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This is a story about Argentina, England and love.  It will be published in several parts as it is being written, so follow the story as it develops. You can find me on facebook as Kenny Beechmount.

 

 

The Journal

By Kenny Beechmount

Roger had been busy for days going through the contents of his father’s estate. Earl had left him a sizable amount of money and his house with all its contents, which proved to be very substantial. It wasn’t just the furniture and the large number of books in the library, but also all the boxes that were filled with old files, documents and correspondence. Roger and Vivian had decided to sell their own house, which they had bought more than 15 years ago, and move into his father’s house, named “Brighton House”, after his great grandfather, who had built it. Vivian had always loved that house because of its ample size and classic architecture. She thought It was much more suited to their lifestyle than their own house.

He had to decide what to do with the many boxes of documents, but he didn’t want to arbitrarily discard them without going through their content first. Vivian was super busy with her architect business and Roger was working long hours as a bridge design engineer for the consulting civil engineering firm he worked for. He decided to take his time and go through them when his schedule permitted, which was mainly on weekends.

Earl Brighton’s career as a specialist in tropical agronomy had brought him to many different parts of the world and he would frequently be away for more than a year at a time. The long absences created a feeling of lonesomeness for both Vivian and Roger, but it was the way life turned out for them.

Some weeks after Earl’s funereal, Roger and Vivian moved into Brighton House. They had given away some of the furnishings plus odds and ends they didn’t need and some of the boxes with his files and work records had been looked through and burned, not having any relevance to anyone. Earl’s laboratory had also been cleared out and the rest of the boxes had been stored there.

Weeks went by and nothing unusual happened, that is, until Roger was going through some of his father’s boxes on a Saturday afternoon. Inside one of them, he found a shoe box with a couple of letters and what appeared to be a journal of of some kind. He thought it was letters Earl had written to his mother, when he was overseas, but both letters were dated 1929, 14 years after he had married Carissa, and nine years after he was born. He opened the first one it and began to read.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sep 18, 1929

Dear Earl,

First, I want to thank you for the lovely dinners and the lovely time we had together. You are such a gentleman, so marvellously funny to be with and I look forward to your return later this year- in fact, I can hardly wait.

The office of the Department of Agriculture is arranging your next contract, which will include some soil surveys and an assessment of the fruit growing areas north of here. You must prepare yourself for some extensive travelling by car and, as you have already experienced, the roads are not the best.

You asked me to keep you abreast of the political situation here in Argentina. I can tell you that President Hipólito Yrigoyen was only elected last year. This is his second time, as he was first elected for a term in 1916. Both houses of congress are controlled by his party, the Radicals, most of whom are middle class political professionals, who favour social reform. There is a lingering unrest amongst the conservatives, who feel the experiment in democracy threatens the socioeconomic net in the country, but the government’s agricultural policies have been quite successful and for the moment, things appear stable. The military have undergone changes in the last decade and it seems the officer core, many of whom are sons of the landed aristocracy, is unhappy with the entire political system, as are scores inside the church hierarchy, who also represent the old elite. Many of them own huge estates (estancias, as they are called here) with impressive mansions. You will see some of them when you come again.

As you know, Carlos Gardel, our national tango idol, is back in Buenos Aires again. He returned after touring Paris and Madrid in June together with the two guitarists Barbieri and Aguilar and they are now playing in all the best restaurants and bistros here in the city. I love the songs “Adiós Muchachos, Cuando tú no estás, Lo han visto con otra” and so many more. Too bad there wasn’t time to go and dance when you when you were here. Gardel is immensely popular.

As soon as I receive the contract proposals from the Minister of Agriculture’s secretary, I’ll will look them over and send the documents to you. Don’t forget to address any correspondence related to the contract to me at the following address

Srta. Andrea Zucaro, Abogado

Derecho Departamento Legal

Ministerio de Economía

Avenida Del Libertador 2800

Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Please send personal letters to my home address. My secretary opens all my mail (my instructions) before she gives it to me and she is quite inquisitive.

I can’t wait to see you and hold you in my arms again.

Con mucho amor

Andrea

“Vivian! Come in here” Roger shouted. You’ve got to see this”. Vivian came running into the old lab. “What is it, Roger, what’s so important?” she asked.

