Che Guevara, a symbol of struggle (Part Two)

By Tony Saunois.

During this second tour Che penned another journal which he entitled, Otra Vez (Once Again).* Reflecting how he began this journey he wrote: «This time, the name of the sidekick has changed, now Alberto is called Calica, but the journey is the same: two disperse wills extending themselves through America without knowing precisely what they seek or which way is north.»

Che and companion arrived in La Paz, the Bolivian capital, during July 1953. They were immediately caught up in the revolutionary upheavals which were rocking one of the poorest and most «Indian» of American nations. A mass revolt of the predominantly indigenous peasants and tin miners had broken out twelve months earlier. This mass uprising had brought the radical Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) to power.

The new regime, whilst trying to keep the mass movement in check, was forced by the insurrectionary upheavals to carry through a widespread programme of reform. The peasants, through a series of land occupations, forced a far reaching programme of agrarian change. The tin mines, Bolivia’s primary source of income at the time, were nationalised. The miners and peasants had armed themselves, sections of the army came over to the side of the workers and peasants. A militia was established and for a short time the army was formally disbanded. However, the revolution was not completed with the establishment of a new regime of workers’ democracy and the movement was eventually defeated.

During these revolutionary events the tin miners played a leading role in establishing a new independent trade union centre, the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB). Reflecting the revolutionary upsurge which took place the COB even formally endorsed the Transitional Programme, written by Leon Trotsky in 1938.

In La Paz, Che spent much of his time in cafes and bars meeting political migrants who had arrived from all over America. During the course of the revolution Bolivia had become a political Mecca as radicals and left-wing revolutionaries were attracted to the stormy events erupting.

«La Paz is the Shanghai of the Americas. A rich gamut of adventurers of all the nationalities vegetate and flourish in the polychromatic and mestizo city», wrote Che in his Otra Vez. Here he mixed with a variety of political activists and engaged in debate and discussions with them. He met up with some of the Argentine community living in La Paz. Amongst those he met was an exiled Argentinean, called Nogues.

The influence of the powerful social events taking place in Bolivia are reflected in Che’s comments about this leader of the expatriate Argentinean community. «His political ideas have been outdated in the world for some time now, but he maintains them independently of the proletarian hurricane that has been let loose on our bellicose sphere.»

Through these social contacts Che led a double existence in La Paz alternating between observing the revolutionary movements and the high life he was introduced to through the Argentine community. On one occasion, Nogues’ brother, having recently returned from Europe, showed Che and Calica an invitation he had received to the wedding of Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis.

However, it was the revolutionary process which he witnessed in La Paz which left the most lasting impression on Che. He wrote to his father in July complaining that he wanted to stay in Bolivia longer because, «…this is a very interesting country and it is living through a particularly effervescent moment. On the second of August the agrarian reform goes through, and fracases and fights are expected throughout the country. We have seen incredible processions of armed people with Mausers and ‘piripipi’ (machine guns), which they shoot off for the hell of it. Every day shots can be heard and there are wounded and dead from firearms.»

Che, who wanted to see the renowned Bolivian miners first hand, visited the Balsa Negra mine just outside La Paz. Prior to the revolution company guards had used a machine gun to open fire on striking miners. Now the mine was nationalised. Che encountered truck loads of armed miners returning from the capital to protest their support for land reform and the struggle of peasants. With their «stony faces and red plastic helmets they appeared to be warriors from other worlds».

Despite witnessing the tremendous strength of the Bolivian miners Che never really absorbed the potential role of the working class in the socialist revolution, even in countries such as Bolivia where they constituted a minority of the population. This weakness, combined with other factors, would have a direct bearing on the ideas he later developed.

At this stage in Che’s political evolution however, it is sufficient to note the impact which events in Bolivia had on his outlook. For the first time in his life he was touched directly by the heat of the flame of revolution. Despite the sweep of events he was still an observer rather than an active participant.

