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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cuba and Che Guevara

Few people have had as storied and controversial history than one Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, or Che Guevara, as he is more commonly known. His resume jumps from medical school student, to president of Cuba’s national bank, to Marxist leader. Today, his face is a cultural icon, gracing the front of student t-shirts and art exhibits alike. The Maryland Institute of Art recently named the iconic picture of him with his black beret as the world’s most famous photo. With Cuba’s recent tourism resurgence, travelers can see firsthand the effects Che had on this independent island nation, and just maybe bring back the perfect memento in his honor.

Che Central

In order to get the perfect Che Guevara memento, one first has to understand the man. There is no better place to start your education than in Santa Clara, where his ashes were put to rest. Here visitors can see where his ashes are entombed, along with the 38 other revolutionaries killed in the battles in Bolivia. Along with the mausoleum there is a small museum dedicated to the activist’s life. The exhibits run the gamut of his life, from his early days as a child to his time spent in the United Nations as an ambassador. It even houses the famous black beret he wore in the aforementioned picture. You won’t find a souvenir here though , as the museum does not have anything for sale, choosing to serve only as a way to keep the memory of Che alive.

The marketplace

Cuba holidays leave you ample opportunity to visit all the sights of the Caribbean island – and fortunately, its many marketplaces sell all sorts of wares to do with Che Guevara. There are postcards and keychains, t-shirts and coffee mugs with his face on them, but if these are a little too unoriginal for your taste, there are much more unique items available. For instance, plaques bearing Che’s likeness or original art inspired by him can be found if you search hard enough.

See the real Cuba

At the end of the day though, the perfect Che Guevara memento is arguably something more intangible, something that can’t be bought, only learned. It’s an education on how much more the country has to offer than just cigars and rum. The country is a strange combination of the present and the past, and it’s easy to see why Che felt so strongly about it.

So if you’re visiting Cuba, be sure to check out the Havana street art, hang out with some genuine Salsa stars or discover the island’s natural beauty in its southern wetlands and incredible wildlife. The best memento is to experience Cuba and to see why Guevara once said,  “Let me say, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”



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