Subtitled: My Life With Che Guevara, by his second wife Aleida March. I picked up this short book in the library because I realized that I knew almost nothing about Che Guevara. Or the Cuban Revolution, for that matter. In fact the only thing I could remember was this poster of Che that seemed to be on everybody’s wall when I was in college in the ’70’s:
Even then, it seemed to me to be a symbol of young adult rebellion and angst. Not that I was immune to that.
Back to Che Guevara. Che was an Argentinian doctor who joined up with Castro when he was in exile in Mexico, to be the “team” doctor so to speak. But Che was a strange combination of conflicting qualities. He was a philospher, a dreamer, and an idealist, who was also a crack military strategist and fierce warrior.
Once the Revolution was successful, Che remained in Cuba for some years helping to stabilize the government–not a traditional role for a fighter–but he was a revolutionary at heart. More or less a professional one. He began to feel he was not doing enough, and that he could spark a Cuban-style revolution in all of South America. For his starting point, he chose Bolivia. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Bolivian army executed him, and after a period of public display, he was buried in a secret location. They only revealed the location 30 years later, and his remains were uncovered and shipped to Cuba.
So now to bring it to the personal. I live in Florida. One of my employees is Cuban. He came over in a boat with his mother in 1967, when by my calculation, he was 5 years old. His father followed a year later by floating over on an inner tube. According to the employee, Ruben, that was before the “wet foot/dry foot” policy.
Any discussion of Cuba or Cuba policy is a very touchy subject in Florida. Other than very superficial discussions, I’ve stayed well clear of it with Ruben. But he fairly recently mentioned that he’s thinking of becoming a citizen. He never wanted to before, because he always hoped he would be able to go back to Cuba as a citizen. (Why?) All he knows of Cuba is what his parents have told him. As far as I can tell, it was the land of milk and honey before Castro.
Well, not really. So I told him about reading the book and he was very interested. It has many photographs and he was very anxious to see them. I ventured the opinion that Batista was not a good guy either. And he said that once as a child, he ventured the same opinion (from that evil propaganda machine–education). He said to his mother, You know, Batista was every bit as bad as Castro. He said she slapped him so hard he almost landed in the next room. But she too was a product of her environment. Most of her brothers were in the Batista regime, and the entire family would have been killed had they not been able to escape.
So here’s my take on it: it hasn’t worked out too well for Castro. Mistakes on his part and mistakes on ours as well. Pre-revolution, the U.S. (along with Batista) basically owned Cuba. What U.S. companies didn’t flee, Castro nationalized, leading to a domino effect. Then came the U.S. embargo, so that no one could even go back. He isolated himself, and we helped.
My second thought: Batista’s Cuba reminds me of Syria. When you push people to the point whether they don’t care if they live or die, Cuba and Syria are what you get.
So if you don’t like my interpretation, JFK agreed with me.