Che Guevara

Few of contemporary men can stir up public conscience and leave so many riddles and secrets behind like the person who became the symbol of 20-th century – Che Guevara. Ernesto Guevara’s story is still filled with blank spots. And what is most difficult is to understand and explain what was behind the motives and impulses of this unique man, how he formulated ideas that fascinated whole nations and countries, where and how he got his strength.

Ernesto was born on 14 June 1928 in the family of Ernesto Guevara Lynch, an architect of Irish descent. The blood of a king flowed in his veins through the ancestry of his mother Celia de la Serna y Llosa. One of the ancestors of his mother – José de la Serna e Hinojosa, 1770-1833 – was a Spanish general, a colonial officer and the viceroy of Peru. Possibly the spirit of this brave nobleman – who was used to ruling both people and events – was reborn in Che Guevara.

Yet we must also say that the father of the future revolutionary was also a very just and progressive-minded man for his times. Ernesto Guevara Lynch was the first to start paying salary to his workers at the family yerba mate plantation thus provoking the anger of the other local planters. As a father he tried to give a comprehensive upbringing to his five children – their house had a huge library with several thousand books; the doors of their home were always open to children coming from various backgrounds, including both rich families and families of simple workers. One of Ernesto’s friends, for example, was the daughter of the journalist and poet Córdoba Ituburu, a follower of communist ideas. In the years of the Spanish Civil War and World War II their home hosted a number of military figures and political activists who talked and argued about what was happening around the world. This is probably when young Ernesto started forming an understanding of the complex diversity of the world and shaped the outlines and concepts of his future ideology.

Ernesto suffered from asthma since the age of two till the end of his life; this is why he studied most of the school program in home-training. He graduated in 1945 and later entered the University of Buenos Aires to study medicine. In his student years Ernesto was an eager reader of Jean-Paul Sartre, F. Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda and the works of Argentinean authors-socialists. He himself kept a diary and wrote poems that were published in multi-volume editions after his death.

The young Ernesto had a lot of energy: he played soccer, rugby, loved horse-riding, golf, and gliding, he journeyed a lot and preferred to travel by bicycle, he worked as a sailor and thus visited a number of different countries. So thus at a rather young age he decided that he would devote his life and future not to himself but to serving the people, following the example of all the selfless people he admired so strongly. In 1952 Ernesto Guevara went on a trip with his friend, biochemistry doctor Alberto Granado, to Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Colombia visiting and studying the work of the Leper colonies. During their travel the two young men did not shun work and did anything from repairs, to curing people, carrying loads and harvesting and thus learned about the life of ordinary people and the hard living conditions of the natives.

The poor living conditions of his contemporaries lead Ernest Guevara to the idea which turned into the symbol of his life: ‘A revolution without guns is impossible!’

In 1953 Guevara graduated from University as a surgeon and a dermatology specialist. And instead of joining the army he went to Bolivia which was at this time ruled by the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement. A number of global changes were occurring in the country: nationalization of the mines, a land reform, workers and peasants were becoming part of the ruling power of the country… Ernesto Guevara worked intensively, met a lot of people, travelled and visited many of the sacred places of the Indians, carefully studying their culture.

He visited Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica where he got acquainted, communicated and entered discussions with revolutionaries from different countries. The same year he met the revolutionary Hilda Gadea Acosta. The young man won Hilda’s affection through his knowledge of Marxism, the depth of his reasoning and his choice of a life-purpose – to help ordinary people and fight for justice.

In the military conflict in Guatemala in 1954 Ernesto Guevara had his first war experience: he participated in an anti-aircraft defence group, helped with the transportation of the weapons, took part in the propagandist activities and thus his name got on the list of the ‘dangerous communists’ who had to be destroyed. So Guevara had to flee to Mexico.

In 1955 he married Hilda Gadea Acosta in Mexico. Ernesto started working as a journalist, continued his medical occupation and led a very active life meeting with a lot of progressive-minded people. One of these people later called Guevara ‘a continental revolutionary who cares not only about Argentina but about Latin America as a whole’…

In Mexico Ernesto met Fidel and Raul Castro. This encounter later brought him to the future Freedom Island – Cuba. What’s worth mentioning is that after this first meeting Fidel Castro shared how impressed he was with the great revolutionary maturity and the daring ideas of Che Guevara. During the preparation for the Cuban operation all members of the revolutionary group had to go through severe physical training: running through a cross-country terrain, judo training, various physical exercises, and military drills. Che Guevara, on his part, trained the group members how to render first aid.

The courage of these men was astounding – all 82 of them had to go into the stormy rumbling sea and rain in a 10-seat boat. Their reference point was the island of Cuba and their goal was freedom. A week later their vessel reached the Cuban shores but the group got under the bombardment of the troupes of Batista. The group lost more than half of its members.

Later Che Guevara wrote: ‘Somewhere in the woods during the long nights (our idleness began with the sunset) we made audacious plans. We dreamt of battles, large scale operations and the victory. These were happy hours. Together with the others I enjoyed the first cigar of my life which we smoked to repel the persistent mosquitoes. And the aroma of Cuban tobacco possessed me. And my head spun – whether from the strong Havana or to the audacity of our plans, each more desperate than the other.’

The people from Che Guevara’s circle tell that he was a passionate reader, had a an iron will, was true to his ideals, cared for his comrades and was ready to sacrifice his life for them. Finally, after a long and hard fight against the forces of Batista, victory was won and Che was appointed minister in the revolutionary government of Cuba.

This post gave him the opportunity to meet distinguished politicians from other countries such as Mao Zedong, the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, he also visited Moscow. Guevara became the global symbol of the contemporary revolutionary; he openly preached his understanding of Marxism and criticized bitterly the flaws of existing socialist countries.

Che Guevara participated in the revolutionary movements of African countries and that of Bolivia. In 1967 in Bolivia his group was bombarded by special trained CIA forces and Che was captured. The following day he was executed. The place where Ernesto was buried was unknown till 1997 when his remains were exhumed and buried with military honors in Cuba.

To many citizens of Latin America and Cuba, Che Guevara became a sacred figure, they address him as «San Ernesto de La Higuera», and ask for protection and mercy.

In contemporary history the image of Che Guevara has grown into something greater than a simple revolutionary. Today Cheguevarism stands for the true Road to non-conformism and the search for courage, a road filled with the romantic belief in the human ability to make the world a better place.

 

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