Che Guevara And Ireland
“In my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish Rebels!” (Ernseto Guevara – Lynch, Father of Che Guevara)
It is not so well known outside of Ireland and Cuba, that Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna better known simply as “che”, was of Irish descent. His mother’s side of the family were Irish, bearing the surname Lynch, from county Galway. The world famous portrait of Che which adorns walls, t-shirts, badges and a plethora of items all around the globe was created by acclaimed Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick.
El Che himself visited Ireland twice, once in 1964 and secondly while just passing through Shannon airport around Saint Patrick’s Day 1965. His Cuban Airlines flight with 70 other passengers developed engine trouble on the first leg of a trans-Atlantic flight and the plane made an unscheduled stop at Shannon Airport. Che guevara, along with the Cuban delegation and the passengers were put up overnight in a Limerick city hotel.
Che and his companions decided to go to Hanratty’s Hotel in Glentworth Street, Limerick City for a spot of drinking. In 2004 an historical feature in the Limerick Leader reported a member of staff recalling that:
“They returned in very good form that evening, wearing sprigs of shamrocks in their lapels.”
In 1969, two years after his son Che Guevara’s brutal murder in Bolivia, his father famously stated:
“The first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels.”
And Che’s father added:
“Che inherited some of the features of our restless ancestors. There was something in his nature which drew him to distant wandering, dangerous adventures and new ideas.”
Even to this day there are great links in solidarity between the Irish and the Cuban people. Jim Fitzpatrick’s famous image of Che,can be seen everywhere in Ireland, especially on political murals in working-class Irish Republican districts such as West Belfast, Derry and elsewhere. In fact many people in Ireland have Che’s image tattooed on one them, the author included!,
The boy’s forename ‘Che’ is now a popular one for children in Ireland and in classrooms up and down the country, there will invariably be one kid named after ‘Che’ who is considered a great hero here. The famous political murals that adorn many of the walls in the likes of Belfast and Derry often contain the image of Che or sometimes Fidel Castro. Many Irish families now choose Cuba as their holiday destination of choice. Cuban hospitality towards the Irish is legendary, as far as Fidel and Raul are concerned, they have reportedly certainly encouraged the motto: ‘If you are Irish, come into the parlour‘ Returning Irish tourists have described the Cubans as being the kindest people in the Caribbean if not the entire continent of the Americas! In downtown Havana there is a large monument to the ten Hunger Strikers who gave their lives in 1981 in Long Kesh concentration camp.
In many way’s Che Guevara, the internationalist revolutionary is as much an Irish hero, as he is to oppressed peoples across the globe. Irish revolutionaries especially find common cause in brave little Cuba’s defiance of it’s much larger imperialist ‘neighbour’ the USA whose state-sponsored terrorism against Cuba has spanned over 50 years.
Some classic quotations of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara:
“We have no right to believe that freedom can be won without struggle” (Che Guevera)
“I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun and keeps on shooting” (Che Guevara)
“The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall” (Che Guevara)
“I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man” (Che Guevara)
Fidel Castro in 1967, at a mass rally in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, paying homage to his comrade, stated:
“Che died defending the interests of the of the exploited and oppressed of this continent. Che died defending the interests of the poor and the humble of the earth … Before history men who act as he did, men who give everything for the poor, grow in stature with each passing day and find a deeper place in the heart of the people.”
In the deep youth radicalisation of the late ’60s, Che became the movement’s symbolic leader. Students in France renamed the Latin American Studies Institute the Che Guevara Institute during the upsurge at the Sorbonne in 1968. Students in the USA put Che’s face on placards at demonstrations against the Vietnam War. Across Latin America, revolutionary fighters took up arms in his name, and in Australia a small band of student radicals at Sydney University in 1968 declared Che their hero as they began the process of forming Resistance.
Che was the natural symbol of such a radicalisation because his revolutionary convictions were expressed in a profoundly human way. Fighting to destroy the old society, he was able to inspire people with a fresh vision of the new. But Che was not just a romantic idealist. He helped to lead a successful revolution and to shape a new society. Each new generation which bangs its head against the horrors of capitalism has something to learn from Che.”
Vinceremos! ¡En cada barrio, Revolución!
Saoirse go deo!
Alex McGuigan, Belfast (edited August 2013)