Inspired by 'radical' politics, the CHE Cafe attempts to reopen at UCSD
The Che Cafe collective is a community-organized 'meeting and gathering space for radical/leftist/progressive political groups and events' at the University of California, San Diego.
Though members deny any direct connection to the Marxist revolutionary, a mural of Che Guevara is displayed near the cafe area.
The CHE Cafe at the University of California, San Diego, a space that pays "homage to the Argentine revolutionary" Che Guevara, is attempting to restart this year after operating off-and-on since 1980.
As its constitution states, the cafe is “a unique meeting and gathering space for radical/leftist/progressive political groups and events.”
The CHE Cafe is registered as a student organization for the 2021 fall semester after being inactive on social media in the last year, although posts from 2020 and earlier include concerts at the Che venue and a radical book club.
The cafe announced its opening on social media September 16.
— The Che Cafe Collective (@thechecafe) September 16, 2021
Campus Reform spoke with Bradley Anderson, a student and member of CHE cafe, who said the space's name is a "tongue in cheek" acronym for "Cheap-Healthy-Eats."
"There's no real contemporary connection to Che Guevara or his views [or] morality," Anderson stated, attributing the mural of Guevara, the Marxist revolutionary, which the CHE Cafe's building, as having "historical and artistic value in keeping it as it is.”
An editable public document organized by Che Cafe members provides more insight into the organization's association with the Marxist figure.
The document states:
"Take your pick: Che—or C.H.E.—as standing for (or at least a gentle nod to) ‘Coffee Hut Express,’ or ‘Cheap Healthy Eats.’ Either way, legend has it that such an innocuous acronym was proposed as a way to get administrative agreement on the name, and thereupon the iconic imagery would truly evoke the collective’s revolutionary ethos.”
Leftist activism became an integral part of the collective in 1979 when the Coffee Hut became the Che Cafe. UCSD Chancellor John S. Galbraith provided $10,000 in incidental fees to pay for the building’s foundation, moving, and plumbing, and $5,000 more on the kitchen and internal fixtures.
Since its inception, Che Cafe has operated off-and-on due to being “collectively run,” or "run collaboratively," according to Anderson, and has faced administrative pushback, including eviction notices and building safety concerns.
In 2015, students occupied the Che Cafe for over 100 days as it faced eviction by UCSD due to unpaid rent and costly safety repairs. The activists successfully saved the building, however, pushback from the university persisted in other forms.
As of 2021, the administration’s support for the CHE Cafe only extends to limited student organization funds.
“We intentionally try to be as self-sufficient as possible. We are a non-profit and volunteer-based, and our events are generally cheap or donation-recommended, where we generally give 60%+ to the performers to cover gas and such, and the org generally keeps the remainder for insurance and building upkeep,” Anderson said.
Eli Nelson, president of College Republicans at UCSD, told Campus Reform that he objected to the cafe's presence on campus because “[Guevara] has a murderous and brutal history responsible for the slaughter of thousands of women, children, black, homosexual, and political adversaries.”
“As the grandchild of two Holocaust survivors who escaped the brutal concentration camps of Adolf Hitler, it is disgustingly outrageous and angering to me that a public university would go so far as to name and promote a café on campus after a dictator," Nelson said.
The opening clause of the cafe's constitution reads, "There are three primary foci of the Che Café: All-Ages Shows, Vegan Food, and Radical [progressive, leftist] Politics. These components come together in a shared vision for an alternative community."
Campus Reform reached out to UCSD for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.