One may certainly be forgiven for not knowing about Che Guevara’s historic Irish connection. Perhaps for the majority of you reading this, it may come as a surprise to learn that an interesting connection exists between Argentine political revolutionist Che Guevara and our very own land of Ireland. It might also be a shock to find out that the controversial Guevara had Irish roots. And that he actually stood foot on Irish soil in the summer of 1961.
If you already knew these Che Guevara and Ireland relationship facts, well then I take my hat off to you; you’re certainly into your Irish history, and well, history in general. After all, the youthful Latin American-Irish rebel certainly did his part in making the more radical side of the left more visible on a global scale during his most influential years throughout the 50s and 60s.
It certainly is pretty major to have such a world-recognised and divisive figure touch down in your native homeland. And also quite incredible to think that such an iconic individual, to some, possessed Irish family connections. Let’s take a more of a detailed look now at this connection between Che Guevara and Ireland.
Guevara’s Irish family roots: Che Guevara’s historic Irish connection
Quite hard to believe may be the fact that some percentage of Mr Che Guevara is indeed Irish. Due to the absence of stereotypical Irish features, Irish is perhaps not a nationality one would associate the revolutionist with.
His father, Ernesto Rafael Guevara Lynch, kept his Irish surname, which came from a family that had been based in Galway, Ireland, from as early as the mid-13th century. A significant member of this Lynch family was Che’s great-great-great-great grandfather, Patrick Lynch. Patrick, son of Captain Patrick Lynch, left Galway in the 1740’s for Bilbao, Spain and from there travelled to and later settled in Argentina.
Che’s love and admiration for Ireland and its rebellious attitude was well established after he had become aware of Ireland’s successful gaining of independence in 1916. The Irish-Argentine family that Guevara was born into in 1928 had already taken to Irish culture, according to Che’s youngest brother, Juan Martín Guevara Lynch. Che’s father was often labelled as someone that admired the “rebellious nature of the Irish.” Labelled also as being “really fond” of this type of attitude. Something that no-doubt resonated with his son Che.
Visit to Ireland’s Kilkee, County Clare
The at-the-time globally recognised Argentine famously visited County Clare’s seaside village of Kilkee in the summer of 1961. Quite fitting it was that the weather be a major factor in Guevara’s visit to the Emerald Isle.
In the summer of 1961, Guevara’s flight from Moscow to Havana was grounded at Shannon Airport due to thick fog. With time on his hands, Che hired a driver to drive himself and two friends around the nearby Irish countryside. Next thing you know and the three men had entered the doors of Kilkee’s Royal Marine Hotel bar. Jim Fitzpatrick was the lucky man to meet and speak with Guevara on that historic day.
Sixteen at the time, the young Kilkee resident was nothing but starstruck by the Argentine. The scene that took place could simply not be more Irish. In a seemingly casual one to one conversation between the pair, Guevara drank a Power whiskey. Quite the remarkable and memorable occasion for Mr Fitzpatrick and his beloved Kilkee.
Guevara’s Kilkee-visit commemoration
Inspired by his unexpected meeting with the Argentine, Fitzpatrick drew a portrait of Alberto Korda’s world-famous photo of Che. In 2011, the people of Kilkee helped mark Che’s 50th anniversary of his visit in quite some style. Literally. The Kilkee locals and council joined forces to sketch a painting of Che onto one of the beach’s walls.
After a group of American tourists complained after having seen this painting on the Kilkee beach after a visit in 2013, the Clare County Council controversially painted over the original painting just days before the then-two-year-old Che do Bheatha Latin American and Irish music and dance Festival was due to take place.
However, the painting then reappeared in the exact same location in September of 2015. This time round though, it was brighter. Bigger, Prouder. And there it remains, in all its colourful glory, as just a reminder that Che Guevara was indeed in Kilkee 59 years ago this coming September.