After extending their stay in La Paz to nearly one month Che and Calica moved on. They spent some time in Peru and in Lima again met with Doctor Pesce and also Gobo Nogues. Gobo ensured that they ate on a few occasions at the Country Club and in Lima’s most expensive hotel, the Gran Hotel Bolívar.

They moved on to Ecuador where they forged new friendships with a group of adventurers. Che’s intention had been to move on with Calica to Venezuela. After a series of excursions Calica and Che departed company, the former heading for Caracas and the latter with a new companion, Gualo, to Guatemala. They were totally broke and had to work their passage on a ship. Before reaching Guatemala they passed through Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua, meeting and discussing with individuals and groups along the way.

By travelling north to Central America Che had entered a somewhat different world to that which existed in the southern cone of Latin America. Imperialism dominated the southern countries in conjunction with an enfeebled national capitalist class. There was a relatively strong urban population and working class in the cities and the societies tended to be more developed. This was even the case in the poorest countries at the time, such as Bolivia and Peru.

In a series of Central American countries US imperialism arrogantly imposed local tyrants as dictatorial heads of state while despised and hated companies, such as Coca Cola and the United Fruit Company, plundered the economies. As Che commented: «…the countries were not true nations, but private estancias».

This was only fifty years after US imperialism had created Panama, and ran it as a client state in order to keep control of the canal which it had built for trade purposes and strategic interests. Nicaragua had been ruled for thirty years by the corrupt dictatorship of Somoza. El Salvador was run by a succession of dictatorships intent on defending the interests of the coffee plantation owners, and Honduras was virtually run as a packaging plant for the United Fruit Company.

The United Fruit Company symbolised the exploitation of the continent by imperialism. Che’s favourite poet, Pablo Neruda, wrote an ironical verse, La United Fruit Co., reflecting the sentiments of Latin America towards its imperialist domination.

Neruda’s poem continues and denounces the company for creating the «Tyrannical Reign of Flies» the dictators of Central America: Trujillo, Tachos, Ubico, Martínez, Garias – «the bloody domain of flies.»

On to Guatemala

If events in Bolivia had made an impact on Che, developments in Guatemala, where he got actively involved for the first time, would change the direction of his life. He arrived in Guatemala City on Christmas Eve and openly identified with a political cause and with some idea of what he now intended to commit his life to.

Just prior to his arrival he had written a letter dated December 10, in which he outlined his political views to his aunt Beatríz, with whom he had an especially close relationship. These were undoubtedly a reflection of the effect events in Bolivia had had on him. For the first time he clearly identified himself ideologically with socialist ideas.

«My life has been a sea of found resolutions until I bravely abandoned my baggage and, back pack on my shoulder, set out with el compañero García on the sinuous trail that has brought us here. Along the way I have had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit, convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned Stalin that I won’t rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated. In Guatemala I will perfect myself and achieve what I need to be an authentic revolutionary.» He signed the letter «from your nephew of the iron constitution, the empty stomach and the shining faith in the socialist future. Chao, Chancho».

By 1953 the populist left-leaning government in Guatemala, presided over by Colonel Jacobo Arbenz, was locked into a head-on confrontation with US imperialism and the rich elite of Guatemala City. Arbenz was continuing a reformist programme begun by the preceding government which came to power during the 1940’s having toppled the ruthless Ubico dictatorship.

US imperialism would tolerate a lot from this reformist administration. But in 1952 the Arbenz administration took a step too far. A land reform decree was enacted which abolished the latifundia system and nationalised the properties of the detested United Fruit Company.

This measure provoked the wrath of Guatemala’s white Creole elite and won massive support from the mainly indigenous and mestizo poor rural peasants and urban workers. The United Fruit Company and the Eisenhower administration were outraged. It would only be a matter of time before the CIA would instigate the overthrow of the Arbenz government.

