What was less anticipated was the impact of his death on generations of young people around the world.

The spiritual and political afterlife of Che, like the afterlife of Jesus of Nazareth, begins with their brutal torture and deaths at the hands of sadistic soldiers, colonizing forces (Rome and the US CIA) and local collaborators. Both men faced their capture and deaths with equanimity and graceful acceptance of their fate and left this world with words of consolation and , yes, of love. Both men were given opportunities to surrender and save themselves, but both acquiesced to their fate, remained true to their beliefs, and faced their executioners with words of comfort and of love. Che: “I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man… please, tell my wife to remarry and try to be happy.” Jesus: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.

The gospel narratives of described a man whose death shook the earth and left his own executioners fear and regret that they had killed a son of God. Jorge Castaneda’s biography, Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara (Knopf) and Michael Casey’s Che’s Afterlife: the Legacy of an Image refer to an iconic photo of the dead Che that ignited a fierce political and spiritual loyalty to the memory of the revolutionary hero. Freddy Alborta’s photo of Che’s lacerated body, laid out on a concrete slab surrounded by gloating Bolivian soldiers and CIA operatives, one callously pointing to a mortal wound, became a global symbol of a spiritual socialist revolution. Che’s restful body, his gentle eyes and peaceful countenance radiated forgiveness and love. John Berger noted the resemblance of the photo to Andrea Mantegna’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ. (John Berger, 1975). Alborta’s photo, sometimes referred to as “The Passion of the Che” ensured that the Argentine revolutionary would live on forever as a symbol of the spiritual socialist cause. Displayed at meetings or rallies the image is often accompanied by cries of “Che está Presente”- Che is here with us, a real existential presence’ similar to the “Real Presence” of Jesus, here, present in our own bodies, minds and spirits.

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