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Commentary: 'Che' paints incomplete picture of Guevara

Another movie romanticizing Ernesto "Che" Guevara comes to Miami. Cuban exiles are appalled. Most everybody else shrugs and says, "Get over it."

We would if only someone in Hollywood would do an accurate portrayal of the homophobic, racist Butcher of La Cabana. Instead we get Che, another propaganda film romanticizing the Argentine commandante in Cuba's revolution who was killed trying to foment rebellion in Bolivia in 1967.

Fidel Castro's predecessor, Fulgencio Batista, certainly had his own henchmen who killed innocents who disagreed with him. But it was nothing, absolutely nothing, on the scale of Castro's bloodletting – much of it by Che, including executing a 14-year-old boy.

Guevara set the tone after the revolution's triumph for a totalitarian regime that executed hundreds – and some estimates go as high as 2,000 – of Cubans after quickie show trials that mocked any international sense of justice. And that was just in the first year.

Yet there's not one scene depicting the relentless firing squads at the Havana fortress-turned-prison in director Steven Soderbergh's 4.5-hour film.

The years between 1959, when Che was in charge of executions at La Cabana, and 1966, when he reached Bolivia, get no mention. Some will call this absence of the bloody truth "artistic license."

To me, it's another cynical plot to turn the making of the Cuban communist regime into a fairy tale. Except there are about two million Cuban exiles throughout the world who know otherwise and millions more in Cuba still suffering.

Consider Che's own writing on the subject of executions: "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. . . . These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of El Paredon."

So in Che's thinking, el paredon – the wall that carried the splattered brains and hearts of the men shot at La Cabana – was a teaching tool. People recoiled in fear as they watched executions on TV.

There's more "creative license" taken in another Che-extravaganza, The Motorcycle Diaries. Absent from that movie is this diary passage:

"The blacks, those magnificent examples of the African race who have maintained their racial purity thanks to their lack of an affinity with bathing, have seen their territory invaded by a new kind of slave: the Portuguese. The contempt and poverty unites them in the daily struggle, but the different way of dealing with life separates them completely. The black is indolent and a dreamer, spending his meager wage on frivolity or drink. The European has a tradition of work and saving. . . ."

Aside from being a racist and cold killing machine, Che was a homophobe. He put gays in work camps – the start of detentions to "build the New Man."

Historian Pedro Corzo, a former Cuban political prisoner and one of the authors of Misionero de la Violencia, Missionary of Violence, about Guevara's life, says the Che myth is particularly galling when everything he did – as Cuba's minister of banking or industry or heading delegations overseas or trying to create rebel movements in Latin America – failed.

"Just by reading Guevara's own writings you can perceive the type of person he was," Corzo said. "He spoke of hate, vengeance, getting even. He never spoke of getting along, of peace or understanding."

It's all there in his writings, but nowhere to be found in Hollywood history-making. Shameful.

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