Che Guevara: Father of Revolution, Son of Galway

By Joseph E. Gannon

"Now are you men, or are you kine, ye tillers of the soil? Would you be free, or evermore the rich man's cattle toil? The shadow on the dial hangs that points the fatal hour - Now hold your own! or branded slaves, forever cringe and cower."  Fanny Parnell (1849 - 1882)

He was one of the icons of the '60s revolutionaries; a hero then, and still today, to many in the third world living under oppressive right wing regimes. He helped Fidel Castro win his revolution in Cuba and at the height of his career he was near the top of the list of the US governments' most hated men. He was, of course, Earnesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna, better known to the world as: Che Guevara.

Che (a nickname of Italian origin, meaning friend or buddy) was born in 1928 and grew up in a middle class family in Rosario, Argentina. His father had a library which included books by Marx and Engels, and Freud; books which young Earnesto devoured. He was affected by the dictatorship of Peron in Argentina and later by the poverty and misery he saw among his people when traveling through the country on his bicycle. After he had finished his academic career, qualifying as a doctor and specializing in dermatology, his experiences in Guatamala, where the CIA was instrumental in overthrowing the government and installing a military dictatorship, were the final steps in his radicalization.

Che met Fidel Castro in Mexico City in September of 1954 and soon joined Castro's group, training as a revolutionary on a Mexican farm. He had found his calling. Che was in the group of revolutionaries that sailed for Cuba in November of 1956. A group of about 80 left from Mexico, but only 12 made it safely to Cuba. Just 12 men, and yet in less than three years these 12 would conquer the country; of such stuff are legends made. Though Che started out as the doctor for the group, he was soon a Commandante, leading men in battle.

Che was involved with the Cuban government for some years after the revolution, but he had the heart of a revolutionary and was soon out of the government and in Africa. His attempt at exporting revolution to the Belgian Congo was a failure but through the attempt his legend grew. He soon moved on to Bolivia, a country he thought was ripe for an uprising.

He was handsome, well educated, a man who could have had a comfortable life as a doctor; yet he gave up all this, putting his life on the line for the things he believed In the anti-Vietnam, anti-American era of the '60s, Che became the poster boy (literally) for revolution. But his life would come to a violent end on October 8th, 1967, when he was captured and executed by Bolivian soldiers. His body was put on display by the Bolivians and then put into a secret, unmarked grave along with some other revolutionaries.

In 1997 Che's body was found, dug up, and returned to Cuba. His remains were met by Castro and members of Guevara's family. Eventually his body will be placed in a mausoleum in the square that bears his name.

You might wonder why this article on Che is here, where we claim to run news and historical information with an Irish connection. The answer is in his name: Earnesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna. The Lynch that you see there comes from Che's grandmother, Anna Isabel Lynch. Che Guevara's grandmother, Ana, was a descendant of Patrick Lynch, who was born in Lydacan, Galway in 1715.

Che's father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, said in a 1969 interview: "The first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels. Che inherited some of the features of our restless ancestors. There was something in his nature which drew him to distant wandering, dangerous adventures and new ideas".

Though one may, and many do, disagree with Che's politics, it is hard not to admire a man who puts everything on the line for his beliefs; especially one for whom life could have been so easy and prosperous, not to mention long. Somehow we feel that his Galway connections go a long way toward explaining a statement Castro once made when speaking of Che. "It will be difficult to find a man who is his equal. A revolutionary purer than he or more exemplary than he."

In his last letter to his children, Che wrote: ".... always remain capable to feeling deeply whatever injustice is committed." Che Guevara: father of revolution; son of Galway; one of the "Wild Geese."



Bibliography

Anderson, John Lee: "Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life," Grove Press
Hyams, Edward: "A Dictionary of Modern Revolution," Taplinger Publishing

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Views: 5115

Tags: Americas, Diaspora History, Galway, Guevara, History of Ireland, Military History, revoluntionaries

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on May 14, 2013 at 10:24am

Wouldn't be a big fan of "Che" myself, but interesting article here, Joe.


