Of course, for many, it’s also a symbol of revolutionary iconography being co-opted by capitalist interests which have placed the image on everything from t-shirts to posters and much much more.
I always leaned towards the latter interpretation of what the image had become and this was further reinforced during our time in Cuba when the image was even more prevalent than it is here on the continent.
It was only during the flight home when I was reading through a Cuba guide book (I know – usually people do this *before* going on a trip. I had done that but hadn’t seen the section on the history of Cuba at the back until we were on the way home!)
In that history, the author talked about the famous photograph and mentioned that the photographer, Alberto Korda, had chosen to release the photo without requesting any royalties in the hopes that the spread of the image would help spread the ideas.
And then it clicked (er, no pun intended) – this photo, often cited as the most reproduced photo ever, was the first item that would go viral around the world in a way that would be echoed fifty years later by the way information would spread during the Internet age.
Although copyright is still sometimes enforced when the image is used in a way that Che’s family finds contrary to Che’s beliefs (they sued a vodka company who used the image in a marketing campaign), the image has basically been released with what today would be recognized as a very broad, open Creative Commons license.
After a lifetime pursuing South American solidarity and revolution by the poor, this precursor of the viral Internet may actually turn out to be the most revolutionary impact of Che’s life!