On Oct. 9, 1967, Argentine-Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara was executed by the Bolivian army in Higuera, Bolivia. Fifty years later the anniversary of his death has been commemorated with a stamp in Ireland. This simple stamp sparked a large controversy among Cuban-Americans.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara was a Marxist leader during the Cuban Revolution. He came from a middle-class family, and during the dark political times in Cuba, he became the face of the impoverished who had been disregarded in Cuba. Along with Fidel Castro, he began a revolt against Fulgencio Batista’s repressive dictatorship during the 1950s. During the 1960s, Che Guevara sought to establish a communist government in Cuba. Today, Che Guevara has become a symbol for Marxist and leftist supporters.
Large communities of people globally have recognized Che Guevara as a revolutionary hero, and his portrait with starred barret and full beard has been plastered on hundreds of thousands of shirts and posters as he became popular in a younger, more left-leaning crowd.
The Irish government felt the need to acknowledge his history, as well as his Irish heritage with a 1 euro stamp.
“The first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels,” father of Che Guevara, Ernesto Lynch Guevara said in an interview in 1969.
Che Guevara’s roots stem all the way back to his great-grandfather on his father’s side of the family.
“My grandmother was North American. A Lynch, but born in the US. She was born in San Francisco. The family moved from here, the province of Buenos Aires, but moved to San Francisco where she was born. But her father yes, he was born in Ireland,” Che Guevara’s brother, Juan Martin Guevara Lynch said on Oct. 9.
Although Ireland expected to be welcomed, many were quick to make harsh comparisons.
“Put Hitler on a stamp and see how people react,” AP Art History teacher Ms. Falagan said.
Similarly, Senator Neale Richmond in Ireland made the assumption that it would be as if the government was honoring brutal Cambodian dictator Pol Pot or vicious Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu.
Che Guevara has been viewed as a heroic rebel in history, but there are many people, especially Cuban-Americans, who disapprove of his legacy. Che Guevara’s controversy stems from his actions during the revolution, as he was known to provoke and participate in the violence that occurred during this revolt. As Che Guevara had grown in popularity during the Batista dictatorship, he gathered a large amount of followers and formed guerilla troops against the Batista government.
“His history as a revolutionist is highly glossed over by only mentioning his admirable achievements,” Cuban-American sophomore Katiana Jovellar said. “We ignore all of the atrocities he’s committed.”
As well as leading guerilla battles, he also ordered the execution of nearly 150 to 550 political prisoners with either a quick trial or no trial at all according to History Channel.
As soon as information about the stamp had been revealed, many of the Cuban-Americans in South Florida responded harshly. On Twitter, Cuban-born Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tweeted about the new Irish stamp. (Oct. 7, 2017)
“#Ireland glorifying the murderer #CheGuevara on its stamps is a grotesque insult to the many lives he slaughtered,” Ros-Lehtinen tweeted.
Many felt as if the stamp was disrespectful to the horrors that Che took part in as well.
“They wanted freedom, put thousands of people to death. What’s the honor in that?” Falagan said. “Why are the irish commemorating a murderer? How could they possibly commemorate a murderer? [The Irish stamp] is preposterous.”
While Che Guevara’s rebellion and push for a communistic government in Cuba was inspirational to many, the stamp has a received a considerable amount of negativity.
“Even though he’s an extremely significant revolutionary figure, whose political views are still shared and admired, he should not be honored with a stamp,” Jovellar said.