The «socialist» experiment in Guatemala had drawn thousands from all over Latin America to see first hand this challenge to US imperialism. Mass mobilisations were taking place all the time and numerous militias were established by both the government and the various political parties. In the main these were not armed. However, the forces of reaction began to arm and mobilise.

Amongst those present during the Guatemalan drama, apart from Che Guevara, were numerous future leaders of Latin American left-wing organisations, including Rodolfo Romero, a future leader of the Nicaraguan Sandinista FSLN (Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional) which overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in 1979.

Che met with a series of political activists and engaged in discussion. He secured work as a doctor in a hospital and was introduced to Hilda Gadea, an exiled leader of the youth wing of the radical populist Peruvian movement, APRA. She introduced him to activists and leaders of various political groupings and gave him political works to study, including some works of Mao Tse Tung.

It was during these events that Che encountered a number of Cuban exiles. They had been given asylum by the Arbenz regime and had participated in an attempted assault on July 26 1953 against the Moncada military barracks in Cuba. For the first time Che began to discover about the struggle developing against the Cuban Batista regime.

The speed with which events developed in Guatemala also resulted in Che’s ideas maturing. He began to criticise the communist parties which had adopted a policy of ‘Popular’ or ‘People’s Fronts’. This put them in alliances with sections of the national capitalist class. The leadership of the communist parties wrongly argued a tactical alliance with this «progressive» wing of the national capitalist class was necessary in the struggle against imperialism, in order to defend and widen parliamentary democracy. They said a stage of ‘capitalist democracy and economic development’ was necessary before the working class could struggle for and hope to obtain socialism.

This policy resulted in the communist party leaders limiting the struggles of the working class to prevent them challenging the interests of capitalism. The workers’ movement was frequently paralysed by this policy which often resulted in bloody defeat at the hands of reaction. Decisive sections of the capitalist class were quite prepared to abolish democratic rights and utilise repressive methods of rule in order to defend their own class interests.

Che, although not clearly presenting an alternative to this policy, felt that the communist parties were moving away from the masses simply to get a share of power in a coalition government. He wrongly argued at this time that no party in Latin America could remain revolutionary and contest elections.

Though beginning to articulate his thoughts, Che’s ideas did not become fully formulated until later. Meanwhile, events in Guatemala overtook the polemics he had begun to be engaged in. The US was increasingly uneasy about the course events were taking and had concluded the government must be overthrown. The example of the movement in Guatemala was beginning to spill over into other Central American countries. A general strike broke out in Honduras. The Nicaraguan dictator, Somoza, feared his own population may follow the example of events in neighbouring countries.

The CIA had put together a plan to topple the Guatemalan administration. A figure-head named Castillo Armas was hand-picked to replace Arbenz as President. A paramilitary force was trained in Nicaragua and those friendly to the US in the Guatemalan Army were involved in a plot against the government.

Arbenz refused to take action against those in the military known to be sympathetic to the plotters and tried to appease the military. A few days before his government was overthrown in 1954 by the conspirators he appealed to the army itself to distribute arms to the militias which had been established. The military command refused and the government fell. The existing capitalist state machine had been left intact and no alternative of workers’ and peasants’ committees had been established from which an appeal could have been made to the rank and file soldiers.

This defeat and the failure of Arbenz to take any action against the capitalist state apparatus was to leave a lasting impression on Che, one which he would not forget as the revolution in Cuba unfolded.

After seeking asylum in the Argentinean Embassy and hiding for a period, Che eventually found his way to Mexico by September. As a fresh activist his movements had not gone unnoticed. The CIA opened a file on him for the first time. Over the coming years it was to become one of the thickest ever compiled by them on any one individual.

It was while Che was in Mexico that he initially met one of the leaders of the July 26th Movement fighting the Batista dictatorship in Cuba, Fidel Castro. Their first meeting was during 1955, after which Che eventually joined the Movement.

Following his experiences in Bolivia and in particular after his participation in events in Guatemala, Che entered the next phase of his life no longer as the medical doctor and social observer. From this point on he was to be an active participant in and eventual leader of historic events.


