Wednesday, July 8, 2009

CH€-MIOTICS


Alfredo Triff

The ghost of Ch€ keeps haunting us. Not Ernesto Guevara, the asthmatic idealistic Argentinean doctor, biking through South America, nor the idiosyncratic Cuban Comandante, later Minister of the National Bank and Industries during the early years of the Cuban Revolution. Ch€, the symbol of the world’s anti-imperialist struggle,
post-modern mythogramme, the best hagiographic emblem of the Cold War.1

A shadow follows closely: “Fidel.” Not the man, but the first televised revolutionary of the Western hemisphere: A young Greek-profiled bearded Comandante en Jefe, who, at 33, with a white dove on his shoulder steers up the masses against his Capitalist enemies across the Florida Straights. Rewind this Black-&-White snippet two years, to Fidel, the guerrilla fighter during his media/launching for the New York Times by journalist Herbert Matthews (Sierra Maestra, 1957) and then fast-forward to October 1967, when Fidel breaks the news of Ch€’s death in the jungles of Bolivia to the Cuban people, (just a year before the invasion Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union). What Fidel doesn’t know is that his symbolic unction of CH€ signals the end of “Fidel” and the beginning of CДξτЯθ: dictator, bureaucrat-in-chief, future President of the Council of State and Ministers and President of State and Government and First Secretary of the PCC.2


Whereas Ch€ gives up his comfortable life in Cuba for the jungles of Bolivia, CДξτЯθ will enjoy power for decades to come. This asymmetry in symbolic destination determines two different outcomes:
Ch€ and CДξτЯθ’s popularity become inversely proportional. Symbolically speaking, as Ch€ gains, CДξτЯθ looses. These days we see less of the hirsute, gray-bearded, tragic-comic, feeble retired octogenarian. Late-CДξτЯθ wearing Adidas jumpsuit and tennis shoes, taking little walks outside his compound. Late-CДξτЯθ trembling and rambling about the past, even on the verge of tears! Who would’ve imagined?

History works in mysterious ways. In September 1968 (right about the time early-CДξτЯθ sides with the Soviet Union on the invasion of Czechoslovakia) one could not yet explain the ch€miotic transformation of Ch€: from
politicalideological→ aesthetic→ mythological virtual.

What will be the definitive portrait of CДξτЯθ? Difficult to say.

Meanwhile, Korda’s photo of Ch€ that afternoon of 1961 embodies the Byronean myth,3 frozen in our collective memory. The Heroic Guerrilla Fighter, his eyes sternly fixed at the horizon of immortality, dreaming a still unfolding -uncertain- future. Ch€: liminal, hybrid and interactive. The Camilo of the people,4 defender of the exploited of the world undergoing countless transformations: from adventurous biker and Comandante of the revolution, to ruthless executioner, Communist martyr, pin-up, logo, film celebrity, revolutionary saint.
____________
1
Mithography: image/symbol. Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity (Harvard University Press, 1980). 2 The length of these official party government titles is baffling. German critic Ernst Bloch, perhaps the first to observe title rank in bureaucratic structures says:
Rank is to Bureaucracy as medals are to the military. 3For Barthes, myth is constituted as a depoliticized message. In Mythologies Barthes explains that there is a first order of denotation of the sign which then becomes connotation. So Ernesto Guevara → CH€ through what Barthes calls “theft of language, namely, a myth becoming an empirical, irrefutable fact”. 4Not Camilo, the Cuban revolutionary, but Torres-Restrepo, the Colombian Catholic. Among the chief factors contributing to a Latin American Christianity revitalized by Guevarist precepts were Camilo Torres’ decision to join the Colombian ELN and the emergence of a Camilist Movement in response to his martyrdom.”- Donald C. Hodges The Legacy of Che Guevara: A Documentary Study, (Thames and Hudson, 1977).

7 comments:

grettel j. singer said...

triff, muy sofisticado este blog y muy interesante tus puntos de vista. además, muy agradable visualmente.
suerte con este bebé...

Anonymous said...

AT: I read this blog last week and got enthusiastic about it. Again, congratulations!. I love this "vanguard taste" of your writings. I was unable to keep up with my blog, but still feel tumiami is the center of all. Kisses for both. Mayeya

miamibourbaki said...

Thanks, Grettel and Mayeya, for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Por que la e de che es el simbolo del euro?

Feminista said...

Triff: Interesting your comparison between Castro and Che. True that Castro contributed but was not the only cause of it. And no doubt he has to do with Che's failure in Bolivia. Did he really wasnt him to succeed? I doubt it. Why? He didn't like Che's political aura. Also, let's not forget that Che was Maoist, Castro was a Stalinist.

I still have a problem seeing Castro's luck facding as early as 1968, but there is no doubt that the 1970's was a decade of institutionalization and the beginning of buraucracy. Even during the late 1960's. There's a Cuban movie, a comedy of that period that observes the growing bureaucracy brought up by the system, Las Doce Sillas. I'm pretty sure you have seen it. If you can think of a book that parallels that story, let me know. I'd definitely use it in my class.

Anonymous said...

Triff: I don't understand much about politics, but I like your take on art.

Tahiba Shane

Matthew said...

Regardless of the real person. Che the symbol gave lots of people hope.