Answering the Handsome Doctor Question | Che Guevara

I haven't forgotten about the handsome doctor question. Just having trouble condensing my thoughts into a single entry. So many interesting tidbits to share. The long version I have in mind is still too long, the short one too short.

Ernesto 'Che' Guevara - the ArgentineI put down the book weeks ago .. to begin digesting the info. So I've had time to reflect.

What the heck. Let's give it a shot.

What *did* drive a handsome doctor down the path (up the path?) of becoming the world's most popular militant revolutionary? Certainly the most celebrated.

The 'short' answer (.. get ready) » a girl. Yeah.

You probably knew it all along. I mean, what else could it be? What else drives men so crazy?

Yes, there were many things in Ernesto's childhood (.. both genetic & environmental factors) that you could argue would encourage a person to pursue a radical career path (.. tho religion was not among them).

But the only place where I find enough raw emotional energy (.. the nuclear grade stuff) .. is with the GIRL. And this event was closest to the time when he went 'radical'. Certainly closer than any of his childhood experiences.

Her name was Maria del Carmen "Chichina" Ferreyra. She was 16 when they met. The term 'lightning bolt' was used to describe how hard Ernesto fell for her. Feelings were mutual. He was 19 or 20. She was a beauty they say.

Che Guevara »» The Wealthy Become a Target

Chichina was from a wealthy family. Ernesto too came from blue-blood Spanish descendants. But her family was super wealthy.

They didn't mind their daughter dating Ernesto, cuz they found him intelligent and entertaining. But when the question of marriage came up, they discouraged her.

[ Ernesto badmouthed Winston Churchill at the dinner table once, dismissing him as another "ratpack politician." Churchill's name was invoked with reverence in the Ferreyra home, and this insult offended Chichina's father enough that he left the table.

Soderberg, who directed the movie, made it clear (in the supplemental DVD) that Che wasn't the best at winning friends & influencing people. Warm-n-fuzzy he was not, regarding his interpersonal skills. ]

And who did Ernesto go after when he became 'Che'? That's right » the wealthy. I don't think it was a conscious decision. But I think his emotional wounds took long to heal. Permanent scarring? Probably. Pain can be a powerful motivator, especially for the hot-blooded.

There's no way to know for sure, but I bet, if her parents had given their blessing, and the lovers were free to marry (.. and Ernesto had been a fan of Churchill) .. the world would never know anything of a militant revolutionary from Argentina nicknamed 'Che.'

••• today's entry continues here below •••

Heck, didn't the Argentines invent machismo? (.. right before they invented the Tango.)

Becoming a revolutionary seems like an emotional decision .. does it not? I mean, cuz there's a good chance you'll end up dead.

[ Only 22 of the original 82 men who set out for Cuba (aboard the Granma) that November in 1956 lived to see a Cuban sunrise. Those don't seem like very good odds, do they? ]

Almost seems a little suicidal, in that respect. No? [ Literature of most every language contains stories of the heartbroken commiting or attemping suicide. Think about it. ]

The movie does not address his time in Cuba after the revolution. But he executed a lot of people there. Hundreds I believe. I mean, he was in charge of that. And the wealthier you were, the greater your chance that Che's boys would come a-knocking. And if you were ever mean to the peasants, God help you.

So you could argue he had a bone to pick .. with the wealthy & the powerful. Seems like retribution, no? Payback? If he had succeeded in Bolivia, how long do you think 'til he made his way down to Argentina?

Speaking to the 'wealthy' issue Guevara addresses .. what does it say about a country when elections are decided by a candidate's ability to raise money? (.. campaign contributions). How much of the money raised is 'given' without the expectation of a quid pro quo IOU?

Who will deny money's corrupting influence? Besides our politicans, I mean. Are they for $ale? The system seems designed to favor the wealthy. No? (More wealth = more favor.) How can it not? Or maybe it has just become far more conspicuous of late. </soapbox>

In the movie, DVD1 ends with Fidel's gang victoriously on their way to Havana. DVD2 begins with Che's fatal campaign in Bolivia. The entire time in Havana was skipped. That's where Che's detractors focus their attacks.