Οι απόψεις που εκφράζονται στο άρθρο δεν υιοθετούνται απ’ το Ελληνικό Αρχείο Τσε Γκεβάρα.

Che Guevara, a symbol of struggle

By Tony Saunois.

It is perhaps fitting for an Argentinean to own a yerba mate plantation as Ernesto Guevara Lynch did in the remote jungle of Misiones on the border with Paraguay and Brazil. Chileans are renowned drinkers of tea and Brazilians of coffee. The Argentineans consume with gusto a bitter tea herb throughout the day whilst at work or relaxing with friends.

Ernesto Guevara Lynch was the great-grandson of one of South America’s richest men whose ancestors were of both Spanish and Irish nobility. Most of the family fortune had been lost by previous generations and Guevara Lynch invested what he had in the yerba mate plantation where he hoped to make his fortune. In 1927 he met and married Celia de la Serna, an Argentinean also with ancestors from the Spanish nobility.

The first of four children, Ernesto, was to become known as the world renowned revolutionary, Che Guevara. As a revolutionary who spent most of his life in clandestine activity, it was apt that he should have falsified birth and death certificates.

Ernesto was in fact born one month earlier than June 14 1928 which was stated on his birth certificate, the deception being necessary because his mother was three moths pregnant on the day she married. Che was executed on October 8 1967 in Bolivia at the hands of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Bolivian army.

Thirty years after his execution the name of Che Guevara lives on throughout Latin America and beyond. He has left a powerful tradition as an internationalist and self-sacrificing revolutionary who acts as an inspiring symbol of struggle against exploitation.

On the thirtieth anniversary of his execution it is legitimate for revolutionaries to salute Che’s qualities as a symbol of struggle against oppression and recognise the heroic role he played in the Cuban revolution in 1959. The guerrilla struggle which was mainly based upon the most downtrodden peasants in Cuba ended with the overthrow of the hated Batista dictatorship.

This was possible because of the concrete situation which existed in Cuba and other countries of Central America and the Caribbean. It was not possible for Che to successfully repeat the experience of the revolution in the countries of Latin America where there were different conditions – in particular a more powerful urban population and smaller rural population than in Central America.

The attempt of Che to apply the same methods he used in Cuba poses important question about his ideas and methods which need to be discussed and analysed by revolutionary socialists.

Che did not readily enter into political activity. Reflecting his middle class upbringing and compassion for the poor and sick he was initially drawn towards medicine and eventually graduated as a doctor from the Buenos Aires Faculty of Medicine in 1953.

His family had moved from Misiones to Cordoba partly for business reasons and also in a bid to aid Che’s chronic asthma through a change of climate. They finally moved to Buenos Aires in 1947 where his parents eventually split up.

Asthma was to dog Che throughout his life. Its crippling effect made all the more remarkable the guerrilla struggles which he eventually was to engage in. Like many such disabilities it had an effect in shaping his early development. Often unable to walk and confined to bed he developed a keen interest in reading and learning to play chess. Whilst determined to overcome his disability and insisting on playing sports he became something of a loner spending much of his time reading and studying. This was re-enforced by the split between his parents, the death of his grandmother and the financial problems which the family were now encountering.

At university Che was drawn to more political reading although he did not actively participate in political life. He began delving into socialist ideas. According to his own recollections he read some Marx, Engels and Lenin along with some material by Stalin. He also studied the novelists Zola and Jack London and Argentine socialists such as Alfredo Palacios. His love of poetry was satisfied, amongst others, by the works of the Chilean writer and Communist Party member, Pablo Neruda, and the Spanish Civil War poet Lorca.

However, for all his new-found curiosity about socialist ideas he never engaged in political activity beyond discussing with some members of the Young Communists and other left-wing groups. According to one report he joined the Peronist Youth (a populist and nationalist Argentinean movement led by General Perón) as a means of obtaining greater access to the university library.

