Che Guevara and Ireland
Ernesto 'Che' Guevara-Lynch
"The first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels. 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" Ernest Guevara Lynch, father of Che Guevara-Lynch, in a 1969 interview.
It is not so well known outside of Ireland and Cuba, that Ernesto 'Che' Guevara-Lynch, was of Irish and Basque descent. Che's Irish side of the family was from the Lynch Clann of County Galway. Che's Irish ancestors had emigrated to Spain from Ireland after facing persecution from first, Cromwellian invaders and later William of Orange's forces. Patrick Lynch was later to buy up land in Argentina and moved there in the 1740s. The Lynchs integrated well into Argentinian society and in later years fought for independence from Spain. It is noted that one of the Lynch family returned briefly to Europe to take part in the battle of Trafalgar. Che's relatives distinguished themselves as military commanders, sailors, poets, writers yet always maintained their sense of Irishness in the new world of Argentina. Ernesto 'Che' Guevara-Lynch's family fostered his love of Ireland and it's rich history of armed rebellion against colonialism and oppression.
The world-famous portrait of Che which adorns walls, t-shirts, badges and a plethora of items all around the globe was created by an Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick. Che himself visited Ireland twice, once 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. The famous image of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara by Jim Fitpatrick,can be seen everywhere in Ireland, especially in working-class Irish Republican districts such as West Belfast. (In fact I have Che's image tattooed on one of my shoulders, as do many people in Ireland.)
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 called '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 personally 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 Caribeann if not the entire continent of the Americas!
The classic portrait of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara which is instantly recognisable all over the world on the likes of T-shirts, posters, tattoos etc was designed by an Irish pop-artist, Jim Fitzpatrick. In downtown Havana there is a large monument to the ten Hunger Strikers who gave their lives in 1981 in Long Kesh concentration camp.
I am sure I speak for all Irish people when I say that we hope to enjoy further fraternal relations with the people of Cuba and we are proud to have Che as a joint national hero !
Che Guevara in Ireland
© 2019 Liam A Ryan