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journey through Latin America
On his way to the revolution
· 1954 ·
Fidel Castro to Cuba
· 1957 ·
· 1961 ·
· 1965 ·
· Young Ernesto Guevara
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna is born June 14, 1928 in Rosario,
one of the most
important cities in Argentina, in a well off family. A family
with aristocratic roots but socialistic ideas.
In 1937, Ernesto is 9 years old and goes to the third grade
of primary school; he follows up engagingly the Spanish Civil
war. On a map he indicates the military evolution.
In 1947, Ernesto Guevara meets the young Berta Gilda Infante,
also known as Tita. She is a member of the Argentine Communistic
Youth. They build up a profound friendship. Together they read
Marxist texts and discuss the actualities.
In 1948, Ernesto, who is 20 years old at that time, undergoes
an examination at the faculty of medicine at the University
of Buenos Aires. In March he passes for the examinations of
the first year, in June for those of the second year and in
December for those from the third year.
January 1 1950, Ernesto Guevara attempts his first voyage. He
traverses the northern provinces of Argentina on a bicycle on
which he adjusted a small motor. He arrives at San Francisco
del Chahar, near Córdoba, where his friend Alberto Granado
runs the dispensary of the leper-centre. With the patients he
has long conversations about their disease.
He continues his university studies and is above all interested
in the scientific research for allergies, asthma, leprosy and
While he is studying, he works as a male nurse on trading and
petroleum ships of the Argentine national shipping-company.
Like that he travels from the south of Argentina to Brazil,
Venezuela and Trinidad.
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· A journey through Latin America
In October he decides to make his first trip through Latin-America.
Together with Alberto Granado he leaves in January 1952 on an
old 'Norton' 500-cc motorbike.
In Valparaiso Chile he writes in his diary: "We are
looking for the bottom part of the town. We talk to many beggars.
Our noses inhale attentively the misery."
About Chile he writes: "The most important effort that
needs to be done is to get rid of the uncomfortable 'Yankee-friend'.
It is especially at this moment an immense task, because of
the great amount of dollars they have invested here and the
convenience of using economical pressure whenever they believe
their interests are being threatened."
On March 24 they arrive at the Peruvian Tacna. After a discussion
about the poverty in the region, he refers in his notes to the
words of José Marti: "I want to link my destiny
to that of the poor of this world."
On May 1 they arrive in Lima. Che meets doctor Hugo Pesce, a
Peruvian scientist, and director of the national leprosy program
and an important Marxist. They discuss several nights until
the morning comes. Year's later Che puts that these conversations
were very important for the change in his attitude towards life
and the society.
On May 17 he leaves for the leper-centre of San Pablo in the
Peruvian Amazon forest. He arrives on June 7. During his visit
to this place, he complaints about the miserable way that the
people of that region and the sick have to live. There were
no clothes, almost no food and no medication. After working
there for a few weeks, he leaves for Leticia, Colombia via the
July 17 he arrives in Caracas. There he decides to go back to
Buenos Aires to finish his studies in medical science. He travels
with a cargo-plane via Miami, where the technical problems with
the aeroplane give him a delay of one month. To survive, he
works as a waiter and he washes dishes in a bar. On regular
base he is apprehended and questioned by the police. They ask
him if he, his mother or father are communist. He is back in
Buenos Aires on August 31.
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· On his way to the revolution
Che Guevara finished his studies early 1953. He gets summoned
for military duty but he was rejected. On July 7 he goes by
slow train to La Paz, Bolivia, 6000km further. Che arrives at
Panama late October. He is indignant about the submissive attitude
of the Panamese leaders towards the U.S. In Costa Rica he learns
about the domination of United Fruit and the exploitation and
of the misery that is the result of it. In a letter to his aunt
Beatriz he writes: "In El Paso I traversed the vast
domains of United Fruit. Once more I was able to convince myself
how criminal the capitalistic octopuses are. On a picture of
our old and bewailed comrade Stalin, I swore not to rest before
these capitalistic octopuses are destroyed. In Guatemala I want
to get perfect in becoming an authentic revolutionary."
