January 21, 1998 in Nation/World

Guevara: Heart, Soul Of Revolution ‘El Che’ Revered Throughout Cuba; Thousands Visit Grave

San Antonio Express-News
 

If the Cuban revolution has a patron saint, it’s the man known throughout the island simply as “El Che.”

The face of Cuban strongman Fidel Castro is a comparatively rare public sight, but placards, statues and billboards bearing the words and image of Ernesto “Che” Guevara are everywhere.

While Castro is the theoretical brain and glue of revolutionary Cuba, Guevara, an Argentine-born doctor-turned-revolutionary, is its romantic heart and soul.

On a good day, more than 500 people - adults, schoolchildren and foreign tourists - visit what must be the single largest monument in Cuba, Guevara’s grave.

On a rolling hilltop overlooking this colonial city, an epic-sized statue of a bearded Guevara, dressed in combat fatigues, with a mop of unruly hair snaking out from under his trademark beret, dominates a large tiled plaza.

Guevara left Argentina to hook up with Castro in Mexico in 1954, where they put together the cadre that went to Cuba in 1957 and marched triumphantly into Havana in January 1959.

Guevara served as minister of industry from 1961 until 1965, then mysteriously disappeared. The next year, he popped up at the head of a revolutionary column in the jungles of Bolivia.

Unlike his successful venture in Cuba, his Bolivian guerrilla campaign never took hold. He was captured by the army and shot near Vallegrande on Oct. 9, 1967.

Forensic experts determined last year that bones dug up at a military airport in Bolivia are Guevara’s, and his remains were returned to Cuba for burial at the monument.

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