The photo was once deemed by the Maryland Institute of Art as the most famous of all time - but how much do you know about the Marxist revolutionary it depicts? Guevara qualified as a doctor in , leaving Argentina soon afterwards. During a motorcycle journey through South America with his childhood friend Alberto Granado, Guevara served as a medic for three weeks at the San Pablo leper colony in Peru. The experience is said to have radicalised Guevara into a lifelong crusade against what he regarded as the capitalist exploitation of Latin America by the US. He advocated nationalising private businesses and dreamed of a classless society where money would be abolished and wages unnecessary.
The day before Alberto Korda took his iconic photograph of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, a ship had exploded in Havana Harbor, killing the crew and dozens of dockworkers. In short order, Guerrillero Heroico was appropriated by artists, causes and admen around the world, appearing on everything from protest art to underwear to soft drinks. It has become the cultural shorthand for rebellion and one of the most recognizable and reproduced images of all time, with its influence long since transcending its steely-eyed subject. Explore more iconic images that changed the world. Guerillero heroico Explore the Photograph.
The scraggly beard, the beret adorned with a star, the intense gaze: it is an instantly recognisable image which has been used to sell everything from booze to T-shirts to mugs to bikinis. Che Guevara is an icon of the 20th century whose brand has turned into a worldwide marketing phenomenon. If you want to shift more products or give your corporate image a bit of edge, the Argentine revolutionary's face and name are there to be used, like commercial gold dust. The fact that Guevara was a communist guerrilla and Marxist ideologue is an irony of little interest to his capitalist exploiters.
At least some of the purchasers truly cherish Che, she says. But amid all the ceremony, what really gets to Ms. Guevara is the use of the man she calls Papi in ways that she says are completely removed from his revolutionary ideals, like when a designer recently put Che on a bikini. In fact, 40 years after his death, Che — born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna — is as much a marketing tool as an international revolutionary icon. Which raises the question of what exactly does the sheer proliferation of his image — the distant gaze, the scraggly beard and the beret adorned with a star — mean in a decidedly capitalist world?