Che Guevara's hair goes for $120,000 at U.S. auction

Other News Materials 26 October 2007 16:36 (UTC +04:00)

( RIA Novosti ) - A U.S. bookshop owner from Houston has paid almost $120,000 for an auction lot including a lock of Ernesto "Che" Guevara's hair, a spokeswoman for the Heritage Auction Galleries said.

Earlier media reports that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a great admirer of Guevara, would take part in Thursday's auction proved to be false. The sole bidder for the lot was Bill Butler, 61, who paid a total sum of $119,500. He said he would display the hair of "one of the greatest revolutionaries of the 20th century," in his bookstore.

The lot, auctioned by a former CIA operative, Gustavo Villoldo, also included the guerrilla leader's fingerprints, taken from his corpse shortly after his death. Villoldo, a Cuban exile who helped Bolivian forces track down Guevara, took prints and a lock of the revolutionary's hair to "prove that I had completed my mission".

Che Guevara was captured by CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers on Oct. 8, 1967 and executed the next day. The Argentinean-born revolutionary had gone to Bolivia as a part of his attempt to spread the ideas of the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

In addition to 52 mostly post-mortem photos of Che and his comrades, plus 23 newspaper articles on their death, the lot also included a map of Vallegrande airport showing the site where Villoldo, now 71, claims he buried Che's body.

Villoldo claims that after Guevara's execution he dug a grave for the guerilla leader and two of his comrades beneath an unfinished runway in order to prevent the body being buried with state honors in Cuba. He then marked the site on a map, subsequently handing it over to Guevara's daughter.

The former CIA man said that he would be more than willing to donate some of the money he made from the auction to help the widows of 55 Bolivian soldiers killed by Guevara and his men.

In 1997, the skeletal remains of seven bodies were exhumed from beneath an airstrip in Vallegrande. Without DNA testing, one of the skeletons was identified as Che's and taken to Cuba, where it is now on display in a mausoleum in Santa Clara.

However, Villoldo and several other experts say the revolutionary's body is still buried in Bolivia. "I buried three, they found seven," Villoldo said, adding that dead people can not replicate.

If Cuban authorities agree to submit 'their Che' to DNA testing, the lock of hair now on display in Bill Butler's bookshop might just be able to shed light on true resting place of one of the 20th century's most iconic figures.