He looks so serious in the classic stylized image above, but in reality, growing up, Ernesto was a big joker. And something of a daredevil.

The guy who wrote the book (Jon Lee Anderson) just presents the facts. Must be a temptation to draw conclusions along the way. Something I found myself doing constantly while reading.

Havana Cuba »» Asthma

The thing that surprises people MOST about 'Che' the revolutionary .. is that he was an asthmatic.

The first scene in the movie, where they show him tromping thru the Cuban back country, trying to avoid the Cuban military .. he's wheezing very badly. Revolution is difficult enough, even for those in perfect health.

Suffice to say Guevara was highly motivated .. to pursue such a radical & arduous path, despite his asthma. He was originally brought on because of his medical skills .. not because he was a great warrior or soldier.

Ernesto's parents spent huge amounts of intellectual & emotional energy dealing with their son's asthma. It pretty much ruled their life. We're talking South America in the early 1930's.

Che Guevara with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone »» Student of Philosophy

The place where I felt something most in common with Guevara .. came while reading about how he kept a notebook that contained a list of all the most important philosophers of his time, along with a description of their ideas.

I did a similar thing here » Philosophical Thought thru the Centuries. Tho Guevara actually wrote many such notebooks. Six or seven, I think.

The idea there, if he's anything like me, is that you wanna find out what thinkers are thinking, and evaluate whether their ideas are worth further consideration. But I also learned that not every idea which appears valid in theory translates well into real-world application. 

Che personally met with some philosophers, such as Sartre. And with many world leaders (.. photos availble online) .. tho ones the U.S. considered 'bad guys.'

He was also a writer. He kept a diary, a journal. (The closest thing to a 'blog' of his day.) Something I've been known to do.

I feel no special kinship here, but understand that the writer must first clarify ideas in his OWN mind .. before he can have any hope of communicating them clearly to others (.. which is why it took a month before I could even begin crafting today's entry). In this respect, I feel I have some insight.

The book confirms that he spent much time investigating, researching & pondering the ideas he held. Play any of his speeches (via YouTube) and you'll note the conviction that comes as a result of in-depth study. [ It's easy for me to converse about subjects I've already written on. Very easy. ]

I imagine he was something like the Dog, who is also very well read. I never debate politics with the Dog, cuz he has facts. Many facts. And he is eager to deploy them. He toys with me before lowering the boom.

Politics depresses me too much, so I find it a painful topic to research. (I already have plenty to depress me.) Tho I do make an effort to avoid abject ignorance.

Che Guevara smoking a cigar at night »» Poetry

The biggest surprise (after learning about the asthma) was discovering that he would memorize and could recite long passages of poetry. Pablo Neruda (Chile) was his favourite.

I have some of my favourites committed to memory. But very few, cuz it's not easy. I don't know a single person who can recite an entire poem from memory.

He was well read. Very. Lotsa powerful ideas swimming around in his cabeza. The effect these ideas had on him would be Factor #2 on my list .. after the girl (.. and her über wealthy family of obstructionists). These ideas were the dynamite, so to speak. While the demise of his relationship with Chichina created the spark that lit the revolutionary fuse. I believe.

Can't have one without the other, but we always wanna know what lit the fuse. Cuz it usually makes for a more dramatic story. [ 'Timing' would probably be #3 on my list. ]

So he spent untold hours molding his thoughs to idealistic concepts & causes .. cuz that's what poets & philosophers usually write about. But the asthma is what embued his ideals with perseverance .. cuz that's what he spent much time in bed doing. (Reading philosophy & poetry.)

I could stop here .. or go on. This seems like a good place to wrap for today. Many more interesting tidbits to share. Maybe El Che round 2 next month.

Cuban kids in Havana »» Parental Discipline

Okay. Scratch that. One more thing .. that needs to go in the initial response .. is » his parents did not discipline him much. Maybe not at all.