“Look, I found a shoebox with some letters that appear to be some kind of personal correspondence of dad’s. There is also a journal of a kind. I just read the first letter from 1929, and it looks like father had a love affair in Argentina”, he said

He handed the letter to Vivian who began to read it. “Oh my God she said, it’s clear as crystal he had an affair with this woman, Andrea.” She looked into the box with the letters and grabbed the second one. “Well, let’s see, the next letter, she said. It is also postmarked 1929. She unfolded the pages in great anticipation and began to read it aloud.

Brighton House,

Farnborough, England,

October 8, 1929

Dearest Andrea,

Thanks for your letter, which arrived yesterday. The marvel of the new transatlantic ocean liners surely do speed up the mail service between Europe and the American continent. In the old days, your letter would not have arrived for another two weeks or more at the best. SS Bremen, a German ocean liner, made the trip from Bremerhaven to New York in four days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes in July of this year. I guess the mail to Argentina is then forwarded from New York to Montevideo and then to Buenos Aires via mail steamer. There is talk of perhaps getting trans-Atlantic flights in the near future. Some flights have already crossed the Atlantic between continental Europe and America, but no announcements of commercial flights have been made yet. Time wise that would be a huge advantage over travel by ocean liners and think about the affect it would have on international mail service

Let me hasten to say that meeting you was one of the most exciting things that ever happened in my life. You are an incredibly beautiful and gracious woman, someone I have dreamt of meeting all my life. I was completely honest with you when I explained I was married and had a nine-year old son, but there is much more to tell, especially after I made love to you the night before I left. You have no idea how wonderful it was. I never have I felt as happy in my life.

After my son Roger was born in 1920, my wife changed in ways that are hard to explain. Our love life fell apart or perhaps I should say “crashed into a wall” and never recovered. No matter how hard I tried to revive it, nothing worked. For the last nine years, I have outwardly projected being happily married, but the truth is quite the opposite. I thought about divorcing Carissa, but I think Roger is too young yet. He needs a father as well as a mother. I’m essentially quite unhappy about the whole depressing situation.

I have worried a great deal about the stock market the last few of month and decided to cash in all my investments. I bought gold instead and stored it in a security box in a bank in Zurich, Switzerland. Since I made a very handsome profit on my investments, the amount of gold bullion I bought was very substantial, although I had to pay a premium over the world price of $21.00 per ounce. Don’t ask me how I managed to acquire the gold, since there are some questions yet as to the legality of a private citizen owning gold bullion here in England. If you or your family have any investments in stocks or bonds, you should consider cashing them in. The stock markets around the world, especially in New York, are running wild with uncontrolled speculation. Surely, this cannot continue and sooner or later some kind of adjustment to the inflated values must happen, which will mean losses for a lot of people.

You said your family was in the cattle business. Do they have a ranch? Since Britain imports a lot of beef from Argentina, one never knows if perhaps our next roast beef came from your family’s cattle business (I’m joking). We also import a lot of grain from your country. Britain never could grow enough of their own to satisfy the market.

Before I return to Argentina, is there anything I can bring you from Europe or New York? I may book on that ocean liner “Bremen” if the departure time fits with my plans.

I’m anxiously awaiting the contract documents so I can plan my next trip and be with you again. I’ll sign off in the same way as you did.

Con mucho amor

Earl

“I’m astounded”, said Roger. “I had no idea there was anything like that going on, I mean Earl having a lover overseas, and this is before mother died- it’s unimaginable to me. I don’t think mother had any inkling about anything untoward”. “If she did, she never let on to me”.

“Look, Roger, there’s something odd going on here”, said Vivian. “We just read a letter that Earl had sent to Argentina”. “Look at the stamp; it has been cancelled, so it must have been sent”. “How can the letter be here then?” “There is no indication it has been returned from Argentina”.

“I have no idea” said Roger and picked up the next letter from the bundle marked “A-2” 1929 and began reading.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Noviembre 3, 1929

Querido Earl,

I received your letter two days ago and how right you were with the stock market. The New York stock exchange crash that culminated on October 29th must have been a horrible situation for thousands of investors all over the world. I’m uncertain just how bad the crash has affected investors in Argentina. Many of the wealthy people here own land, rather than stocks and bonds and few if any amongst the working class have any investments and if they did, it would be in Argentinean businesses. My father is a land owner, having inherited the family estate from his father and he in turn from my great grandfather, who came from a small village called Dicomano, north of Firenze in Italy. He married the daughter and only child of a wealthy landowner and thus came into possession of the estate. I’m also the only child of my parents. The estate is near the town of Tres Arrollos, in the province of Buenos Aires.

