By Marco Vasquez
On April 1, 2013 the Associated Students sent an email that discussed the recent student referendum to increase the University Centers fee. According to the email, this $11.00 fee-increase-per-quarter would “support the maintenance, repair, and operations of the University Centers facilities, including the Price Center, Student Center, Crafts Center, and Ché Facility.” Online, the description states that “29% of this fee increase will be used to meet the financial aid needs of UCSD students,” with the remaining going towards the renovation of the University Center facilities. Voting for this referendum began on April 8 and ended on April 12.
Although the referendum did not pass, we should examine the “Ché Café,” as a candidate for further funding. As described by thechecafe.blogspot.com, this facility is known as “a community space, DIY venue, vegan café, resource center for radical grassroots activists, and a whole lot more.” It hosts numerous political and social events as well. While this “co-op,” which serves as an alternative to typical UCSD-run organizations, sounds pleasing to certain students, the name of the café suggests that it is a monument to the revolutionary leader Ernesto “Ché” Guevara.
Many young Americans champion Guevara as a hero and symbol of justice – typically, he is a seen as a Marxist revolutionary who fought for change. As a result, he has become a pop-culture icon with his figure on shirts, posters, and more. However, there is a dark side to this man not often acknowledged by supporters.
Guevara has said “unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, [makes] him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded machine.” Also commenting on overthrowing a government, Guevara has stated, “it was a lot of fun, what with the bombs, speeches, and other distractions to break the monotony I was living in.” Not only did he advocate for his followers to be killing machines in their fight for revolution, but also said he enjoyed the process. These types of actions have been well documented, with Guevara even overseeing the killings of both known and suspected enemies. At one point, Fidel Castro put Guevara in charge of La Cabana prison, where countless individuals were ruthlessly executed. According to independent.org, the number killed is estimated to be around two hundred individuals. The same site claims Guevara also ordered his soldiers to rob banks, saying, “the struggling masses agree to robbing banks because none of them has a penny in them.” The violence of Ché is not brought up frequently, but remains well documented throughout history.
Outlandish race-based claims also plagued Guevara’s legacy. The Motorcycle Diaries, a book based on notes he took when he traveled, contains multiple disheartening quotes. For example, when discussing the differences between the Portuguese and an African race, Guevara states that “discrimination and poverty unite them in the daily fight for survival but their different ways of approaching life separate them completely: The black is indolent and a dreamer; spreading his meager wage on frivolity or drink; the European has a tradition of work and saving, which has pursued him as far as this corner of America and drives him to advance himself, even independently of his own individual aspirations.” When talking about revolutionaries in the Congo, whom he fought with, Guevara also stated “we’re going to do for blacks exactly what blacks did for the revolution. By which I mean: nothing.” These two instances of racially insensitive remarks display Guevara’s troubling mindset.
Supporters of Ché Guevara say he fought against economic inequality and later called for racial equality. However, the ruthless executions and statements of racial supremacy cannot be ignored. The University of California, San Diego should not ask its students to raise fees to support the monument to a man of such character. What the café itself offers is not the problem, but rather, its association of Ché Guevara. A change in name would suffice. However, given its current standing, the university should not condone association with both a ruthless murderer, and racially insensitive individual.