Che

Forty years ago today, when I was living in Argentina as an exchange student, I wrote a letter home about the death of Che Guevara. The news filled the Argentine newspapers and was the talk everywhere I went.

Nobody knows for sure if he’s really dead or not, I wrote. Last Sunday, October 8th, a number of “guerrillas” were killed in one of the many Bolivian battles. This battle took place in the southern part of Bolivia, in the province of Santa Cruz, near a small village named Vallegrande. Among the dead, the Bolivian government presumed, was Che Guevara. 

Growing up in the 60’s, we had all heard of “Che.” But because of the year I spent in Argentina, and being there when he died, I felt a special connection to him, and the story of his life and death is still fascinating to me. I didn’t understand or have enough information at that time to make a judgment about him–whether he was the mass murderer some claimed or an heroic revolutionary according to others. And I don’t know where to find the truth about him even today. Which sources or which versions of his story can I trust? In the last few years government documents have been declassified, many books and articles have been published about Che, and the controversy still rages.

I just know that I have always viewed him as a person rather than as an icon. I have preferred to read his own writings rather than biographies of him written by various people. I read The Motorcycle Diaries a few years ago and was captivated again by his youth and idealism. It transported me back to my own youthful idealism as an exchange student in 1967. I loved reading about his journey and his expanding awareness of the complex world of Latin America. And I felt that he spoke directly to me when he described the impact of his journey through South America:

“The person who wrote these notes passed away the moment his feet touched Argentine soil again. The person who reorganizes and polishes them, me, is no longer, at least I’m not the person I once was. All this wandering around “Our America with a capital A” has changed me more than I thought.” 

Che will be forever 39…”his face captured in eternal youth.” And I will always be fascinated by this charismatic and enigmatic Argentine.

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10 thoughts on “Che

  1. Stephanie

    I have not yet read The Motorcycle Diaries. I really need to. I also have a rather huge biography on Che to read.

    Incredible man!

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  2. Nymeth

    I have never read The Motorcycle Diaries, but I loved the movie that was made out of it. I need to read it someday. He does seem to have been an extremely idealistic person. It’s too bad things turned out as they did.

    PS: You are listening to a beautiful album and a beautiful book 🙂 I love Joni Mitchell and A.S. Byatt.

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  3. Gentle Reader

    I really need to read The Motorcycle Diaries. I have a friend who did the sound for that movie, and he said that working on the movie made him fascinated with the man, too.

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  4. Robin

    Hi Stephanie, I have a couple of biographies on him, too, but really enjoyed reading his journals. I haven’t read his Bolivian journals, however.

    Hi Nymeth, I loved the movie, too! They did a good job of showing his “awakening” to the realities of poverty and inequality in Latin America, but it’s so interesting to read his own words and see the early development of the young man.
    Yes! I’m loving A. S. Byatt’s book, and loving listening to BLUE again. I still have it on vinyl, but I hadn’t listened to it for ages. It’s a treasure.

    Hi Nan. So handsome…especially in that bottom photograph!

    Hi Petunia. Ditto!

    Thanks, Tara. He’s a fascinating and very charismatic person to read about!

    Hi Gentle Reader. It doesn’t take long to become fascinated with him once you start reading his journals and watching his growth and transformation over time. The Motorcycle Diaries reveal the very human (and humane!) beginnings of his transformation to revolutionary.

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  5. jenclair

    I haven’t even seen the movie, but my daughter said it was excellent. How interesting that you were actually in Argentina at the time; it would certainly have had an impact. I’m putting The Motorcycle Diaries on my list.

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  6. Bookfool

    What an interesting post. You were so lucky to be an exchange student. I begged my parents to let me join the exchange program and they simply said, “No way.”

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  7. Robin

    Hi jenclair. The Motorcycle Diaries is a very interesting read. The movie really did a nice job of portraying much of his experience, but it’s so interesting to read his own words.

    Hi Bookfool. Being an exchange student was a defining thing in my life. I called it a “pivot point.” Dad and I cooked up the idea…my Mom was not happy about it. But I’m so grateful for the chance to experience another culture at such depth, at such an early age.

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