Via Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, Che arrives late December
at Guatemala where Jacobo Arbenz leads a revolutionary process.
In a letter to his mother he writes: "I've finally
reached my aim . . . If everything goes well, I think I will
stay here for about 2 years."
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June 14-16. Che sees how North American Aeroplanes fly over
Guatemala and bomb down the military installations and the poor
popular quarters. He writes: "This incident has united
all Guatemalese with their government and with all who, just
like me, were attracted by Guatemala." The U.S. chooses
Castillo Armas as 'leader' of the coup.
June 18, 1954. He lives to see de coup d'état against
the Arbenz government, planned and executed by the U.S. He transports
weapons and tries to assemble some youths to fight; he helps
to bring political leaders in safety. On June 20 Che writes
to his mother: "These attacks, together with the lies of
the international press, have woken the indifferent. A combative
climate rules. I have applied as a voluntary for the medical
help services and I have registered in the youth-brigade to
get a military education and to go there where necessary."
On June 26 the national radio declares the resignation of president
Arbenz and the exile of almost all-political leaders and their
families. This causes a great commotion with the revolutionary
people. Che puts it like this: "In Guatemala it was
necessary to fight but almost no one fought. Resistance had
to be put up and almost no one wanted to do it."
Repression breaks loose. Latin-American embassies are getting
filled with political refugees. Che is indicated as a dangerous
Argentine communist and may not remain in Guatemala.
^ Back To Top
Early 1955 Che Guevara finds work as a doctor in the "Hospital
Central" of Mexico City.
In June he meets Raul Castro. They become friends. On July 8
Fidel Castro arrives in the Mexican capital. About their first
meeting Che said: "I've met him during one of the cool
nights in Mexico and I remember that our first conversation
was about international politics."
That same night - towards morning - I was one of the future
participants of the expedition with the Granma." Fidel
Castro about that meeting: "He knew much about the
Marxism-Leninism, self-thought, very eager to learn, he was
a convinced. When we met Che he was already an educated revolutionary."
^ Back To Top
On June 24, the Mexican police have arrested Che together with
On July 3 the press agency UPI notifies: "The Argentine
doctor Guevara will be deported to his land of origin, because
of his presumed participation of the failed conspiracy against
the Cuban government of Fulgencio Batista." The Mexican
ex-president Lázaro Cárdenas interferes to defend
the Cuban revolutionaries. Late July the last, among them Che
Guevara, are released. They continue their revolutionary activities
· With Fidel Castro to Cuba
November 25: the yacht Granma leaves in a stormy night with
on board 82 man from the mouth of the river Tuxpán in
On December 2 they landed in Los Cayelos, at the East Coast.
The next day the Cuban and Latin-American newspapers announced
about the expedition: " . . . Fidel Castro, Ernesto
Guevara, Raul Castro and all other members of the expedition
have perished . . ." Their arrival is noticed and
they get hunted. The group splits. On December 5 in Alegría
del Pino, Che gets ambushed. Later on he writes about this:
"I've got wounded in my neck. I stayed alive thanks
to my luck of a cat. A box of bullets I was carrying close to
my chest stopped a bullet of a machine gun and it ricochets
up to my neck."
With the help of other he could escape in the sugarcane fields.
In these circumstances Che had to make the, so often told about,
choice between his duty as a doctor and his duty as a revolutionary
soldier. To escape he had to choose between a backpack filled
with medications and a crate of bullets. It was impossible to
take them both. Che takes the crate with bullets and hurries
into the sugarcane. Later they leave a great deal of their cargo
with a farmer. On December 21 Che's group arrives at a coffee
plantation where Fidel is already waiting for a couple of days.
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On January they attack the barracks of La Plata. Che: "La
Plata was our first victory. It was clear to everybody that
a rebel-army existed and was ready for battle. To us it was
the confirmation of the chances to the final victory."