The department of agriculture have approved the contract for the soil surveys and economic assessment of specified fruit growing regions. I should have the documents on my desk within a week and will forward them to you pronto. If you have any questions, please cable me. Assuming all goes well, you should be able to depart for Argentina in January next year and frankly, I can hardly wait for your return. Will you be staying at Hotel Castellar again?

On the political scene, things are much the same. There is uncertainty with respect to exports of grain and beef, given that the crash no doubt will affect the international markets and some reduction in exports has already been noted. There is upward pressure on interest rates, but no run on the banks as of yet.

You may want to investigate the possibility of flying from Panama to Buenos Aires. A company called Panagra now provides air transportation for passengers, mail and cargo over a 4,251-mile network of routes from Panama, Through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The service only began this year, but seems to be growing in popularity. It would probably cut your travel time by one week, since you will only have to sail from New York to Panama and then fly from there.

All girls like to be spoiled, but you don’t have to bring me anything, Earl- just yourself.

Con mucho amor

Andrea

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Ricardo Jaimes Freyre was born in Tanca, Peru, in1868 and died in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1933) Poet, essayist and Bolivian playwright he was the primary representative of modernism in the literature of his country. His constant political and cultural activity is by and large reflected in the variety of approaches that can be seen in all his work. The son of a diplomat from Potosi, Bolivia, he also served as ambassador and diplomat, in the United States and Brazil and later as his country’s representative to the League of Nations in Geneva , in addition to being foreign minister.  He is well known for his poetry and has written a number of short stories, of which the following is a good example.  The story reflects, to some extent, the exploitation that the Altoplano indians were exposed to, and perhaps one shouldn’t say “were”, but that’s outside the aim of this discussion.  Ricardo’s description of the two “tourists” who attempted to steal land from the Indians is a blend of romanticism with respect to describing the atmosphere and natural surroundings, perhaps a reflection of the poet within him, and  a chilling rendition of the events leading to the murder of the two travelers.  His use of the Spanish language is  colourful, poetic and a joy to experience.

—————————————————————–

 

 

 

IN THE MOUNTAINS

by

Ricardo Jaimes Freyre

 

The two travelers drank the last glass of wine, standing next to the bonfire. The cold breeze of the morning was quivering the brims of their wide felt hats lightly. The fire was already fading under the wavering and pallid light of dawn; vaguely illuminating the ends of the wide courtyard, and painted over the shadows at the base of the heavy clay columns that supported the straw thatched roof.

Tied to an iron ring, fixed to one of the columns, two fully harnessed horses were waiting with their heads down and, with difficulty, chewing on some long blades of grass.   Beside the wall, a young Indian was squatting with a bag full of corn in one hand and with the other flicking the yellow kernels into his mouth.

When the travelers were preparing to leave, another two Indians arrived at the large, rustic door. They raised one of the thick beams attached to the walls that was blocking the way and walked into the vast courtyard. Their appearance were humble and miserable, and even more miserable and humble because of their open jackets, their coarse shirts opened to their chest, the leather strings, full of knots, on their sandals, and by the shapeless caps, covering their ears, the ends joining under the chin these weird caps of gray wool. They slowly approached the travelers who already were mounted on their horses, while the Indian guide attached a bag of corn to his waist and firmly tied his sandal laces to his legs.

The travelers were young, the tall one, very white, cold and hard looking; the other, small, dark, with a cheerful appearance. – Sir muttered one of the Indians. The white traveler turned to him. – “Hello; How are you Thomas”  “Sir, can I have my horse?” “Say again, imbecile! Do you want me to travel on foot”? I have given you mine instead, that’s enough. But your horse is dead.

“Without a doubt, it is dead; but that’s because I’ve ridden it 15 hours at a time. It was a great horse! Yours is worthless;” look at it moving the ribs and its legs. Do you believe it will support you very many hours?”

“I sold my lamas to buy this horse for the holiday of Saint John… Also, gentleman, you have burned my hut.”

“True, because you came to bother me with your sniveling. I threw an ember at your head to make you leave, but you turned you face away and the ember fell into a heap of straw. I don’t feel guilty. You should have accepted my ember with respect. And you, what do you want, Pedro? He asked speaking to another Indian.”

“I am begging you, Sir, do not take my land. It is mine. I’ve planted it.”

“This is your business, Cordova, said the gentleman, speaking to his companion.

No, certainly; this is not my business. I have done what they entrusted me with. You, Pedro Quispe, are not the owner of these lands.

