Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Che’s last days

The Bolivian government has just announced its intention to publish a fascimile edition of Ernesto Che Guevara’s handwritten diaries. They concern his time in Bolivia, where he was trying to spark a revolution, and where he was eventually caught and shot. Some photos of the diaries are available online, as is some information about Che’s very last diary entry in which he is worrying about the reliability of an old woman goat herd.

Guevara is one of most iconic revolutionary figures of the 20th century. He was born into a middle-class family in Rosario, Argentina, and studied medicine at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1953, he moved to Guatemala, joined the pro-communist regime until it was overthrown, and then fled to Mexico, where he joined Fidel Castro and other Cuban rebels. In the first half of the 1960s, he served as Cuba’s minister for industry in Castro’s government, but then in 1965, he left for Bolivia where he became involved again in revolutionary activities. He was captured by the Bolivian army and executed.

According to Reuters, the documents just unveiled by the Bolivian authorities include a diary of his time fomenting revolution in Bolivia, written in two frayed notebooks, a logbook and a few black-and-white photographs. Apparently, they disappeared from an army vault in the early 1980s, but resurfaced when put up for sale at a London auction house, and were then bought by the Bolivian authorities. Since then, they’ve been locked away, in Banco Central de Bolivia.

Guevara’s reputation as a diarist soared with The Motorcycle Diaries. Originally, the book was published in Cuba in 1993, and then an English version came out in 2003. The following year, a film version was released and became a huge success. However, the Bolivian diary was first published much earlier, the year after Guevara’s death, in 1968, by Stein & Day, and has been reproduced in various versions since then - see Abebooks for example.

Although the text of the diary is well known, the Bolivian government has now asked Plural Editores to publish a fascimile of the handwritten books, and this should be available later this year. According to Pablo Groux, Bolivia’s vice-minister for culture,  it is one of the projects put forward by Comité Bolivia to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Guevara’s death (9 October 1967). The JornadaNet.Com website has put a few photos of the diary online.

As far as I can tell there are no substantial extracts of Che Guevara’s diaries available on the web, but The Diary Junction does provide a couple of useful links. One of them is for a page by Peter Kornbluh called The Death of Che Guevara: Declassified. Here is the paragraph about Che’s last diary entry:

‘October 7, 1967: The last entry in Che’s diary is recorded exactly eleven months since the inauguration of the guerrilla movement. The guerrillas run into an old woman herding goats. They ask her if there are soldiers in the area but are unable to get any reliable information. Scared that she will report them, they pay her 50 pesos to keep quiet. In Che’s diary it is noted that he has “little hope” that she will do so. (Harris, 126; CIA Weekly Review, “The Che Guevara Diary,” 12/15/67)’

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