Founding Member
Comment by Mike morley on May 14, 2013 at 11:10am

...And Holy Ghost of Communism. Lest we forget though, the progress- Che and Co. brought to Cuba. They saved Cubans millions of pesos and months of civil strife over the years simply by eliminating elections and the right to vote. Perhaps BHO can accomplish the same here - No more red state vs. blue state; just a united state. :) 


Admin
Comment by Joe Gannon on May 14, 2013 at 1:42pm

Mike, I think a comparison between Che and Obama would be a stretch of nearly monumental proportions. I'm trying to think of even one thing that would be comparable, and I can't.

Comment by Gerry Regan on May 14, 2013 at 3:38pm

Certainly, Mike and Joe, Che Guevara is a controversial figure, and an iconic figure, and has millions of admirers, as well as many detractors worldwide. We invite advocates for both views to make their cases here, though we are primarily interested, I'd say, in the influence of his Irish heritage, if any, on his choices, as well as his Irish family history.

Comment by Ann O'Brien on May 15, 2013 at 4:41pm

Thank you Che for the Cuban missile crisis pointed at over 40 million (wasn't that the percentage) of Irish Americans and I am sure all the Cubans in exile in Miami thank him too.

Comment by Ann O'Brien on May 15, 2013 at 4:45pm

and I am sure our first Irish American President Kennedy thanks that great grandson of Galway for the missiles as well.

Comment by Gerry Regan on May 15, 2013 at 5:21pm

Ann, interesting point. I'm not studied on Che Guevara, to be sure, and we certainly don't hold him forth as a paragon of virtue. He did seem to be highly principled, one might say, and committed to his beliefs. He seemed greatly moved by the poverty engendered by what he sensed was capitalism run amok in Latin America. It served the rich, and straight-jacketed the poor, one might argue. Certainly he seemed to.


Admin
Comment by Joe Gannon on May 15, 2013 at 7:26pm

Ann, I think sometimes we don't understand how much different life is in some of the 3rd world areas like South America. In the western world, mainly because of unionization and some laws that were passed to restrain the excesses of our economic system that started in the late 19th century, the capitalist system became far more fair than it was or still is in the 3rd world. In South America when Guevara was growing there were basically two classes of people, the rich and the dirt poor. Growing up in that sort of environment can radicalize anyone, even someone who grows up on the "have" side of that situation. We think of communism as something that will destroy a system we have that provides a good living for most people. But if you were growing up in the society he grew up in you would see it as something that could help the millions of people get out of poverty.

Capitalism can be a very good system with some laws to restrain it and if working people have some leverage against it's abuses. But when it is allowed to operate without any restraints as was happening in South America, greed runs wild and virtually everything ends up in the hands of a tiny percentage of the population. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a communist, but I also could not tell you for sure that I would not have become one if I grew up observing the sort of predatory capitalism that existed then in South America.  I don’t think anyone who grew up in a western nation could. We didn’t walk that mile in his shoes.

Comment by Ann O'Brien on May 16, 2013 at 12:43am

I AM talking about social justice.  Che did not cure cancer, he did not cure aids.  He did not work within the system like the Irish in America did to gain political power and change the system where they were hated and dirt poor.  He used violence and destruction to destroy a society and displace people.  He created nothing.  He accomplished nothing in the name of Social Justice or in any way came close to anything like the accomplishments of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  He was just violent.


Admin
Comment by Joe Gannon on May 16, 2013 at 8:56am

Ann, I understand what you are saying, but you are comparing the United States, where people had rights that are guaranteed through our constitution to the brutal dictatorships of South America where attempting to work within the system to gain political power and change things for the better had only two likely outcomes, death or long imprisonment.

The sad fact is that in non-democratic countries sometimes only armed revolt will change anything. And though it’s true that by the mid-19th century Irish immigrants in the US could use the system to get ahead, you might also note that the people of that country also had to take up arms before they we able to set up that democratic government. I agree that communist governments have ended up often being as bad or worse than the dictatorships they replaced in many cases, but I think that many men like Che had their ideas shaped by growing up in an environment most westerns can’t comprehend, and he did believe what he was doing was right.

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