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How did Ernesto Che Guevara get involved in the Cuban Revolution? His relationship with Marx, communism and adventure.

Updated on September 24, 2015
Guevara circa 1951
Guevara circa 1951 | Source

There are many things that history ignores about Ernesto Guevara. His main contribution to the development of human society is directly linked to the communist ideas that rose after the Second World War and became almost a trend during the climax of the Cold War. Ideas that guerrillas where fighting for, based on a man that lived during the Industrial Revolution and observed how the working class was abused by the rich, creating a strong hatred for the capitalistic system. Thus rose an idea that was later commonly known as Communism, thanks to a famous essay published by Marx and Engel called “The Communist Manifesto”. It is not fair to lay on Marx and Engel’s shoulders the violence and fighting that concerned the 1980s carried about by the guerrillas and famous commanders at the Latin American territories, like it is not fair to lie in Nietzsche’s shoulders the genocide carried about by the third reich during the Second World War. These men are philosophers, famous thinkers that observed the world in a different way. A way defined by the time lived by these thinkers and that influenced the later generations that merely adopted these ideas and transformed, or better adapted, them to new standards, new times. With a small touch of extremism these famous ideas where the root of events that we now remember in history carried about by men we will always remember on history books, mostly, as antagonists. But, how exactly does an Argentinian doctor, a passionate poet with very strong literal tendencies with a strong desire to see the world, end up leading the main revolutionary movement at Cuba that ended a dictatorship, and killed at Bolivia while planning the next revolutionary rising that would have changed history in South America?

Ernesto Guevara (right) and Alberto (left)
Ernesto Guevara (right) and Alberto (left) | Source

It was 1951 and a soon to be doctor, with just a year left of studies, called Ernesto Guevara, along with his bioquimist friend Alberto, decide on a hot sunny afternoon to travel through South America on an old motorcycle called “Poderosa II”. The memories of this adventure are where recorded on a diary kept by Guevara and later published by his daughter in a small book called “Diaries of a Motorcycle”. This trip was definitely life changing for the duo and it would not only affect the life of these young Argentinians, it would also unleash a domino effect in the life of one of the most influential men in history that even at present times, decades after his death, still affects the lives of people around the world every single day. Some may argue that the effects that this man had on people’s lives may be positive, some may say it is negative; but to make such assumptions we mustn’t analyze them on an ignorant mind, it would be like a blind man running around a track field at full speed. First, we must understand the whole context that surrounded the life of the men and women that created history. If you read the small recording of their adventure through South America you might realize something unexpected of a revolutionary commander. Guevara’s strong poetic tendencies of his writing are breathtaking; he abuses the use of metaphors and paints the picture of what his eyes can see with a wide range of colors. The writing is even complex at times, metaphors lost inside more metaphors create an inception (like) effect that will have the reader focusing on one word at a time trying to grasp the idea that Guevara unleashes on whomever wants to listen. Ernesto saw a lot during this adventure and this planted a seed that would grow into the revolutionary man that would fight until his death for the rights of the proletariat. Guevara paints it perfectly at the end of his novel, while addressing the author at the end of his trip, located already back home, thinking back on the last year of adventure that changed his life. He mentions how the man writing on the diary is no longer the man addressing the reader. That man is dead, he says, and a new Guevara is reborn. Personally, while looking back at Guevara’s life and travels, I believe there where two special moments that conceived the revolutionary man known as “el Che”. At Peru, country with a strong Inca decent and a big indigenous population, Guevara was deeply touched by how repressed the indigenous population is. Abuses from the cultural to the personal level by different ethnic groups that have grown to be powerful monetary wise, have led the Inca descendant to poverty and shame. Guevara was sickened by how cultures could not bond in peace and how the rich raised on the dead bodies of the poor (metaphorically, of course). Later on his travel, also in Peru, Guevara lived for some time at a hospital for the lepers. Being a doctor (almost) and his partner an experienced pharmacist, they both worked with the sick for some time. What made a change in Guevara, I believe, was the gratitude of their patients. He mentions, at some point, that it is the men who have the least that thank the most and he is profoundly touched by their goodbyes (a beautiful chapter in his book).

Ernesto and Alberto travel itinerary
Ernesto and Alberto travel itinerary | Source
Guevara (left) and Castro (right)
Guevara (left) and Castro (right) | Source

He finished his studies in Argentina and later travels again through the vast lands of Latin America, finally establishing a home in Guatemala. In the late 1960s, Guatemala’s president at the time, Jacobo Arbenz lost his power on a highly controversial coup d'etat initiated by misinformation of the mass media lead by the United States government trying to protect his financial investments on agricultural lands in Central America (probably a subject of another post). Thousands of kilometers away at around the same time in history, Russians where cleaning the dust off from Marx’s “Das Kapital” and Marx/Engel’s “The Communist Manifesto”, ready to bring back ideas the seemed dead and would dictate history for at least the next 50 years. Guatemala’s situation forced the exile for Guevara and further enlarged his hatred towards the United States’ political authority in Latin America (gringos). With flames of fury rising inside “el Che”, he met a Cuban self-proclaimed revolutionary and together they traveled to Cuba to initiate the revolutionary war. The rest is history (and possibly subject of another post).

Ernesto Guevara during the Cuban Revolution
Ernesto Guevara during the Cuban Revolution | Source

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