“Where are your titles, that is, where are your papers?”

“I have no papers Sir. My father also did not have papers, and the father of my father we didn’t know. And no one wanted to take away our land. You want to give it to someone else. I haven’t done you any harm.

“Do you have hidden somewhere a bagful of coins? Give me the money and you can keep the land.”

“I don’t have any coins, nor could I raise so much money”

“Well then we don’t have any more to talk about”

“Leave me in peace!”

“Then give me what you owe me!”

“But we are never going to bring this to a close: You believe I’m stupid enough to pay to you for a sheep and some hens that you have given me?” Did you imagine we were going to die of hunger?

The white traveler who was beginning to become impatient exclaimed:”If we keep listening to these two morons we’ll stay here forever”

The top of the mountain, on the flank of which the broad and rustic hostel was located, was affronted by the first rays of the sun. The narrow hollow was illuminated slowly and the desolate dryness of the scenery, limited by the nearby dark mountains, was standing out under the blue sky, cut into ribbons by the fleeing, leaden clouds.

Cordoba made a sign to the guide that headed toward the gate. Behind him came the two gentlemen.

Pedro Quispe rushed towards them and grabbed the reins of one of the horses.  A lash in the face made him step back.

Then the Indians came out of the yard, and quickly ran toward the nearest hill, climbing it with the speed and agility of the vicunas and, arriving at the Summit, they scanned the area surrounding them.

In the ravines and Gorges the freshly cut grass was yellowing; on the banks of the streams, grasses and the cuts limited the channels with a capricious and undulating wall; ; some herds of goats and llamas ran for the hills or disappeared in the crevices of the mountains, and here and there a cloud of smoke announced the proximity of a hut or a camp of Indian travelers.

Peter Quispe put his lips to the horn, which was hanging on his back, and blew some powerful and prolonged notes. He waited a moment and then continued with strident and quick notes. .The travelers began to climb up the flank of the mountain; the guide with firm steps was indifferent, devouring the corn kernels. When the sound of the horn reverberated, the Indian stopped, looked alarmed at two gentlemen, and then made a fast exit down an open path in the hills.  Moments later he disappeared in the distance. Cordoba, speaking to his partner, exclaimed: “the Guide… why do we need him?” He became tenser. Alvarez stopped his horse and looked around, with concern, in all directions.

The Horn was still resonating and at the top of the Hill the figure of Pedro Quispe was silhouetted against the blue background, on the reddish nakedness of the peaks. By the edges and the crossroads, a spell was taking place.  Behind the large overcrowded fields of grass, between the gleanings, wild grasses and bitter weeds, under the wide awnings of the nomadic camps, at the doors of the huts and at the summits of the distant mountains, could be seen the rapid coming and going of human beings.  They stopped for a moment and looked toward the hill on which Pedro Quispe was blowing incessantly on his horn and later began hiking up the hills, climbing cautiously.

Alvarez and Córdoba continued climbing up the mountain; their horses panting on the rocky roughness of the razor-thin path, and the two gentlemen, deeply concerned, carried on silently. Suddenly, a huge rock broke away from the top of the mountains, passed near them, with a mighty roar; then another… another– Alvarez galloped his horse to escape, forcing it to outflank the mountain. Cordoba imitated it immediately, but the boulders were chasing him.  It seemed that the mountain was crumbling.  The horses, startled by the disturbance, jumped on the rocks, miraculously supported by their hoofs on the projecting ledges, and dithered in the space provided by the enormous height.

Briefly the mountains towered over the Indians. The gentlemen then rushed towards the narrow path that was twisting along their feet, along which a sweet, thin and crystal clear stream trickled.

They filled the valleys with strange harmonies; the rough and disagreeable sound of the horns was flowing from all parts and including the end of the ravine; in the radiant clarity that was opening two mountains, a group of men suddenly stood up.

At that moment, a huge stone crashed into Alvarez’s horse; he was seen hesitating a moment and then fell and rolled down the slopes of the mountain.  Cordova jumped to ground and began crawling towards the point where he could see the dusty form of the horse and the gentleman.

The Indians began to descend from the heights and left the cracks and the bends, one by one, advancing carefully, stopping all the time, with an sharp-eyed look to the bottom of the gorge. When they came to the edge of the creek, they spotted the two travelers.  Álvarez lay motionless, stretched out on the ground. Next to him his partner, standing with his crossed arms,  desperate and feeling powerless, following intently the slow descent of the frightened Indians.

