Fifty-six years have passed since Fidel Castro and his guerrilla army overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and liberated the island from the grip of United States control. Accompanied by his younger brother Raul and Argentine revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, he marched triumphantly through the streets of Havana declaring a new Cuba. In 1955 Guevara met Fidel and Raul in Mexico City in 1955 and enlisted his services in the revolution that is still the topic of debate and the cause of strain between Cuba and the United States. As the new government was instituted, Guevara served as the island’s Finance Minister, President of the National Bank and chief judge at La Cabana prison. He was a complex character who filled a myriad of roles and strictly devoted to his communist ideology. He was a meticulous note taker and kept many journals of his experiences. In this book are his memories of the Guerrilla campaign and triumph.
In 1953, Che graduated from medical school earning his doctorate degree. His fame will always be him time in Cuba but it should not be forgotten that he was an excellent author with a sharp literary mind and of deep analytical skill. His classic Guerrilla Warfare, is the textbook for revolutionary warfare against a stronger and more intimidating opponent. His speeches about U.S. foreign policy and the state of Cuba have been composed into the short but insightful Che Guevara Speaks. Each book is phenomenal in its own right and recommended reading for students of the revolution and Guevara himself.
Che once said that “at the risk of sounding ridiculous, a true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love”. Love comes in many different forms and for Che, that meant commitment to ideology at the cost of personal sacrifice. But never did he waver in his beliefs and as he explains in the book, the cause was not without problems or hardship and in some cases, extreme violence combined with executive decisions. He was assigned the doctor of the group and eventually given his own command of troops. His efforts in the city of Santa Clara which proved to be the final nail in Batista’s coffin are well known. What is not often mentioned, is the day to day of the guerrilla fighters in the jungles of Cuba. For some it may be hard to imagine a war taking place in a country so small but for Castro and his band of bearded figures, it was a matter of the survival of the nation. As Fidel made decisions and the group of men plotted their fates, Che was there taking notes that are presented here to shine light on the struggle that was their daily lives.
Food rations, discipline, medical conditions and political factors all come into play making the life of the guerrilla a daily struggle between life and death. Treasons and famine proved to be severe threats to the mission, recurring repeatedly throughout the book. But in spite of both, Castro is successful and through Che we see how and why that was so. Towards the end of the book are extras by the publisher and they consist of Che’s letters to Fidel, his parents and many others. Also included is Che’s eulogy on the death of his close friend and revolutionary icon, Camilo Cinfuegos. The letters are a joy to read and I am sure that there were plenty others that have never been published that Che wrote. The tragedy of his death in October, 1967 is that he left behind a widow, children and deprived us from other great books that I am sure he would have written throughout his life. But it is our fortune that he left us with these writings and many others during his time on earth.