They felt guilty about Ernesto's asthma. His mom took him swimming (in a river) in May .. which is like our November, here, cuz their winter comes when we have summer. (Buenos Aires lies on a latitude similar to Atlanta.)

Ernesto was only 2 at the time. That's when the attacks began. They were very bad. And they lasted for days. Here's a quote (pg 18):

The father was never able to discipline his eldest son, and Celia (his mom) never tried.

So you could say he was babied. Pampered. Treated with kid gloves. Home-schooled 'til age 9. One more quickie before I quit (pg 21):

They would evolve and mature in the coming years, but the character traits that later acquired legendary dimension were already present in the boy » his physical fearlessness, inclination to lead, stubbornness, competitive spirit, and self discipline.

Che Guevara sitting at a microphone »» Self Discipline

The self discipline came as a result of the asthma, or should I say » dealing with it. His diet was restricted during an attack. Severely. Sometimes for a week or two. Afterwards he was known to consume large quantities.

Ernesto wasn't the only sibling with asthma, so it likely had genetic roots (.. from the mom), and not a result of reckless parenting (.. as his dad sometimes accused the mom).

So his legendary self discipline seems to have been an adaptive result of dealing with recurrent adversity (asthma) .. his entire life. Hmmm.

But if he wasn't in bed, he was out raising hell. Fearless daredevil. All boy. Parenting this teenager was no picnic.

The highlight of his 'career' came at the United Nations, where he gave a fiery speech on December 11, 1964. [ Funny how both sides claim to be fighting for FREEDOM, while accusing the other of trying to supress it. Actions always speak louder. ]

One final thought » you'll never see a photo of Che looking old & wrinkled .. like Fidel. Were he alive today, he'd be 82. Yet he will always be pictured vibrant .. trying to change his world .. one country at a time. Looking vital, vigorous, handsome. That's what assassination in the prime of life does for you.

Che Guevara mural »» The Unites States in Latin America

I should probably close with a quote from Che himself.

On his trip thru South America (beginning with Argentina » Chile » Peru » Columbia » Venezuela...) popularized by the movie (Mototcycle Diaries) that was made from his journal .. he writes about Chile, before heading into Peru (regarding how the U.S. owned & ran the world's biggest open-pit mine there, which was the primary source of Chile's wealth):

"The biggest effort Chile should make is to shake the Yankee from its back. That task is, at least for the moment, Cyclopean, given the dollars invested and the ease with which they exert economic pressure the moment their interests seem threatened." (pg 79)

Rad note: This actually came true, tho not until 1970 when Salvador Allende became the "hemisphere's first popularly elected Marxist Socialist president" .. whose first priority was to nationalize the mines. However, within 3 years, Allende's government was "violently overthrown by a U.S.-backed military coup" led by Pinochet on September 11th, 1973.

Which makes his caveat somewhat prescient. And don't forget the U.S. was in Cuba when he wrote that (early 1952). Less than five years later (December 1956), Ernesto would be on the boat (heading to Cuba) that would make him Che. The circle closes.

And .. as you can see, there was no love lost between Che & the U.S. - which he considered a great evil. A League of Nations report said Chile, Peru, and Bolivia suffered the world's worst depression. Argentina couldn't have been very far behind.

[ Well eDawg, how did I do? ]

P.S. - This is definitely longer than I hoped to keep it. Coulda easily broke it into two separate entries. (Something I may yet do.) But there is simply too much info necessary for even the most basic response.

Yet I feel confident the novice will be hard-pressed to find a document that paints a more revealing & insightful image in fewer words.

I've tried to remain objective. But it's obviously impossible to discuss the life of someone as polarizing as Che Guevara without injecting bias .. because the issues he raises affect both people & society on such a deep level.

If you want more facts and less speculation .. to make up your own mind .. John Lee does a much better job.

For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » ernesto che guevara cuban revolutionary

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on August 10, 2010 8:10 AM.

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