In a small undulating plain formed by the depressions of the mountains, bounded on its four corners by four wide ridges, waited together the old ones and the women for the result of the manhunt.

The Indian women with their short round skirts of coarse fabrics, their cloaks on their chest, their cloth caps shining, coarse tresses falling on their shoulders, their feet bare, their sordid looks, clustered at one end, quiet, and looking between their fingers at the whirling dance of their spindles and the winders.

When the pursuers arrived, they brought the travelers. tied on the horses

They moved to the center of the square, and threw them on the ground, like two bundles. The women approached and looked at them curiously, still spinning, talking quietly.

The Indians deliberated for a moment, then a group of them rushed to the foot of the mountain and returned with two huge jugs and two thick beams. While some were digging the earth to set the beams, the other filled little clay jugs with liquor.They drank until the sun began to set on the horizon, and the only sound heard was muffled conversations of women and the noise of the sloshing liquid inside the jugs ,when they lifted them. Peter and Thomas took the bodies of the gentlemen and tied them to the poles. Alvarez, who had broken his spine, let out a big groan. The two Indians stripped them of all their clothes and threw them away, piece by piece..  The women looked admiringly at the white bodies.

Then the ordeal began. Pedro Quispe  cut out his tongue and Cordoba burned his eyes.

Thomas punctured Alvarez’s body with small knife wounds. Then came the other Indians who tore off his hair, and banged stones and chips into the wounds.
A young Indian laughingly poured a big mug of beer over the head of Alvarez.

They died that afternoon. The two travelers had long ago given their soul to the Great Righteous, and the Indians tired, jaded and indifferent, were chopping and lacerating the bodies.

It then became necessary to take the oath of silence. Pedro Quispe drew a cross on the ground and the men and women came and kissed the cross. After that, he took his rosary off his neck, something he normally never did and made  the Indians swear on it, spit on the ground,  and walk on the moist earth.
When the bloody evidence  was removed and they had deleted the last traces of the scene that had developed in  the roughness of the Altiplano plateau, an immense silence fell over the solitude of the mountains.

Translated by Kenny Beechmount

October, 2012

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 Manuel Rojas was born on January 8, 1896, in Buenos Aires, Argentina and died on March 11,       1973, in his adopted homeland, Chile. He probably  settled permanently in Chile in 1924.

 In 1927, he published his first collection of short stories, Hombres del Sur, which included the story “El vaso de leche” (“The Glass of Milk”). This story is both moving and realistic, especially given the poverty that existed in many parts of South America at the time.  Rojas wrote primarily about the common man, the poor and the downtrodden.  He became a member of a an anarchist political movement and wrote articles for the newspapers, La Batalla in Chile and La Protesta, Argentina. For those interested in more detailed information about the author , go to:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Rojas_(author)#Tales

The Glass of Milk

 (El vaso de leche)
By Manuel Rojas

Fact: in the starboard railing, a sailor seemed to be waiting for someone. In his left hand he had  a white paper wrapping, with grease spots on it here and there. In the other hand, he held his pipe.

 From between a couple of wagons, a thin young man appeared: he stopped a moment, looked out over the sea and then advanced, walking along the edge of the dock with his hands in the pockets, distracted or thinking.

He was hungry. He had gone three days, three long days without eating.  It was more out of shyness and embarrassment than pride that he refused to stop in front of the steamer at meal times, waiting for the generosity of the sailors to give them a package containing remains of stews and pieces of meat. He couldn’t do that, -he could never do that; and when, as in a recent case, one offered him some leftovers, he heroically rejected them, feeling that refusing it, increased his hunger.

A young man who moments before passed by, stopped a short distance away, and looked over the area. When he passed in front of the ship, the sailor shouted in English:

 -“I say; look here” (¡Oiga, mire!)

– The young man raised his head, and, without stopping, and spotting the package that the sailor had in his hands, hastily replied in the same language:

 -“Yes, sir, I am very much hungry!” (¡Si, señor, tengo harta hambre!)

The sailor smiled. The package flew through the air and fell between the avaricious hands of the hungry fellow. Without even thanking, he opened the still warm package, and sat down on the ground, happily rubbing his hands together, contemplating its content. A drifter from a port may not speak English, but it is unforgivable not knowing enough to ask for food from one that speaks this language.

It was six days ago that he began roaming the streets and docks in the port.

