Guerrillero Heroico  

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The Guerrillero Heroico photo of Che Guevara by Alberto Korda.
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The Guerrillero Heroico photo of Che Guevara by Alberto Korda.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Guerrillero Heroico (English, "Heroic Guerrilla") is the name of Alberto Korda's celebrated photo of the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. It was taken on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion. The photo was not published internationally until seven years later. Korda has said that at the moment he shot the picture, he was drawn to Guevara's facial expression, which showed "absolute implacability" as well as anger and pain. Years later, Korda would say that the photo showed Che's firm and stoic character. Guevara was 31 at the time the photo was taken.

Guerrillero Heroico (English, "Heroic Guerrilla fighter") is the name of Alberto Korda's celebrated photo of the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. It was taken on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion and by the end of the 1960's turned the charismatic and controversial leader into a cultural icon.

Posters and covers

  • In 1967 Polish artist Roman Cieslewicz designed a poster with the words "Che Si" (translation: 'Yes Che') emblazoned over his face as eyes and nose. This was later featured on the October 1967 cover of the French art magazine Opus International.
  • In 1968, Elena Serrano produced a widely distributed poster entitled "Day of the Heroic Guerrilla", which shows telescoping images of Korda's photograph expanding to cover the entire red map of South America.
  • The 1968 February issue of Evergreen Review, featured Che's image in a painted form by Paul Davis.
  • The September 1969 issue of Tricontinental Magazine featured an conjoined image of Korda's Che with Ho Chi Minh.
  • During a 1969 student strike at Berkeley, a poster was produced and distributed with a cartoon bubble coming from Che's mouth possessing the words: "Shut it down!"
  • In 1970, the Art Workers' Coalition produced a widely distributed anti-Vietnam War poster featuring an outline of Che on a yellow background, with his famous quotation: "Let me say at the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love."
  • The September 16, 1996 edition of Der Spiegel magazine entitled: "The Myth of Che Guevara", featured Che's image adorned with a halo of moving bullets.
  • A computerized rendition of Guerrillero Heroico appeared on the cover of the March 1-7, 2006 issue of Metro, above the title "The Blog Revolution."
  • The December 2008 issue of Rolling Stone Argentina features Guerrillero Heroico on the cover.

Copyright status

For decades the famous image was unhindered by international copyright agreements, because Cuba was not a signatory to the Berne Convention. Fidel Castro described it as a "bourgeois concept" which meant that artists and advertisers were free to use Korda's work as they pleased. Legally, Cuban Law no. 156 signed on September 28, 1994, to amend part of Law no. 14 of the 1977 Copyright Act (Article 47), states that pictures taken in Cuba fall into the public domain worldwide, 25 years after their first use. As for the United States, since the image was first published in Cuba without compliance with U.S. copyright formalities and used in Cuba before February 20, 1972 (more than 25 years before Cuba signed the Berne Convention in 1997) it is also generally, although not universally, considered to be in the public domain.

Despite conflicting claims about whether or not the image could have copyright established, Korda's children have sought to control commercial use of the image from defamation. Korda's daughter Diana Diaz pursued a 2003 lawsuit in France against a Paris-based press rights group Reporters Without Borders, for using the Che photograph in a poster campaign decrying Cuba as "the world's largest jail", aimed at dissuading French tourists from vacationing in Cuba after the jailing of 29 dissident journalists. In suing the group for 1.14 million euros, Diaz's lawyer, Randy Yaloz remarked that "we are going after everyone who betrays the moral rights of my client". Moral rights are a separate component of copyright law that are not recognized in the U.S., but are recognized in some other countries, notably in France where Diaz filed the lawsuit. Moral rights aim to protect the integrity of a work from defamation, distortion, slander, or offensive mutilation, even if the originator no longer owns the copyright. However, Reporters Without Borders stopped using the image before any legal judgment was rendered.

Ariana Hernández-Reguant addressed the image's copyright status in 2004 in her article Copyrighting Che: Art and Authorship under Cuban Late Socialism. She expressed a skeptical view towards Korda's heirs being able to establish ownership over the image, noting in reference to the lawsuits involving the image, "There was never any official ruling on whether the depiction constituted a violation of copyright." The author goes on to state that: "Korda took the picture while working for a state-run newspaper, his actual property rights would be questionable under both Cuban and international law."

"We're not after money, we just don't want him misused. He can be a universal person, but respect the image."

Aleida Guevara, Che's daughter

In 2007, law student Sarah Levy also addressed the potential legal status of the image in Cuba. It was her ultimate contention that "in Cuba the copyright protection in Korda's Guevara photograph would have already expired, and despite the claims of ownership from Korda's heirs, the State would now hold any rights associated with the photograph." In regards to the more commonly disseminated stylized version of the photograph, lawyers say it will be an uphill struggle to deter non-photographic use of such a widely reproduced image, other than in countries like Italy where laws protect image rights.

Guevara's heirs also believe they have legal justification to prevent the image's "exploitation" or slander. Guevara's Cuban widow Aleida March stated in 2005 that "We have a plan to deal with the misuse. We can't attack everyone with lances like Don Quixote, but we can try to maintain the ethics of Guevara's legacy." In reference to this pronouncement, Guevara's daughter Aleida Guevara told Reuters, "It will be costly and difficult because each country has different laws, but a limit has to be drawn."




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Guerrillero Heroico" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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