On October 9th, 1967, Ernesto "Che" Guevara was
executed by Bolivian
soldiers, trained, equipped and guided by U.S. Green Beret and CIA
operatives. October 8th is celebrated in Cuba as the Day of the Heroic
Guerilla in his memory.
Day of the Heroic Guerilla
Today, October 8, the world recognizes the most famous and prominent revolutionary of the 20th century, Ernesto "Che" Guevara de la Serna. In Cuba, the site of his final resting place, this day is known as "The Day of the Heroic Guerilla." Argentinean born, the doctor met Cuban revolutionaries in exile in Mexico. After meeting Dr. Fidel Castro, he signed up to be the 2nd member of Castro's revolutionary army (the 1st was Castro's brother, Raul Castro) and returned to Cuba in a poorly equipped ship called the Granma in 1956 to wage a guerilla war.
They set up a rebel base in the Sierra Mastra Mountains. At first, Che was the field unit's doctor but after volunteering for some of the more daring missions, he grew in prominence. Despite his severe asthma, Che grew from a soldier to a military commander. In the final stages of the revolutionary war, he captured the strategic city of Santa Clara which facilitated the fall of Havana to the rebel army. A true internationalist, he resigned from the Cuban government to go fight for revolution in first Africa and then Bolivia. On October 8, 1967, he was captured alive by Bolivian armed forces, who were trained in anti-guerilla warfare by the American CIA. Anyone who knows Guevaran history can conclude that he was not one to be taken alive. In fact, his rifle had become incapacitated and thus, he did not have the option to die fighting and was captured alive. He was executed the next day.
The Bolivian authorities buried his body in a secret location because they feared that people would build a shrine on his final resting place and that it would turn into a pilgrimage site. His martyrdom, nevertheless, survived and his revolutionary message grew to be bigger in death than in life, so much so, that they even made songs dedicated to him on the other side of the globe. After restoring diplomatic ties with one another, Cuba sent an excavation team to Bolivia in 1997 and retrieved Che's body and brought it back to Cuba and buried it in the city that he captured in the revolutionary war, Santa Clara. 38 years after his death, his tomb is Cuba's main tourist attraction and is an international pilgrimage site. Che certainly left behind a living legacy of resistance.
Farewell Letter to Fidel
Though Guevara had returned to Cuba on March 14, 1965, his absence from
public functions soon excited comment and, as the months went by, became
international mystery. Finally, on October 3, during the televised
of the presentation of the newly established Central Committee of the
Communist Party of Cuba, Castro, in the presence of Guevara's wife and
children, read the following letter. Castro explained that the letter had
been delivered to him back in April and that Guevara had left the timing
its disclosure to Castro's discretion. He had delayed so long in making
public out of concern for Guevara's security and, for the same reason,
could not divulge his present whereabouts.
* * *
Fidel: At this moment I remember many things -- when I met you in Marfa
Antonia's house, when you suggested my coming, all the tensions involved
One day they asked who should be notified in case of death, and the real
possibility of that fact affected us all. Later we knew that it was true,
that in revolution one wins or dies (if it is a real one). Many comrades
fell along the way to victory.
Today everything is less dramatic, because we are more mature. But the
is repeated. I feel that I have fulfilled the part of my duty that tied
to the Cuban Revolution in its territory, and I say good-bye to you, the
comrades, your people, who are already mine.
I formally renounce my positions in the national leadership of the party,
my post as minister, my rank of major, and my Cuban citizenship. Nothing
legal binds me to Cuba. The only ties are of another nature -- those
cannot be broken as appointments can.
Recalling my past life, I believe I have worked with sufficient honor and
dedication to consolidate the revolutionary triumph. My only serious
failing was not having confided more in you from the first moments in the
Sierra Maestra, and not having understood quickly enough your qualities
a leader and a revolutionary.
I have lived magnificent days, and I felt at your side the pride of
belonging to our people in the brilliant yet sad days of the Caribbean
Seldom has a statesman been more brilliant than you in those days. I am
also proud of having followed you without hesitation, identified with
way of thinking and of seeing and appraising dangers and principles.
nations of the world call for my modest efforts. I can do that which is
denied you because of your responsibility as the head of Cuba, and the
has come for us to part.
I want it known that I do it with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow: I
here the purest of my hopes as a builder, and the dearest of those I
And I leave a people who received me as a son. That wounds me deeply. I
carry to new battlefronts the faith that you taught me, the revolutionary
spirit of my people, the feeling of fulfilling the most sacred of duties:
to fight against imperialism wherever it may be. This comforts and heals
the deepest wounds.
I state once more that I free Cuba from any responsibility, except that
which stems from its example. If my final hour finds me under other
my last thought will be of this people and especially of you. I am
your teaching, your example, and I will try to be faithful to the
final consequences of my acts.
I have always been identified with the foreign policy of our revolution,
and I will continue to be. Wherever I am, I will feel the responsibility
of being a Cuban revolutionary, and as such I shall behave. I am not
that I leave my children and my wife nothing material. I am happy it is
that way. I ask nothing for them, as I know the state will provide enough
for their expenses and education.
I would like to say much to you and to our people, but I feel it is not
necessary. Words cannot express what I would want them to, and I don't
think it's worth while to banter phrases.
Ever onward to victory! Our country or death!
I embrace you with all my revolutionary fervor.
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San Francisco, CA 94110
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