He had been left there by an English steamer that came from the port of Punta Arenas where he had deserted from a steamer in which he had served as a captain’s boy. He was there for one month, helping as a hand on an Austrian spider-crab fishing boat, but on the first ship that headed towards the north he secretly boarded as stowaway

They discovered him the next day and send him to work in the boiler room. In the first large port the steamer arrived at, they put him ashore, and there he was, like bundle without return address or recipient, without knowing anyone, without a penny in his pockets and not having an occupation he could work in.

While the steamer was there, he was able to eat, but after … The huge city, which stood beyond the narrow streets full of sleazy taverns and inns, to which he was not attracted; they looked like places of slavery, without air, dark, lacking the great, wide expanse of the sea, and between the high walls and straight streets, people lived and died, stunned by the stressful traffic.

He was possessed by the obsession he had of the sea, which makes lives more even and defined as a strong arm, a thin rod. Although he was very young, he had made several voyages along the coasts of South America, on various vessels, performing different jobs and stations, tasks and jobs that had almost no application on Earth.

. After the steamer left, he walked and walked, waiting for chance to do something that would allow him to make a living in some way while in familiar surroundings; but it found nothing.;

There was little traffic in the port and in the scarce steamers that arrived, he was not accepted to hire on.

An infinite number of beggars by profession were ambulating around the area; sailors without contract, like him, defectors from ships or escaped criminals;

Good for nothing left on their own, supported by unknown means, begging or stealing, passing days like the beads on a greasy rosary, waiting for who knows what strange events, or not waiting for anything, individuals of races and peoples more exotic and strange, even among those whose way of life they don’t believe ever having seen a living example of.

The next day he was convinced that he couldn’t endure much more, and decided to resort to any means to obtain food.

Walking, he went in front of a steamer that had arrived the previous night and that loading wheat. . A column of men walked with heavy sacks on their back and shoulders, going back and forth from the wagons, crossing a landing stage, up to the hatch in the hold, where the stevedores were receiving the load.

He stood looking on for a bit, until he dared to speak to the Captain, offering himself for work. He was accepted and exited joined the long line of porters.

During the first part of the day, he worked well; but later he began feeling weary and dizzy spells came over him.  Hesitating in the landing stage when he was going with a load on his shoulder, he saw at his feet, the opening formed between the steamer and the wall of the dock, at the bottom of which the sea was stained with oil, and full of discarded debris and garbage.

At lunch time, there was a short break and while some of them went to eat in the nearby cheap eating-houses and others ate what they had brought along, while he preference was to rest on the ground, hiding his hunger.

     He finished the day completely exhausted, covered in sweat, reduced to the limit. While the workers retired, he sat on a sack, keeping an eye on the foreman, and when the last one was gone, he approached him, confused and hesitant, but without telling him what was going on, asked if he could pay him immediately or whether it was possible to get an advance on what he had earned.

     The foreman replied that it was customary to pay when the job was completed and that it would still be necessary to work the next day to complete loading steamer. One more day! There was no way they would give him an advance – not a dime.

But, he said, I can lend you forty cents, – that’s all I have.

He thanked him for the offer with a distressed smile (but didn’t take the money) and an acute desperation overtook him then.

He was hungry,-hungry,-hungry.

A hunger that gave him a shooting pain; he saw everything through a blue haze and walking, he stumbled as a drunken man. However, he couldn’t really complain or cry, because his suffering was gloomy and arduous; It was not pain, but dull disquieting end; it felt like he was being crushed by a large weight.

 He suddenly felt a burning sensation in his bowels, and stopped,

He doubled over, leaning, bending forcibly as an iron bar, and thought that he was going to fall.

At that moment, as if a window had opened before him, saw his house, the landscape that could be seen from it, the face of his mother and his sisters, everything he wanted and loved appeared and disappeared before his eyes closed by fatigue. Then, little by little, the dizziness faded and he began straightening up, while the burning sensation slowly cooled. Finally he stood up, breathing deeply. One more hour and he would have fallen to the ground…. It hastened the passage- fleeing from a new dizziness, and while walking, he resolved to eat anywhere, without paying, willing to become embarrassed, be beaten or sent to jail; of all this, the most important was to eat, eat, eat; a hundred times he repeated the word mentally, eat-eat-eat, until it lost its meaning, leaving an impression of an empty, hot feeling in the head.