He was regarded as radical and outspoken by those he encountered but did not have any coherent or worked out ideas and certainly did not regard himself as a Marxist. His main objective was still to qualify as a doctor with a view to helping the sick and the poor. However, within him a passion for travel was beginning to develop. Initially this was within Argentina itself and then later he undertook two journeys which brought him throughout Latin America and eventually beyond.

The experiences which he encountered during this Odyssey changed his perception of the tasks necessary to end poverty and exploitation. It was during the adventures and events which he witnessed on these journeys that Che eventually embraced socialist ideas.

Che’s first real journey took place during 1950 in which he travelled widely throughout Argentina. For the first time he witnessed the massive social divide which existed in the country. In Buenos Aires he had evidently seen poverty before but for the first time he witnessed the dual character of much of South America. Buenos Aires was one of the most European of South American cities in its culture and lifestyle. During this journey he travelled into the backward and socially deprived centres of Argentina which existed at the time.

Much of what he saw in the hospitals he visited and amongst the most downtrodden of the rural poor with which he made contact was viewed through the eyes of an aspiring doctor. Che concluded from these experiences that the modern Argentinean nation was a «luxurious façade» under which the real «soul» lay., a soul which was rotten and sick.

Che’s first international tour took place in 1952 and the second during 1953/4. These had a more pronounced effect and ultimately changed the direction of his entire life, especially his second Odyssey throughout the continent.

Nobody can escape the consequences of powerful social upheavals and convulsions. It is true that some individuals, especially from a middle class background, may be content to only observe such events. Others are increasingly drawn into big social events and the struggles between the various classes. Che Guevara was content to play the role of an observer at the beginning of his voyage. As it progressed he was eventually increasingly drawn into the revolutionary struggle which ultimately cost him his life.

At the outset of his voyage he and his traveling companion, Alberto, were more interested in having a good time and gaining some medical experience as they toured South America on a Harley Davidson. Che’s recently published Motor Cycle Diaries provide more than adequate examples of this. Drunken brawls, romantic encounters and other, «youthful» adventures, dominated the trip they were making around the continent. As they crossed the border into Chile they passed themselves off as leprologists. The local papers of the towns and villages they passed through even reported the journey of these two young adventurers. The local daily in Temuco carried the headline ‘Two Argentine Experts in Leprology Travel South America on a Motor Cycle.’

Frequently they had to flee local towns and villages having aroused the wrath of the local peasants, especially fathers with attractive daughters. During this first trip Che led the largely bohemian and carefree existence for which he was known as a student at university in Buenos Aires. It was a lifestyle made all the more possible by the relative affluence of his middle class family. At the same time it also reflected the independent spirit which marked his character.

However, whilst it is this aspect of the trip which is the dominant feature in his diary, other experiences had an important impact on him. The poverty and conditions he witnessed increasingly aroused a nascent social awareness. Che’s anger at the indifference shown towards the poor by the ruling class was being stirred during his travels.

Whilst encamped at the Chilean port of Valparaíso, Che was asked to use his medical skills to try and help an elderly woman who it transpired was dying of chronic asthma and a weak heart. There was little he could do but the experience of trying to treat her, surrounded by poverty, evidently lefts its mark. Afterwards he wrote: » There, in the final moments of people whose farthest horizon is always tomorrow, one sees the tragedy that enfolds the lives of the proletariat throughout the whole world; in those dying eyes there is a submissive apology and also frequently, a desperate plea for consolation that is lost in the void, just as their body will soon be lost in the magnitude of misery surrounding us. How long this order of things based on an absurd sense of caste will continue is not within my means to answer, but it is time that those who govern dedicate less time to propagandising the compassion of their regimes and more money, much more money, sponsoring works of social utility.»