The ambushes and fights increased. The army bombarded. In April
he organises, in order of Fidel extended contacts with the farmers,
to create points of support in the area. Year's later Che writes:
"The guerrilla and the farmers gradually became one,
without anyone could tell when this unity really had performed.
I only know that these contacts with the farmers in the mountains
made the spontaneous decision turn quickly into a devoted and
serious relation. The suffering and sincere inhabitants of the
Sierra Maestra have never known how important their part was
in the creation of our revolutionary ideology."
In July Che begins to alphabetise Joel, Israel and other guerrilla's.
The others also are organised in circles of study about the
history of Cuba, the characteristics of the army of tyranny
and the importance of the armoured battle. On July 21 Fidel
nominated Che commander. About this Che writes: "In
a very informal way I was nominated commander of the second
colonne of the guerrilla-army (. . .) The dose vanity that anyone
has inside of him, made me the proudest man on the world that
On September 17, five army-trucks fall into an ambush of the
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On January 6 Che writes to Fidel: "I already said that
these merits would always be counted for: showing that in America
the armoured battle with the support of the people is possible."
In February Che gets interviewed in front of the microphones
of "Radio El Mundo" from Buenos Aires: "I'm
simply here because I think that the only way to liberate America
of the dictators is to defeat them. I'll give all the help I
can to make them go down, the sooner the better."
"Aren't you afraid that your intervention will be regarded
as a foreign interference?"
all I don't regard only Argentina as my native country but whole
of America. For this I would like to call up to examples such
as Marti, and it is exactly on his land of birth that I would
make his doctrine come true. Besides you can't call it interference
if I want to give myself personally and totally - up to my blood
- to a case that seems right to me and that is completely that
of the people. A people that wants to get liberated of a tyranny
that on itself cheers the armoured interference of a foreign
power with aeroplanes, weapons and military advisors. Up to
now not even one country accused the North-American interference
in Cuban affairs, not one newspaper accuses the Yankees of helping
Batista slaughtering his people."
On May 24 and 25 dictatorial troops attacked two mines in Sierra
Maestra. It is the beginning of a big offensive. Hostile troops
made a forced entry in several points in the Sierra Maestra
and threaten to advance. In addition they occupy the supply
and communication-lines. The next few days Che participates
in a counter-attack that debouch into a defeat for the enemy,
a force of over 10,000 men.
On August 21 Fidel writes: "The mission to conduct
a brigade from the Sierra Maestra to the province 'Las Villas'
and to operate there according to the strategic plan of the
Rebel-army, is assigned to Commander Ernesto Che Guevara. (.
. .) He is also appointed as head of all units of the 'M-26
de julio' that are operating in this province, in the cities
as well as in the countryside. (. . .) The eight brigade has
for a strategic object to attack the enemy continuously in the
centre of Cuba and to intercept the hostile troop-movements
over land from west to east until they are crippled completely."
On December 16 the bridge over the river Falcon by the Central
Road is blown up, by that, all cities at the east of Santa Clara,
were unable to be reached from Havana. On December 26 Che writes:
"The war is won, the enemy has come loudly to his knees,
in the east we keep 10.000 soldiers in captivity. Those of Camoguey
have no longer a way out. All of this is the result of only
one thing: our effort." The next day he decides to
march to Santa Clara.
The international press informs the world that Che had died.
'Radio Rebelde' on the contrary sends word: "Latest
news of primary importance! Great victory for the eight brigade
of Las Villas. Troops under guidance of Ernesto Che Guevara
conquered a blinded train and 300 fully equipped soldiers were
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day-brake of New-Year dictator Batista fled the country. Che
Guevara gets the Cuban nationality on February 9.
From July till August he travels as head of an official delegation
to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt where he meets Nasser.
The trip goes on to India, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Pakistan.
They turn back via Eastern and Western Europe to close up in
Morocco. On his return Che declares to be surprised for the
sympathy that the Cuban revolution evoked all over the world.
