Photo/IllutrationCamilo Guevara offers flowers Aug. 6 at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which his father, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, also visited to commemorate atomic bomb victims in 1959. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

"Ernesto," a film produced jointly by Japan and Cuba, opens with a scene in which Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928-1967), a major figure in the Cuban Revolution, walks the streets of Hiroshima in summer 1959.

It was Guevara's personal wish to visit the A-bombed city, where he laid flowers and saw hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) in hospital.

I met Guevara's 55-year-old eldest son, Camilo, when he visited Japan prior to the film's release last week. With his broad forehead and piercing eyes, he could have come right out of his father's iconic portrait.

The younger Guevara was five years old when his father was executed in Bolivia. He said he does not really remember him, but felt tickled as well as embarrassed in school where he was taught his father was a heroic founder of post-revolutionary Cuba.

In the rest of Latin America, the reputation of this Marxist revolutionary is a mixed bag. Some exalt him as a brave warrior and martyr to the cause, while others despise him as a vicious murderer.

To this day, he remains a unique figure who evokes intense feelings, both positive and negative, in people.

Born in Argentina, Guevara studied medicine. While traveling around South America, he was astounded by the dire conditions of the underprivileged. Dreaming of a society where all citizens would receive health care and education, he joined the revolutionary cause.

His visited Hiroshima shortly after the successful conclusion of the Cuban Revolution.

Looking at gut-wrenching exhibits at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Guevara asked why Japanese people are not outraged by all these terrible things that were done to them.

Having fought the U.S.-backed Cuban government forces, Guevara must have felt frustrated and exasperated by the Japanese government's acquiescence to Washington.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Guevara's death at age 39.

Camilo said life wasn't easy after his father's death and that he had to work in Venezuela at one time to earn his living.

I studied his expression, wondering if his father's brow would have been creased by the same melancholy, had he lived into his 50s.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 12

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.