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

Comment by Ann O'Brien on May 16, 2013 at 9:41am

I was a very young innocent child during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This man wanted to kill me, my family, and my countrymen.  He is my enemy.  Try justifying your modernist relativistic arguments for the Boston Bombers and Al-Qaeda who also grew up in an environment that most westerners can't comprehend and think they are doing right.  

Comment by Gerry Regan on May 16, 2013 at 10:48am

Ann, we might have to agree to disagree on many aspects of this discussion. But fortunately, not on our love for Irish heritage and history, and for the ability to freely and calmly discuss our differences as well as our shared passion. We welcome varying perspectives, for the broaden our own. ;-)


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Comment by Joe Gannon on May 16, 2013 at 12:48pm

Ann, I don't think Che had anything to do with the decisions that put Russian missles in Cuba, and I doubt if he ever wanted those missles to be fired at us and kill all of us, since Cuba would have been totally destroyed in any such exchange. And our own "relativism" (if it was in the cause of anti-communism, ANYTHING was OK) allowed us to support many rightwing dicators around Latin America, and to actually be responsible for helping to put some of them in power. 

And Al Qeada has actually attack us here in our country. Che never did that. We, on the other hand, did support an attack on Cuba (Bay of Pigs) and made several covert attempts to kill Castro. If you read some of the history of US involvement in Cuba from the late 19th century on, it is not one of our proudest histocial legacies. No one's hands were clean at the time.

Comment by Jim Curley on May 16, 2013 at 1:54pm

Charles Mann's books, 1491 and 1493, give interesting insights into the sophisticated societies in Latin America pre-Columbus and the effect of European explorers and exploiterers on those societies post-Columbus. Not what I was taught in school, that's for sure.

Comment by Jim Curley on May 16, 2013 at 2:09pm

Read Charles Mann's books, 1491 and 1493, and learn about the sophisticated societies of pre-Columbus Latin American and the effects of European explorers and exploiters on those societies after Columbus. I sure didn't learn that history in school.

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on May 18, 2013 at 4:24pm

I'm in the middle of watching the two-part film, Che, starring Benicio Del Toro.  It's interesting enough.  I do wonder how much they're glazing over in terms of Guevara's less noble moments, however.  It's clearly a glowing chronicle of his life as a revolutionary.  For instance, the film makers conveniently left a glaring gap between parts one and two of the film where there should have been a depiction of Che's involvement in the new Cuban government.  This is the time in which he is known to have executed a staggering number of opponents.  The film jumps right from the end of the revolution in Cuba to his arrival in Bolivia.  I just find that extremely disingenuous and distasteful from film makers who are supposedly putting out a factual account of the man's life.

Comment by Gerry Regan on May 20, 2013 at 9:37am

If you are interested in understanding Che's formative years, check out the IMDB entry for the superb film, "Motorcycle Diaries."

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on May 20, 2013 at 9:58am

Thanks, Ger ... I'll check it out.

Comment by Mari Dickson on May 23, 2013 at 1:42pm

I think Fanny Parnell's poem is an accurate summation for why Che felt as he did.

I can see both sides of the coin, so remain neutral on this one.

Interesting article.  Thanks Joe Gannon.  :)

Comment by Mari Dickson on May 23, 2013 at 1:47pm

Forgot to mention:   I was in Caracas, Venezuela in 1978. It was either feast or famine. There were these glorious, golden high rises and at their feet were cardboard shacks of poverty. VERY sad situation.

Thanks....

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