PRESERVING, safeguarding, and showing the world the life of Ernesto Guevara and his thought, teaching it to younger generations, and helping them understand why they should be like Che, are a few of the roles taken on by the Che Guevara Studies Center.
The Personal Archive was created in 1983, but the Center did not begin to function until the end of the 1990s, once the task of organizing, transcribing, and cataloguing all the material was concluded.
The Center has a Scientific Coordinating Committee which not only manages and guides investigations of Che's life and work, but also runs an editorial project which has published more than 25 titles. The Center also has an Alternative Projects Coordinating Committee devoted to adapting the results of these investigations for other venues and audiences, including children and youth, with the elaboration of multimedia and the organization of creative workshops.
Center researcher Daína Rodríguez González explained, "One could say that the archive - holding more than 1000 documents in the Life and Work of Ernesto Che Guevara Collection (1928-1967) - is the Center's heart, around which most of our work revolves. Outstanding among these are manuscripts about philosophy that he began writing in his youth, his travel and campaign chronicles, his extensive correspondence, as well as photos taken throughout his life, audios, and videos. Archives that speak to how his personality was formed from his earliest years until his death in Bolivia, and even later documents."
The importance of this archive was recognized in 2013 by the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, and is still growing thanks to the donations and discoveries of those studying the work of Ernesto Che Guevara.
Its inclusion in the Memory of the World, implies a responsibility to preserve and disseminate the contents, a task assumed by the Center, not only through its publications - including titles such as La épica del tiempo and Biografía del Che en facsimilares - but also with other efforts such as the creation of multimedia and websites.
"Many documents have been digitalized to create, above all, multimedia products. In this area, we can mention the multimedia Che, ciudadano del mundo and Cien sucesos en la vida y obra del Che. In both, information, photos, videos on different topics related to his life and work can be consulted," Rodríguez noted.
Another tool is the webpage Vida, obra y pensamiento del Che and the center's institutional page, both currently being redesigned.
Many of the facsimiles of Che's work can be seen in the pages of the magazine
Paradigma, the Center's annual journal.
"Paradigma is an atypical annual with a magazine-like style which allows the content to be organized differently, including a great deal of photographic material, and especially facsimiles, in accordance with the Center's purpose," explained designer Otto Alejandro González.
The magazine is focused on a central theme and organized in various sections. The first of these is devoted to something written by Che, the other sections serve to address aspects of this text.
"The second (section) is "Reflexionar junto al Che," in which Latin American philosophers and thinkers write about the continuing relevance of his thought at this time, to promote a contemporary debate.
"The third section is devoted to the Che Guevara Studies Center and the work we do in community workshops, research projects, and publications," González adds.
The last is "Desde la Memoria," featuring testimony from people who have shared specific moments or experiences with Che. Also included in this section are unpublished or little known materials that are part of the archive.
CHE THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Even before he was known as Che, Ernesto Guevara was a young amateur photographer. During his travels through Latin America, he captured and saved evidence of the reality surrounding him. Cameras were his constant companions, even in the Congo and Bolivia. Through photography, also featured at the Center today, he showed his particular vision of the world.
"Che fotógrafo" is a Center project that has for years focused on recovering this little known or disseminated part of his work, and includes an exposition that has traveled the world since 1991, when it was first shown at the Casa de Las Américas in Havana, González explained.
"It is an exposition in which we show Che as an artist, creator, and as a man who knew how to reflect, via images, the complexities of his historic context," he added.
WE WILL BE LIKE CHE
Behind the hero, lies a common man, a Che who also enjoyed the simple things. Recognizing him as such is the goal of the workshops which the Center organizes to bring his life and work into the community.
Since 2007, workshops for children have been held, in which they learn ceramics, photography, painting, and chess, interests linked in various ways to Che's life.
"Community action is one of the Center's necessities, because we want to be consistent with Che's way of being, because he wasn't only a man of thought, but one of action, too. We need to transcend the academic environment. That is why the workshops seek to draw the legacy and experiences of this universal man, closer to the everyday lives of the boys and girls who attend our workshops," explained Daína Rodríguez.
"We show them facets of his life, and work via games and participative techniques, highlighting his values. In ceramics, for example, we read some of the chronicles he wrote about Pre-Colombian cultures. In photography, we take cameras and they photograph their reality, draw, and make animated stories. Our intention is always to relive the experience.
"The idea is not that they emerge as specialists on Che, but yes, that through education and teaching what an artistic expression - or a scientific game like chess - can be, they have a closer contact, making it a little easier to understand why, everyday in school, they say they want to be like him," she added.
Nevertheless, the children do become promoters of the Center within their own homes. Many are the anecdotes shared by parents and grandparents, which allowed them to become aware of the Center's activities, thanks to the little ones.
With its work, the Che Guevara Studies Center has been able to link the archive with education: recovering values as important as solidarity and friendship, while preserving documents and showing the world a large part of the collection via colloquia, seminars, and other activities.
"Recovering him through his work, through his actions, his thought, and bringing him into the present, making him a participant in our struggles, so that he continues to educate younger generations as he did in his time, is what we are working on today at the Che Guevara Studies Center," Daína Rodríguez stated.
The Center’s efforts range from research to community action, always with the purpose of making Che's presence felt. Thus, as Eduardo Galeano would say, his memory is stirred and expands because it incarnates the energy of human dignity that is adamantly, against all odds, alive.