Unable to get a boat to Easter Island as they intended Che and his companion headed north, eventually arriving at Chuquicamata, the world’s largest open cast copper mine. «Chuqui» as it is still known in Chile today, was owned by US monopolies such as Anaconda and Kennecott. US ownership of the mines at «Chuqui» was a symbol of imperialist «gringo» domination of Chile. They were eventually nationalised by the Popular Unity government, led by Salvador Allende of the Socialist Party, between 1970 and 1973.

It was here Che and Alberto encountered the harsh realities of the class struggle. They met a former miner and his wife, both members of the then illegal Chilean Communist Party. Che was told the bitter story of repression, disappearances and black-listing used by the company and government against those who tried to fight for workers’ rights.

Che and Alberto succeeded in entering the mine where a strike was being prepared. They were shown around by a foreman who, as Che noted, commented, «..imbecile gringos, they lose millions of pesos a day in a strike in order to deny a few centavos more to a poor worker.»

This visit to Chuqui made a lasting impression on Che and he kept a note book on the experience in which he detailed not only the impressions he had of the workers, but also production techniques and the political importance of the mines for Chile. Referring to the mineral rich mountains he protested about the «exploited proletariat» and environmental destruction of the landscape.

«The hills show their grey backs prematurely aged in the struggle against the elements, with elderly wrinkles that don’t correspond to their geological age. How many of these escorts of their famous brother (Chuquicamata) enclosed in their heavy wombs similar riches to his, as they await the arid arms of the mechanical shovels that devour their entrails, with their obligatory condiment of human lives?» *

However, despite these scenes and the impact they had on Che, he would still need further experiences and witness greater events before he committed himself to the life of a revolutionary.

The next stop on his Odyssey was Peru which proved decisive in Che embracing socialist ideas through an encounter with a prominent leader of the Peruvian Communist Party, Doctor Hugo Pesce. Before arriving in Lima on 1 May 1952, Che and Alberto had the opportunity to encounter the marvel of ancient Inca culture.

As with all visitors, the stark consequences of four hundred years of «white» European conquest in Latin America and brutal suppression of the indigenous peoples of the continent, was undoubtedly engraved into the consciousness of Che during his visit to the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco and the stunning temple ruins of Macchu Picchu.

Pablo Neruda in his celebrated work on Latin America, Canto General (General Song) included a poem, Alturas de Macchu Picchu (The Heights of Macchu Picchu) reflecting the image this ancient ruin high in the Andes provokes in those aspiring to struggle against exploitation.


In Che’s native Argentina the indigenous peoples had been virtually wiped out and their culture destroyed. In Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and some other Latin American countries this was not the case. They had been reduced to the most downtrodden and exploited layers of society, often predominating in the countryside. The mixed race mestizos had developed and formed big sections of the working class in the cities. The rich and powerful ruling classes were, and remain, largely of pure European decent.

This history of conquest and the continued exploitation of the continent by imperialism, especially US imperialism, has resulted in an extremely powerful anti-imperialist consciousness amongst the exploited classes. In the latter half of this century this bitterness has been largely directed at the «yanki gringos», north of the Rio Grande. Che, during his visit to Peru, increasingly absorbed this hatred of the dominant imperialist power.

Upon being forced to leave the free accommodation they had secured with the arrival of a party of «gringo» tourists, Che noted: «Naturally the tourists who travelled in their comfortable buses would know nothing of the conditions of the Indians…The majority of the Americans fly directly from Lima to Cuzco, visit the ruins and then return, without giving any importance to anything else.»

On 1 May the two travellers arrived in Lima. Che met with Dr. Pesce, a leading figure in the Communist Party and follower of the Peruvian philosopher José Maríategui. Maríategui’s primary work was written in 1928 – Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality. This laid great stress on the role of the indigenous people and peasantry in the struggle for socialism.

The discussions with Pesce evidently had a profound effect upon Che. A decade later he sent the doctor a copy of his first book, Guerrilla Warfare, with the inscription, «To Doctor Hugo Pesce who, without knowing it perhaps, provoked a great change in my attitude towards life and society, with the same adventurous spirit as always, but channelled toward goals more harmonious with the needs of America.»

