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Perfecto Romero Ramírez (* 1936)
Ernesto Ché Guevara, sitting at a desk
Cuba, Havana, Fortalez San Carlos de la Cabaña, c. 3.1.1959
Gelatin silver print, 53,4 x 45,6 cm

After two years of Guerilla warfare the Cuban revolutionaries are almost in power. Ernesto Ché Guevara (1928-1968) and his troops had achieved one of their biggest victories in 1958, the takeover of the city of Santa Clara, where hundreds of soldiers of the Batista regime had been stationed. During the New Year celebrations Batista flees the country and Guevara received the order from Fidel Castro to immediately move to fort San Carlos de la Cabaña in Havana. At the same time Fidel Castro starts his famous march with his troops leading them diagonally straight through the island. The victory is celebrated on the 8th of January with the triumphant entrance of the rebel soldiers in Havana after months of struggle, where all guerrilla leaders are reuniting with their soldiers in the midst of thousands of Cubans.

At the moment the picture was taken, Comandante Guevara is sitting in his wood panelled office in the fort in Havanna. After the celebrations he will give the orders for the executions of many Batista supporters from this office. It has to be said that the number of people that were executed as well as Ché’s involvement in the proceedings are still a matter of debate. After only a few weeks his asthma will force him to retire to a house at the beach. There he is writing on his book La Guerra de Guerrillas; as well as designing important new programs for the government while still convalescent. The programs and ideas he is pondering about during his absence are the dispossession of great landowners, the foundation of a security service, as well as his first ideas for the „export” of the revolution to other Latin American countries, a venture which will eventually cost him his life.

Perfecto Romero was a 22-year-young photographer when he joined the rebels in the Sierra del Escambray and became the photographer of the troops surrounding Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. He took many extraordinary images, special for their proximity to their subjects (and their motivations), amongst them many portraits of Camilo Cienfuegos. His images of Ché from the final phase of the guerrilla fights show him after he was wounded often wearing a black arm sling.

As many vintage prints as well as negatives of Romero were destroyed, the circulating images by him are often grainy and blurry copies that were reproduced from his positives. This large format print in contrast, is an image directly printed from a negative. The photograph is part of a well-known series. A similar image from the series is still decorating the place it was taken in, Ché’s office in the fort, which has been kept in its former state as a memorial the revolutionary.

Marie Röbl, © WestLicht

Lit.: Che-Earbook, Hamburg 2007, p. 71 (motif from the same series); Thomas Mießgang, Ché Guevara. Ich bin ein optimistischer Realist, Cologne 2007 (Cover image with motif from the same series).