After the disappointment I had back in Rosario when I couldn’t get to see Che Guevara’s birth place, I was excited for my first encounter to visit the house, now a museum, where Ernesto Guevara spent most of his childhood years.
About the House
The Guevara family arrived in Alta Gracia, seeking ideal weather conditions to help cure little Ernesto’s asthma. They occupied the house (Villa Nydia) from 1935 to 1943. Villa Nydia was declared a Historical Heritage site in 2000 and opened its doors to visitors in 2001. The museum is set up in a way that visitors can browse through the rooms in a chronological order from his childhood years to his last moments when he was put to death by Bolivian soldiers.
Little Che, Ernestito
In 1927, Ernesto Guevara Lynch married Celia de la Serna and they settled in Puerta Caraguatay (Misiones Province). They decided to travel to Buenos Aires, just when they were expecting the birth of their first child, but had to make a forced stop in Rosario city where Ernesto Guevara was born on June 14, 1928.
Ernesto was born with bronchial problems that soon developed into asthma and this was the main reason the Guevara family moved to Alta Gracia as the region was well known for it’s dry climate and clean air. This move happened late in 1932 and they lived there for the next 11 years.
Despite his asthma, little Ernestito lived an very active childhood playing various sports. He also received home tuition from his mother to prepare for public school. Later he was a keen reader of Emile Zola, Antonio Machado, Anatole France and many others…
The Guevara family moved to Cordoba after leaving Alta Gracia in 1943 where Che met the Granado brothers and began to show a great interest in philosophy. After completing high school, he returned to Buenos Aires and studied medicine.
His trips through Latin America
“…This aimless wandering through our ‘capitalized America’ has triggered major unexpected changes in me…”
Together with Alberto Granado, Ernesto decided to travel through Latin America. They set out on a 500cc Norton, the so-called Poderosa II. They headed for Argentina’s Patagonia region with the intention of crossing over to Santiago in Chile. After going through Peru, and having abandoned their motorcycle along the way, they arrived at the San Pablo Leper colony. Here the natives offered them a raft as a gift, the Mambo Tango, which they used to sail the Amazon river up to where the frontiers of Peru, Brazil and Colombia meet. Upon their arrival in Venezuela, Alberto Granado was admitted to a hospital and Ernesto returned to Argentina to keep the promise made to his mother: to finish his studies and get his degree in medicine. He passed his remaining courses less than a year.
He made his second trip through Latin America with his childhood friend, “Calica” Ferrer. From Buenos Aires, they travelled by train to Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador where they parted ways. He, then went to Guatemala, where he met the Cuban Nico Lopez, who gave him the nickname Che, and Hilda Gadea, an exiled Peruvian member of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, who was later to become his first wife. From there, he left for Mexico where he would meet Fidel Castro and enlist as a field doctor in his future guerilla expeditions.
Revolution, Politics and his last days
“…My future is linked to the Cuban Revolution. It is either Victory or death for me…”
On November 25, 1956, 82 members of the “July 26” Revolutionary Group left the port of Tupan (Mexico) on board the small vessel Grandma heading for Cuba. At Playa de las Coloradas, only 17 of them survived the first onslaught of Batista’s army. Regrouping in the Sierra Maestra, they were joined by local inhabitants and rural workers. Che was named Commander of the budding army. On January 1, 1959, Commaders Camillo Cienfuegos and Ernesto Guevara took Havana; on the following day they entered the city alongside Fidel Castro.
After the revolution, he married his 2nd wife, Aleida March de la Torre, his close aide in the Battle of Santa Clara. They had four children.
After several years working as the Finance and Agricultural Minister in the new Cuba with Fidel he assumed a fake identity to travel to the Congo in Africa to help with the struggle of the rebels there. After several failed attempts to overthrow the Congolese government, due to lack of organization on the rebels part, Che returned to South America to help the revolutionists in Bolivia fight against their oppressive government. It was during one of the battles in Bolivia that he was wounded, captured and later put to death by CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers on October 9th, 1967.
* Above notes were taken from the guide at the museum.
Everyone holds their individual thoughts about Che Guevara, some hate him and some adore him. I don’t fall in to any of these categories but I believe that he was a man that saw the injustice and poverty through his travels and wanted to change the world to make it a better place. He sacrificed his life to bring better lives to others, was committed to this cause and actually took the action to make it happen. Like every story in history, there are motivations and consequences regardless of their intentions… I guess what I’m trying to say is that Che, in my humble thoughts, fought for the ideals he believed in and wrote his own history and I respect him for that.