Who Was That Man?
Name a brilliant young man who qualified as a doctor, left his homeland and with a bunch of guerrillas attempted to recreate Latin America. He was captured with foreign assistance and executed by the government he was trying to overthrow. Movies were made of him and his picture has emblazoned t-shirts. Name that man.
The man was William Walker.
Walker's campaign has inspired two films, both of which take considerable liberties with his story: Burn! (1969) starring Marlon Brando, and Walker (1987) starring Ed Harris. Walker's name is used for the main character in Burn!, though the character is not meant to represent the historical William Walker. ...
After the resurgence in interest in United States immigration policy in the spring of 2006, William Walker again came to the attention of popular culture through printed T-shirts and posters emblazoned with his likeness, name, and the phrase "We Tried" (Boston, Chicago, St. Louis).
Here's a summary of Walker's role in history.
In the mid-nineteenth century, adventurers known as filibusters participated in military actions aimed at obtaining control of Latin American nations with the intent of annexing them to the United States—an expression of Manifest Destiny, the idea that the United States was destined to control the continent. Only 5'2" and weighing 120 pounds, Walker was a forceful and convincing speaker and a fearless fighter who commanded the respect of his men in battle. ...
Within a year, leading “The Immortals” and a native rebel force, he routed the Legitimists and captured Granada, their capital. His success roused concern in the other Central American countries, especially Costa Rica, which sent in a well-armed force to invade Nicaragua. Walker's army repelled the invasion, but a poorly executed counter attack into Costa Rica failed, and a war of attrition continued, in which disease killed more soldiers on both sides than enemy bullets. ...
Still undaunted and seeking support for yet another venture, Walker wrote a book, The War in Nicaragua. Knowing that his best prospects lay in the South, he assumed a strong pro-slavery stance. This strategy proved successful, and in 1860 he once again sailed south. Unable to land in Nicaragua due to the ever-present British, he landed in Honduras, planning to march overland, but the British soon captured him and turned him over to the Hondurans. Six days later, at the age of 36, he was executed by a firing squad. The Walker saga had ended. This enigmatic man had come close to altering the history of the continent. Had he been successful, he might have brought several Central American countries into the United States as pro-southern states, altering the balance in Congress and postponing The Civil War.
I doubt many people would call Walker a hero today. But then why Che? What is the difference? Was Communism somehow more worthy than the causes Walker espoused? Was it because the one "believed" in his cause more than the other? Or was it really because Che had a better photographer than Walker and was more photogenic? Someday Castro's regime in Cuba may collapse and with the stories that will eventually emerge from it our perceptions may change, perhaps for the better, perhaps for the worse. History has a funny way of altering perspective.(Hat tip: JK)