We spend a lot of time looking for things when we travel. We look for hotels, restaurants, sights, nice streets, cool areas, banks, bus tickets, convenience stores and supermarkets. We each have a way to find what we are looking for: I tend to go with the flow and chat with people while Feng is the map master and can tell where we are judging by the sun. To spot a McDonald’s, a Starbucks or Coke, we can count on Mark—a true North American, he can recognize the brands very well: “mommy’s coffee”, “McDonald’s please!” or “mommy’s juice” (this is my Coke Zero that I don’t share with him because he really doesn’t need the caffeine).
In Rosario, we looked for “Che”. This is the city where the Marxist revolutionary was born, and given how common the stylized likeness of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna is in pop culture, we expected murals, graffiti and plenty of memorabilia. I mean, you can buy “Che” t-shirts anywhere in the world, surely Rosario, the city of his birth, would have an emblem of its icon!
But “Che” was nowhere to be found, even where he was supposed to be. First, we looked for the house where he was born, on Calle Entre Ríos 480. We walked, fully expecting to spot the house right away and didn’t even bother to look at the house numbers.
“Okay, we went too far… we must have passed it.”
“It has to be this one,” Feng said, pointing to a very old building at the corner of the street, sporting the Argentinian flag at the window. “Looks like a hostel.”
“It definitely has a revolutionary vibe,” I agreed. By this, I meant it looked like a squat or a halfway house.
“There should be a sign on the wall,” I added. “Like a commemorative plaque or something.”
There was nothing of this kind.
“Ask, then!” Feng said.
“Well, I’m almost afraid to do so,” I explained. “I mean, it’s kind of awkward… it’s like no one cares about ‘Che’ here. Maybe he is controversial, I don’t know. I wouldn’t ask about Louis XVI in Barbès, after all.”
We double-checked the house number and realized that Che’s first home wasn’t the old picturesque house, but the very nice and middle-class looking renovated building right across. A teenage dream was destroyed right there. ¡El Che vive … para siempre! Just, you know, not where you pictured him born.
“Maybe he was influenced as a baby by the residents of the building next door,” I shrugged.
The rest of the city had many graffiti and radical messages on its walls (much like in Buenos Aires), but not a single likeness of Che.
It’s funny because Che is quite famous abroad, but Argentinians don’t seem to care so much about him. Maradona is pictured everywhere, and so is Mafalda (Quino’s cartoon character). Maybe Che belongs to another era?
It was a very hot day in Rosario and we also looked for ways to cool off the best we could. The local way seems to be eating ice cream: there are huge helado shops at every corner, all packed with people enjoying dulce de leche sorbets. Eventually, we ended up jumping into the small but very nice swimming pool on the roof of the hotel and doing a long siesta.