LA HIGUERA, Bolivia — It was a long fight, but the Cubans have finally conquered this forlorn Andean hamlet, four decades after Ernesto “Che” Guevara was executed in the adobe schoolhouse here.
Cuban physicians provide healthcare, Cuban educators oversee literacy classes, and the Cuban-donated library features Che-as-superhero comic books. A monumental bust of the beret-topped revolutionary who helped Fidel Castro seize power in Cuba dominates the central plaza.
“Great men like Che never die,” said Ubanis Ramirez, one of hundreds of Cuban doctors and teachers imported by leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose office features a likeness of Guevara crafted from coca leaves. “His lesson is with us always.”
Sympathizers from across the globe will make the trek to this remote corner of Bolivia this week to mark the 40th anniversary of the capture and killing of Guevara, militant leftist icon and global brand, the radical chic face adorning countless T-shirts, posters, album covers and tattoos.
Today, the ideological legacy of this peripatetic militant may loom larger than ever in Latin America, abetted by the election of a “Pink Tide” of leftist governments from Nicaragua to Argentina. Socialism is in, the Cubans are on the march, and Che is the defiant embodiment of it all.
Steve Jobs, the father of the iPod, was on Tuesday crowned the undisputed king of the online music revolution by U.S. music magazine Blender, topping a list of the 25 most influential people in Web music.
The magazine’s “Powergeek 25” list was compiled to show the behind-scenes-players reshaping the way people listen to, buy and watch music.
“Music fans spend much of their day, if not their life, sitting in front of their computer, discovering and downloading music,” Blender’s editor-in-chief Craig Marks said in a statement.
“Today’s power brokers no longer work in the steel-and-glass towers of the traditional record business; instead, they’re tech geeks, bedroom bloggers and Silicon Valley visionaries.”
He said Jobs, who co-founded Apple Inc. and is chief executive of the company, had proved to be a technology trendsetter.
“The iTunes Store and the iPod have done more to change the way people listen to music than anything since the CD, and maybe since the sound recording,” Marks said.
Paul Revere’s ride is perhaps the most famous historical example of a word-of-mouth epidemic. A piece of extraordinary news traveled a long distance in a very short time, mobilizing an entire region to arms …
At the same time that Revere began his ride north and west of Boston, a fellow revolutionary — a tanner by the name of William Dawes — set out on the same urgent errand, working his way to Lexington via the towns west of Boston. He was carrying the identical message, through just as many towns over just as many miles as Paul Revere. But Dawes’s ride didn’t set the countryside afire. The local militia leaders weren’t altered. In fact, so few men from one of the main towns he rode through — Waltham — fought the following day that some subsequent historians concluded that it must have been a strongly pro-British community. It wasn’t. The people of Waltham just didn’t find out the British were coming until it was too late. If it were only the news itself that mattered in a word-of-mouth epidemic, Dawes would now be as famous as Paul Revere. He isn’t. So why did Revere succeed where Dawes failed?
The answer is that the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts. Revere’s news tipped and Dawes’s didn’t because of the differences between the two men.
[Revere] was gregarious and intensely social. He was a fisherman and a hunter, a cardplayer and a theatre-lover, a frequenter of pubs and a successful businessman. He was active in the local Masonic Lodge and was a member of several select social clubs. He was also a doer, a man blessed — as David Hackett Fischer recounts in his brilliant book Paul Revere’s Ride — with “an uncanny genius for being at the center of events.”
It is not surprising, then, that when the British army began its secret campaign in 1774 to root out and destroy the stores of arms and ammunition held by the fledgling revolutionary movement, Revere became a kind of unofficial clearing house for the anti-British forces. He knew everybody. He was the logical one to go to if you were a stable boy on the afternoon of April 18th, 1775, and overheard two British officers talking about how there would be hell to pay on the following afternoon. Nor is it surprising that when Revere set out for Lexington that night, he would have known just how to spread the news as far and wide as possible. When he saw people on the roads, he was so naturally and irrepressibly social he would have stopped and told them. When he came upon a town, he would have known exactly whose door to knock on, who the local militia leader was, who the key players in town were. He had met most of them before. And they knew and respected him as well.
But William Dawes? Fischer finds it inconceivable that Dawes could have ridden all seventeen miles to Lexington and not spoken to anyone along the way. But he clearly had none of the social gifts of Revere, because there is almost no record of anyone who remembers him that night. “Along Paul Revere’s northern route, the town leaders and company captains instantly triggered the alarm,” Fischer writes. “On the southerly circuit of William Dawes, this did not happen until later. In at least one town it did not happen at all. Dawes did not awaken the town fathers or militia commanders in the towns of Roxbury, Brookline, Watertown or Waltham.”
Why? Because Roxbury, Brookline, Watertown and Waltham were not Boston. And Dawes was in all likelihood a man with a normal social circle, which means that — like most of us — once he left his hometown he probably wouldn’t have known whose door to knock on. Only one small community along Dawes’s ride appeared to get the message, a few farmers in a neighborhood called Waltham Farms. But alerting just those few houses wasn’t enough to “tip” the alarm.
Word-of-mouth epidemics are the work of Connectors. William Dawes was just an ordinary man.
Thanks to reuters, the latimes, and my main man malcolm gladwell.