At this stage, despite the discussions he was engaged in with Pesce, Che was still not prepared to embrace openly an identification with «Marxist» ideas. His opinions were however beginning to take shape and he began to express them. In particular he began to openly develop internationalist ideas, at least within the context of Latin America.

At a party to celebrate his twenty fourth birthday in Peru, Che made a toast declaring «…that (Latin) America’s division into illusory and uncertain nationalities is completely fictitious. We constitute a single mestizo race, which from Mexico to the Straights of Magellan presents notable ethnographic similarities. For this, in an attempt to rid myself of the weight of any meagre provincialism, I raise a toast to Peru and for a United America.»

This statement clearly reflected his developing internationalist aspirations. However, they did not constitute a rounded out Marxist analysis and were somewhat simplistic in the assessment of the situation. The aspiration for a unified Latin America has existed since Simón Bolívar (who led armed rebellions against Spain and helped secure independence for much of Latin America) and the 19th century wars of national liberation. Continental unity is still a powerful sentiment amongst the Latin American masses, existing side by side with a national consciousness in each country.

The recurring aspiration of the masses to unify Latin America is not possible to obtain within the context of capitalism because the ruling capitalist class of each Latin American nation have their own economic and political interests to defend. They are also linked by economic and material interests to imperialism from which they cannot break free. Imperialism itself also opposes unity of the continent under capitalism, generally preferring to impose its will on a number of states weaker than itself. The establishment of a democratic federation of Latin American states as a step to unify the continent is only possible by breaking free of capitalism and imperialism and building socialism.

This spirit of internationalism was a theme to which Che returned many times and the idea of an internationally based revolution against imperialism and capitalism was one he championed in later years. The divergence he had with a fully rounded out Marxist analysis was about how this should be done and by which class.

After continuing his tour, arriving in Colombia and Venezuela, Che, having separated from his travel companion and friend, returned to Argentina in order to complete his studies and sit exams at university. The impact of this first journey upon him was evident in his Notas de Viaje, written up from his travel diary. He was no longer the same person who had left Argentina. «The person who wrote these notes died upon stepping once again onto Argentine soil, he who edits and polishes them, ‘I’ am not I; at least I am not the same I that was before. That vagabonding through our ‘América’ has changed me more than I thought.»

Once back in Argentina his family hoped that his days as a vagabond would end and that he would take up his chosen profession, medicine. Che completed his studies during April 1953 and received his doctor’s degree in June, a few days prior to his twenty fifth birthday.

However, the hopes held by his family were rapidly dashed as his second tour of America began. This time it was planned together with his childhood friend, Carlos «Calica» Ferrer, who had dropped out of medical school.

According to Calica, the two friends had talked of going through Bolivia as Che wanted to return to visit the Inca ruins and Machu Picchu. Their longer term plans included Che’s hopes of visiting India and Calica’s quest to see Paris.

Thus by early July when the two travel companions set off by train from Buenos Aires, Che still had no idea of committing himself to a life of disciplined and self-sacrificing revolutionary struggle. The bohemian still dominated his character. Within a relatively short space of time this was to change.

Individuals are drawn to participate in the revolutionary movement for many reasons. Some are mainly motivated by political ideas, others by a revulsion of the existing system, and some through participating in big social upheavals from which they cannot simply stand aside.

The reason the direction of Che’s life took a sharp turn cannot be explained by one single issue. He was undoubtedly interested in political ideas and was outraged by the social conditions which he witnessed. He was also profoundly affected by the powerful social explosions he experienced during his second American tour. These included two revolutionary movements, in Bolivia and then Guatemala, after which his life took an entirely new and unexpected direction.


Οι απόψεις που εκφράζονται στο άρθρο δεν υιοθετούνται απ’ το Ελληνικό Αρχείο Τσε Γκεβάρα.