Not thinking of escaping; he would say to the owner:”Mister, I’m hungry, hungry hungry and I have no money to pay with.—do as you wish”

He reached the first streets in the town and in one of those, he found a dairy. It was a little business very clean and bright, filled with small marble tables. Behind a counter stood a blond lady wearing a very white apron. He chose that business.  There was little traffic in the street. He might have eaten in one of the cheap eating-houses that found along the wharf, but they were full of the people who were playing and drinking.

In the dairy, there was only one customer It was an old geezer wearing glasses, that, with his nose stuck between the leaves of a newspaper, reading, remained motionless, as if glued to the chair. On the table, there was a glass of milk. Half consumed.

He was waiting for him to leave, walking down the sidewalk, feeling little by little the fire relighting in the stomach that had burning earlier and waited five, ten, even fifteen minutes.

He became tired and stood to one side of the door, from where he threw the old man a few stony looks.

Why the heck was he reading with such concentration!? He began to imagine that he was an enemy, who, knowing his intentions could hinder them. He felt like going back and saying something strong that would force him to leave, rudeness or an expression that will tell him he didn’t have the right to remain an hour sitting and reading, with such a small expenditure.

Finally the customer finished, or at least interrupted his reading. He took a sip of the milk that was left in the glass, stood up calmly, paid and headed to the door. He left; he was an old geezer, hunched over, and smelling faintly like a Carpenter or painter.

As soon as he was in the street, he set his glasses, and again put his nose between the pages of the newspaper and went away, walking slowly and stopping every ten steps to read with more meticulousness.

He waited for him to leave and then entered. For a while he stood at the entrance, indecisive, not knowing where to sit; He finally chose a table and headed toward it; but halfway to it, regretted, fell and stumbled into a Chair, then settled in a corner.

The lady approached the table, wiped the tabletop with a rag and in a soft voice that hinted slightly of a Spanish accent, she asked.

What would you like?

Without looking, he answered:

“A glass of milk”

“Large?”

“Yes, large”

“Just that?”

“Do you have biscuits?”

“No, vanilla cookies”

“OK, vanilla cookies then”

When the lady turned around, he rubbed the hands on the knees, delighted, as one who is cold is about to drink something warm.

The lady returned and put in front of him a large glass of milk and a plate filled with vanilla cookies, after which she returned to her place behind the counter.

His first impulse was to drink the milk all at once and then eat the vanilla cookies, but he immediately regretted; sensing that the woman looked at him with curiosity. He dared not look at her; it seemed to him that, in doing so, she would figure out his state of mind and shameful purpose and he would have to get up and leave, without tasting what he had ordered.

Intermittently he took a vanilla cookie, dipped it in the milk and took a bite; drank a sip of milk and felt that the fire, which still burned in his stomach, was being put out and extinguished. But immediately, the reality of his desperate situation appeared before him and something hard and hot rose up his throat to his heart; and he realized he was going to sob, to sob and cry and even though he knew that the lady was watching him, He could not end or undo the burning knot that tightened more and more. He resisted, and while still resisting, ate hurriedly, frightened, and fearing that crying would prevent him from eating. After he finished with the milk and the cookies, his eyes clouded over and something warm run down his nose, falling into the glass. A terrible sob shook him to his shoes.

He put his head in his hands and for a long time cried, cried with shame and anger, wanting to cry like he had never cried before.

He was leaning forward and crying, when he sensed a hand caressing his tired head and a woman’s voice with a sweet Spanish accent said:

“Cry son, Cry!”

A new wave of tears swept over his eyes and he cried as hard as the first time, although this time not so agonizingly, but with happiness, sensing that a new serenity penetrating him, extinguishing the fiery heat that had choked his throat. While he cried, he felt that his life and sentiments being cleaned like a glass under a stream of water, recovering the lucidity and steadfastness of other days

When the worst of his crying had passed, he wiped his eyes and face with his handkerchief, again calmed down.  He lifted his head and looked at the lady, but she was not looking at him, she was looking toward the street, at a distant point and her face was sad.

On the little table in front of him, there was another glass filled with milk and another plateful of vanilla cookies. He ate slowly, without thinking about anything, ate as if nothing had happened, as if he was in his house and his mother was this woman behind the counter.

When he finished, darkness had arrived and the store was illuminated with a light bulb.

He remained seated a short while, thinking about what he would say to the lady, when leaving, without anything coming to mind.

