We Don't Want to Be Like Che* / Somos+
Somos+, José Presol, 7 October 2016 — On October 9 it will be forth-nine
years since a man with dirty, matted hair, a lice-ridden beard, boots
that were no more than shards of leather and a uniform in tatters
emerged from the forest to demonstrate, as he had at other times when he
was powerless, his cowardice.
In his delirium he believed he was the most important of world's
exploited peoples, a military genius without equal. He had ventured off
to "liberate" new lands but in the end had been put in his place.
Trembling, surrounded by dust and enemies, he was a vision of human
misery. Desperate, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted:
"Don't shoot! I am Che Guevara. I am worth more alive than dead!"
He surmised they preferred him alive and defeated rather than martyred.
Others thought differently. But let's step back in time a little.
He possessed several "qualities": an obsession for writing diaries, like
those of his motorcycle trip to Bolivia; a lifelong penchant for lying;
a devotion to death, his own and others; an inability to finish any
project; and cowardice.
Perhaps it was genetic. They say his mother was a progressive. A
supporter of the Spanish Republic, she was anticlerical and feminist —
though she came from a family of cattle barons whose ancestors arrived
in the eighteenth century — and had once wanted to become a nun. After
claiming her inheritance, she moved in with Ernesto Guevara Lynch. He
welcomed her with open arms, presumably out of love but also because of
His father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, was also an "aristocrat." His great
grandfather Patricio was the richest man in South America. Like his son
and namesake, he went to university but did not complete his studies,
though he called himself an engineer. While at university, he
distinguished himself by attacking another student, which led to his
expulsion. The victim was none other than the writer Jorge Luis Borges,
who brought more glory to Argentina than all the Guevaras combined.
After going bankrupt, he used his inheritance to buy a mate farm, whose
workers were little more than slaves. He went bankrupt again, and then
yet again in a real estate deal. He held his son responsible for the
child's own asthma. And to top it all off, in 1915 he shot the world's
most famous tango singer, Carlos Gardel, then blamed it on his brother
Roberto. He spent his final days in the company of his second wife,
traveling between Cuba and Argentina, living off his Cuban acquaintances.
Our Ernesto "forgot" things. Even his birth certificate was a lie. It
was altered to indicate he had been born prematurely in order avoid the
shame of having been conceived out of wedlock.
He started off in medicine but there is no evidence he completed his
studies. The University of Buenos Aires says it has no records of him
fulfilling the requirements necessary to receive a degree.**
He travelled to America on his motorcycle in hopes finding a job but was
arrested in Miami and deported. It seems he had forgotten about being a
doctor even before his time as a guerrilla fighter in the Sierras. After
he was captured in Bolivia, he wanted to treat a wounded man. When asked
if he was a doctor, he said no.
He toured Latin America and ended up in Guatemala, in the middle of a
coup d'état against President Jacobo Arbenz. Under the influence of his
wife, Hilda Gadea, he began thinking about becoming a Marxist. His
revolutionary biographies claim he organized resistance groups but there
is no evidence to support this. What is evident is the unreality of his
life at this time. In a letter to his Aunt Beatriz, he wrote, "I am
entertaining myself here with shootings, bombings, speeches and other
activities to relieve the monotony of everyday life."
When Hilda was arrested, his cowardice resurfaced. He left her behind in
prison and fled with his infant daughter to Mexico. Hilda later reunited
with him and introduced him to Edelberto Torres, director of a
publishing house: Editorial de Educación Pública. It was there that he
met Ñico López, who introduced him to Fidel Castro.
The Communists were looking for leaders who could give anti-imperialist
speeches while claiming not to be Marxists. Fidel Castro turned out to
be one of them. Fidel always liked to have a cohort by his side. At the
time, it was a Spaniard, Alberto Bayo. But Bayo could not accompany him
to Cuba, so he settled on Che. His simple rationale for this decision
was "He's a doctor."
We know all too well about his time in Cuba, starting with the execution
of Eutemio Guerra in La Cabaña. And the deaths and illnesses of his
comrades throughout the world. We are familiar with his initiatives when
he was in charge of the Cuban economy; we need only look around. We also
know about his lies about the "New Man." And his cowardice. Once he
realized he had become a nuisance, he preferred to leave, without
bothering to pay his respects.
His departure marked the beginning of his travels, taking him to Spain
and Czechoslovakia. He ultimately found what he was looking for in the
Congo. But he ended up fleeing there too, crossing Lake Tanganyika.
In a new diary he laid the blame for his defeat on those "blacks" who
did not understand his French, though clearly those "blacks" can
communicate perfectly well in French with the rest of the world.
Elsewhere he complained about the laziness and uselessness of blacks,
Indians and homosexuals.
Upon his capture, he was taken to a small school to be interrogated.
There he met a "Bolivian" captain named Ramos.
Guevara realized that something did not add up. He said to the captain,
"Your accent sounds familiar but it is not Bolivian. Your questions
aren't military questions; they're military intelligence questions. Who
Ramos told him his real name: Felix Rodríguez. He said he was Cuban and
that he was part of the advance group that infiltrated the island to
provide logistical support during the Bay of Pigs invasion. He later
described how Che then lost what little composure he had, soiled himself
and turned whiter than a sheet of paper.
A coded message was transmitted to La Paz, "Papa is tired," indicating
that Che had been captured and was wounded. The reply was "500-600,"
which meant "positive identification" and "execution." A little later
headquarters received confirmation: "Regards to Papa."
The rest is history, though not the way Fidel tells it. (Yet another lie
in the life of Ernest Guevara.) We know all about it. What to do next?
Turn him into a martyr and put his image on T-shirts to be worn by all
the fools and bourgeoisie of the world.
*Elementary school students in Cuba, at morning assemblies, raise their
arms in unison and chant, "Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che."
**In a blog post, Enrique Ros — author of the Spanish language book,
Guevara; Myth and Reality — questions whether Che Guevara ever received
a medical degree. He points out that Che could not have fulfilled the
stringent academic requirements or the University of Buenos Aires School
of Medicine because, during what should have been his final period of
study, he was out of the country, "never to return." When Ros asked the
university for a copy of Che's transcripts, he was told they could not
be provided because they had been stolen.
Source: We Don't Want to Be Like Che* / Somos+ – Translating Cuba -