History

Che Pasa

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Forget Sgt. Pepper—the commemorative soldier of the year was clearly Dr. Ernesto Che Guevara, the comandante who secured Castro's triumph against Batista. Government soldiers killed Guevara in 1967 while he was attempting a revolution in Bolivia.

The 30th anniversary of Che's death occasioned a fistful of adulatory reminiscences here and abroad. Cuba recovered his remains and declared a holiday during a near-religious (and very Communist) funeral procession from Havana to Santa Clara, the site of Che's most important military victory (and, now, his incorruptible bones). Much of Che's lingering mystique can be attributed to his unerring sense of style–in the '60s, Che's beret-and-fatigues combo provided the uniform for radical chic. And, as with an athlete who dies young, his death at age 39 saved him the indignity of transmogrifying into an aged Commander McBragg.

Unsurprisingly, the legends surrounding Che–including the inevitable one that he escaped death–shroud a mundane legacy of failure. As Castro's one-time top economic planner, he helped preside over the demise of the Cuban economy. And his subsequent attempts to foment revolution in Africa and South America failed miserably. That history may explain why, in eulogizing her father, Guevara's 36-year-old daughter could only sum up his life thusly: "In this moment, the entire world remembers a man who was very much alive."