On October 17 Che advises university students to: "(.
. .) get contact with the people, not to 'help' them with knowledge
or what so ever - like an aristocratic lady that hand out a
coin of money to a beggar - but to become participants of the
revolutionary forces that rule over Cuba today. To place your
shoulders under the extension of the revolution and, at the
same time, to get experience that might be more important than
all interesting things that you learn in your lessons."
On November 23 he introduces the first 'day of voluntary labour'
^ Back To Top
At the end of 1960 the U.S. establishes a complete trading-embargo
against Cuba. Che leads an official Cuban delegation in a tour
to different socialistic countries: from the Soviet-Union and
Eastern Europe to China and Northern Korea. From there, back
to the Soviet-Union, Eastern-Germany and Czecho-Slovakia. Early
'61 the U.S. breaks all diplomatic relations with Cuba.
^ Back To Top
On April 15 are the Cuban airports bombed by U.S. -planes. On
April 17 there is the invasions in the Bay of Pigs: 1,500 CIA-mercenaries
attack Cuba supported by the American fleet and airforce. The
contra's want to cause a revolt of the people. In barely 72
hours they get completely defeated by the Cuban nation. 1.200
of them are being captured.
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May 17: confronted with new acts of sabotage of the imperialism
in a harbour in the south he says: "We have rendezvous
with history, and we simply can not permit ourselves to be afraid!
We must maintain the same enthusiasm and faith. Build factories
with our left hand, aim the rifle with the right hand and crush
the worms with our heels."
In August he talks about the situation in Congo: "What
is happening in Africa, where only two years ago the prime minister
of Congo was murdered and quartered, where North-American monopolies
have installed themselves and the battle to own Congo has turn
loose? Why? Because there is copper and radioactive minerals
in their soil, because Congo has exceptionally strategic raw
materials? Therefor a leader of the people, who was so naïve
to believe in justice without render himself an account of the
fact that justice gets expelled by power, got murdered. That
is how he became a martyr of his people."
Later on Che speaks to the general meetings of the UN in New
York. He accuses in powerful terms the part of the UN in the
murder of Lumumba and to help to get in the saddle, Tshombe
as Congolese president, it was the same man that had tried to
tear off the province Katanga of the rest of the Congolese nation.
"All free people of the world must be prepared to declare
to revenge the Congolese crime."
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Che arrives in Brazzaville on New Years day and begins with
an official African journey. When he gets back in Cuba he convokes
a secret conference with a hundred comrades who have great battle-experience.
They are the future participants of the international mission
in Congo. On February he arrives in Dar El Salaam together with
different African revolutionary leaders who asked Cuba for weapons,
training and finance. There he also meets Laurent Kabila and
his general staff. They agree that the main African enemy is
the North-American imperialism. In reply to Kabila's question
to train guerrilla's in Cuba, Che says no. He explains the advantage
of training on their proper terrain.
On March 31 Che writes a letter of goodbye to Fidel Castro.
Later it will seem that Che, naturally clandestine, went to
Congo. The U.S. abuse the fact that Che does not longer appear
in public to spread the rumour that he have been liquidated
by Fidel because of heavy ideological conflicts in the highest
leadership in Cuba. In their broadcast to China the U.S. claim
that Che was murdered because of his pro-Chinese point of view,
and in the broadcasts to the East they claim the opposite.
On March 24 Che arrives from Tanzania near the harbour of Kigoma
at the shore of the Lake Tanganyika. He disembarks with 14 Cubans
outside the harbour to avoid the Belgian mercenaries patrol.
