hidden europe 16

In the spirit of Che Guevara: Marinaleda

by Nicky Gardner


Few towns and villages in Europe will mark the fortieth anniversary of the death of Che Guevara in October. But they surely will in Marinaleda, a small town in southern Spain where the cult of Che is alive and well.

At two in the afternoon, when the sun is high and even the lizards are taking their habitual siesta, Ernesto carries a pitcher of water and goes into the shade of the courtyard. There the old man unfastens the top buttons of his white shirt and lies down on a catre - a simple trestle bed. He opens a dogeared copy of Che Guevara's Bolivian Diary. Ernesto's eyes scan down the first page, but then he is overwhelmed by the slumber of a torpid summer, and the book drops to the floor. Ernesto dozes, while the leaves of the orange tree that grows on the sunny side of the courtyard curl in the dead heat.

A lone man walks into town. The stranger ambles past the modern ayuntamiento and the House of Culture. With a calm step he proceeds along the Avenue of Liberty with its posters of a bearded man who looks just like a middle aged Fidel Castro. The coloured ceramic plates on white walls that mark the Avenue of Liberty bear the same inscription as every other street sign in town: a simple slogan that reminds citizens, and anyone else who happens to stumble upon this outpost, of the importance of peace: 'Una utopía hacía la paz!' (a utopia building peace).

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