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Wed, 23 January 2002

Che Guevara

Ernesto (Che) Guevara

Che Guevara is probably one of the last true revolutionary heroes left in our memory. For those of you who don't know about him, here's a short biographical chronology:

1928: Ernesto Guevara de lasSerna is born on 14 June in Rosario, Argentina. The son of Ernesto Guevara Lynch, a construction engineer, and Celia de la Serna, he is the first of five children.

1932: The family moves from Buenos Aires to Alta Gracia, Cordoba, because of the young Ernesto's serious asthma attachsk. The Guevaras are a large, well-off, upper middl-class family with liberal, even radical, ideas. Ernesto Guevara Lynch was anti-clerical, pro-Republican during the Spanish Civil War, pro-Allies during WWII, and staunchly anti-Peronist.

1948: Guevara enters the University of Buenos Airesto study medicine. He hasa keen interest in literature, travel and sport - especially soccer and rugby, despitehis asthma which disqualifies him from military service.

1950: Guevara makes a 4,000 mile trip on a moped alone through Northern Argentina. 1951-52: Guevara undertakes a journey around South Americ. He travels with Alberto Granado, a radical doctor friend a few years his senior who specializes in leprology.

1953: Guevara qualifies as a doctor, completing in three years a course which normally takes six. He begins his second trip around Latin America. In Bolivia he witnesses the worker mobilization and agrarian reform following the National Revolution of 1952.

1954: In Guatemal Guevara sees the radical government headed by Jacobo Arbenz overthrown by the American backed Castillo Armas and has to escape to Mexico. In Mexico he meets Fidel Castro and joins his group training for their planned invasion of Cuba. He is the only foreigner in the group; included because he is a doctor. He marries a Peruvian, Hilda Gadea, with whom he has a daughter, Hildita.

1956: Castro's group lands in Cuba in the yacht Granma and begins a three-year guerilla was against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

1959: After the victory, Guevara is made Governor of the National Bank in Castro's revolutionary government. He marries Aleida March de la Torre, with whom he has four children.

1961: Guevara is made Minister for Industry and, at the meeting of the Organization of American States at Punta del Este, Urugway, he denounces the Alliance for Progress proposed for Latin America by President Kennedy. For the next four years he travels the world as ambassador for Cuba.

1965: Guevara leaves Cuba to engage directly in the international revolutionary struggle. He travels thoughout Africa, eventually figthing in Congo.

1966: He returns to Latin America toorganize a series of guerilla groups, aiming to spark off 'twenty new Vietnams'. Guevara himself travles in disguise to Bolivia.

1967: Following several monts of skirmishes with the Bolivian army, Guevara is captured on the 8th of October near the town of Vallegrande and executed by the order of President Barrientos.

I've been reading a book written by Che, called The Motorcycle Diaries written during his trip around South America between 1951 and 1952. I took the liberty to copy a part from that book, the closing part, which upon reading it, sent shivers down my spine. I hope you'll share the feeling:

As An Afterthought

The stars streaked the night sky with light in that little mountain town, and the silence and the cold de-materialized the darkness. It was - I don't really know how to explain it - as if all solid substances were spirited away in the ethereal space around us, denying our individuality adn submergning us, rigid, in the immense blackness. There was not a single cloud to give the space perspective by blocking a portion of the starry sky. Only at a few metres from me did the dim light of a lamp fade the darkness arount it.

The man's face was lost in the shadow; all I could see were the two sparks of his eyes and the white of his four front teeth.

I still don't know whether it was teh atmosphere or the man's personality which prepared me for the revelation, but I'd heard those same arguments many times from different people and they had made no impression on me. The speaker was, in fact, a very interesting man. Fleeing the knife of dogmatism in an European country as a young man, he had tasted fear (one of the few experiences that make you value life) and them, wandering from country to country, clocking up thousands of adventures, he had ended pu in this isolated regionwaiting patientlyfor teh great moment to arrive.

After the introductory trivialities and niceties, when the conversation was faltering and we were about to go our seperate ways, he let slip, with that cheeky laugh of his, accentuating the disparity of his four front incisors: 'The future belongs to the people and gradually or suddnely they will take power, here and all over the world'.

'The problem is,' he went on, 'that the people need to be educated and they can't do that before taking power, only after. They can only learn by their own mistakes, and these will be very serious and will cost many innocent lives. Or maybe not, maybe those lives are not innocent because they'll belong to those who comming the huge sin contra natura: in other words, the lack the ability to adapt. All of them, all those who can't adapt - you and I, for instance - will die cursing the power which they helped bring about with often enourmous sacrifices. Revolution is impersonal, so it will take their lives and even use their memory as an example or as an instument to control the young people coming after them. My sin is greater becuase I, more subtle or more experience, call it what you lie, will die knowing that my sacrifice stems only from a stubborness which symbolizes our rotten crumbling civilization. I also know - and this won't change the couse of history or your personal impression of me - that you will die with your fist clenched and your jaw tense, the perfect manifestation of hatred and struggle, because you aren't a symbol (some inanimate example), you are an authenthic member of the society to be destroyed; the spirit of the beehive speaks through your mousth and moves through your actions. You are as useful as I am, but you don't realize how useful your contribution is to the society the sacrifices you'.

I saw his teeth and the playful grin with which he foretold histoy, I felt his handshake and, like a distant murmur, his conventional goodbye. The night, which folded away as his words touched it, closed in around me again, enveloping me within it. Despite what he said, I now knew ... I knew that when the great guiding spirit cleaves humanity into to antagonistic halves, I will be with the people. And I know it because I see it impreinted on the night that I, the eclectic dissector of doctrines and psychoanalyst of dogmas, howling like a man possesed, will assail the barricades and trenches, will stain my weapon with blood and, consumed with rage, will slaughter any enemy I lay hands on. And then, as if an immense weariness were consuming my recent exhilaration, I see myself being sacrificed to the authentic revolution, the great leveller of individual will, prounouncing the exemplary mea culpa. I feel my nostrils dialte, savouring the acrid smell of gunpowder and blood, of the enemy's death; I brace my body, ready for combat, and prepare myself to be a sacred precinct withing which the bestial howl of the victorious proletariat can resound with new vigour and new hope.

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