Doing that they land in the water. From there he reaches Kibamba
in Congo. On May 9 he succeeds making contact with the first
group of guerrilla's. He explains them that he has come to give
them a guerrilla education, on demand of Gastón Soumaliot
and Laurent Kabila to Fidel Castro. He wants to fight on their
side in operations they decide. He is at their disposal. He
starts with a school of warriors that gets the name "La
On July 7 Che Guevara meets Laurent Kabila who promises to accompany
him in a visit to several fronts on the inland. Kabila however
leaves for Kigoma and the visits are getting postponed. On August
16, 7 soldiers die in an ambush of the guerrilla, among them
two Belgian non-commissioned officers and three South-Africans.
In November the situation seems at the different fronts —
among other things because of continuous discussions between
the various revolutionary leaders — so confused that more
and more guerrilla's leave the battle. Together with the Congolese
the decision is made that the Cubans will retreat. The mission
took seven months in which Cubans participated in over 50 actions.
^ Back To Top
In July Che travels in the greatest secrecy to Havana, were
he prepares a new mission to Bolivia in consultation with Fidel.
Across Moscow, Prague and Vienna Che Guevara travels via Brazil
to Bolivia were he arrives on November 3.
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Che writes: "As I thought the attitude of Monje (the
under-secretary of the Bolivian KP) was avoiding and later traitorous.
His party is already getting armed against us. I don't know
where that will take him but it will not slow us down, and maybe
in long terms it will be an advantage for us, I'm almost sure
of that. The most honest and competitive people will stand on
our side, although they have to go true a severe crisis of their
conscience. So far Guavara has reacted well. We'll see how he
and his people will line up (. . .) The actual phase of the
guerrilla will now begin, we will test our troops. Time will
tell which are the perspectives of the Bolivian revolution.
Of all things that were planned the recruit of Bolivian comrades
in battle was the slowest."
In March the analysis goes as followed: "This month
there was no lack of incidents, but the total looks like this:
phase of consolidation and purification of the guerrilla, slow
development with few elements that came from Cuba - and they
don't perform badly - and elements of Guavvara's group who were
very weakly in general (two deserters, one loose-tongued whom
we kept as prisoners, three that got scratches and two weaklings).
Now the phase begins of actions with an exact and spectacular
attack. We have to hit the road much sooner as I wanted, and
with the burden of four possible talebearers. The situation
is not good but a new stage of test begins for the guerrilla
and it will do her good if they overcome it. The guerrilla consists
of 29 Bolivians, 16 Cubans and 3 Peruvians."
the months that follow Che and his man get more and more count
off communication problems with La Paz and Cuba through which
they finally have to operate completely isolated. To get connected
with the farmers is much harder than they have thought. About
that he writes in May: "The farmers still don't join
us, although it seems that slowly they don't fear us anymore
and they seem to admire us. It is a slow and patient process."
In June he writes: "The farmers are still aloof. It is
a vicious circle: to attract them we must have more actions
in populated areas, but therefor we need more man. (. . .) The
army stands nowhere in her military task, but it does dangerous
work with the farmers that we may not leave without interference.
If not all farmers will become tale-bearers, out of fear or
because of the lies they tell them about our intentions."
In the meantime the U.S. supplies more weapons and advisors
to the Bolivian army. The land gets harassed with ever more
strikes and the fame of Che's man rises in Bolivian and world
press every day: "On political field the official statement
of the government is, that I'm really in Bolivia and not murdered
in Cuba, the most important. They even add that the army has
to deal with perfectly trained guerrilla's, among them even
Vietcong's who had defeated the best trained American marines."
In September the guerrilla gets further isolated and they have
many losses in an ambush of the army. On October 8, in the village
La Higuera, Che and two comrades fall into the hands of the
army. Two comrades die. A Bolivian colonel and a Cuban, who
works for the CIA, come on the spot by helicopter. On higher
command they decide to slaughter Che and his comrades Willy
Cuba and Juan Pablo Chang immediately. A Bolivian soldier does
the job, his eyes turned sidewise. While international press
barons offer up to $125,000 for the diary of Che, Bolivian revolutionaries
make sure that copies of it reach Cuba the same year. Doing
that the CIA-plan fails of making anti-communistic propaganda
with falsifications of the original.
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