|Cuba Honors 'Che' Guevara Who Would Be 75 Today
Sat Jun 14,2003 7:07 PM ET By Nelson Acosta
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cubans marched, held ceremonies, watched special television programs and in other ways paid tribute to legendary leftist guerrilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara on Saturday, the 75th anniversary of his birth. Guevara, born in Rosario, Argentina in 1928, attained almost mythical status after his death in the jungles of Bolivia in 1967. More than 30 years later his iconic image as a bearded revolutionary wearing a beret remains a symbol of protest around the world.
"Che" became one of President Fidel Castro's most important commanders during the cigar-chomping rebel's successful 1959 revolution against the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Guevara went on to hold key posts during the first year's of the Cuban revolution, before leaving to fight guerrilla wars in Africa and Latin America.
Around 100,000 people gathered in Santa Clara, the capital of central Villa Clara province, to honor his memory. Guevara's remains rest in a mausoleum in Santa Clara, the scene of some of his most famous combat exploits, along with those of other killed with him by the Bolivian army on Oct. 9, 1967 as they attempted to spread the Cuban revolution to that country. Che's remains were returned to Cuba in 1997. Cuba's media planned special programming on "Che" throughout the day, and a cultural spectacular was scheduled for Saturday evening, expected to be attended by Cuba's leadership, including Castro. Cuba has promoted "Che" as a symbol of revolutionary virtues, sacrifice and internationalism inside and outside the country since his death. Castro, during a recent visit two weeks ago to Argentina, called Guevara "an extraordinary human being of great intelligence and culture, with an enormous sense of solidarity."
Cuban Grammar school students, called "young pioneers," salute the flag every morning with the slogan "pioneers for communism, we will be like Che." An international photo exhibit of Guevara, whose image is considered among the most distributed in the world, opened this week in Havana.