Finally he stood up and simply said:

“Thank you very much lady: goodbye”

“Goodbye, son, she answered”

He left.  The wind coming from the ocean cooled his head, still hot from crying.  He walked for a while in no particular direction, and then took a street that headed down toward the docks.  The night was extremely beautiful and huge stars appeared in the summer sky.

He thought about the blond lady and how generous she had been, and intended to pay her, to compensate her in a dignified manner, when he had some money; but these thought of gratitude waned along with the burning sensation in his face, until they had disappeared and the recent event slowly went away and became lost in his past, twisted life.

Suddenly he surprised himself by singing something softly. He straightened up and walked cheerfully, treading firmly and decisively.

He arrived at the shore and walked from one side to another, bouncing, feeling like recreating his previous strengths, before they disappeared,- to have them come together and merge firmly.

Tired from work, a slow tingling sensation crept up through his legs and he sat down on a pile of sacks.

 He looked at the sea. Lights from the pier and ships were reflected by the water in a reddish and golden, gently shimmering trail. He laid down on his back and looked at the sky for a long time. He didn’t feel like thinking, nor singing or talking.  He felt as if he didn’t want to live anymore.

Until he fell asleep with his face turned towards the sea.

Translated by K. Beechmount

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FOREWORD

Enrique Anderson Imbert (1910–2000) was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1910 and studied at Universiy in Buenos Aires, where he graduated  and received his doctorate in philosophy and arts and where he later taught at several universities.  He was a brilliant contemporary critic of Hispanic-American literature and became known for his short-stories, essays, novels and collections of parables, many of which were published under the title The Other Side of the Mirror.  He became Professor of Hispanic-American Literature at Harvard University.

El Fantasma is one of many stories that deal with fantasy and it remains one of the more popular.  The Spanish language versions of this and many more can be read or downloaded at http://www.ciudadseva.com/textos/cuentos/esp/anderson/eai.htm  His microcuentas (flash fiction) features prominently there and he was a pioneer in this field of writing.

 

   Enrique Anderson Imbert

EL FANTASMA (The Phantom)

       By Enrique Anderson Imbert
       Translated to English by Kenny Beechmount

He realized he had just died when he saw his own body; like if it wasn’t his, but more like a double, collapsed in the chair that he had overturned when he fell.

The body and the chair were located on the carpet, in the middle of the room.

So, this was death!

“What a disappointment! He had wanted to find out what the journey to another world was like and it turned out there isn’t another world! The same opaqueness of the walls, the same distance between furniture, the same sound of the rain falling on the roof… and above all, how immutable, how indifferent to his death the objects were that he had always been familiar with. The lighted lamp, the hat on the hanger…everything, everything was the same, except for the overturned chair and the body, facing the ceiling.”

He leaned over and looked at his body, like before, when he usually looked in the mirror. “How old!, and those wrinkles of worn-out skin!” – If I could open the eyelids, perhaps the blue light of my eyes would once again ennoble the body – he thought. Because this way, without the look of  the chubby cheeks and wrinkles, the downy curves of the nose and two yellow teeth, biting the bloodless lip, they were revealing his detested mammal condition.

Now that I know that there are neither angels nor abysses on the other side, I returned to my humble residence.

With good humour, he approached his empty corpse and went to enter it, to animate it again, and how easy it could have been, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t, because in that instant, the door opened and my wife came in, alarmed at the noise of the falling chair and body.

“Don’t come in,he shouted, but no sound came out.

It was late. The woman threw herself on her husband and on sensing it lifeless, cried and cried.

“Shut up, you have ruined everything,” he shouted, but without voice.

“What bad luck”, why hadn’t it occurred to him to lock the door during the experience. Now, with a witness, he couldn’t revive; he was dead, definitely dead. What bad luck?”

He watched his wife almost fainted over his corpse; his own corpse, with the nose as a bow between the waves of his wife’s hair. His three children burst in, running, as if they were in dispute over a candy, stopped in their tracks, and little by little approached and all at the same time they began to cry.

He also cried, seeing himself there on the floor, because he understood that to be dead is like being alive, only lonely, very lonely.

He left the house saddened.

Where would he go?

He did not have any hopes of a supernatural life. No, no there was no mystery.

He began descending the stairs, step by step, with great sorrow.

He stopped at the landing. He noted that, dead and all, he had persisted in believing that he was moving as if he had legs and arms. He chose, as perspective, the height where earlier he was seeing with his eyes! Pure habit. . He wanted to test the new advantages and began to fly around in the air in curves. The only thing that he could not do was penetrate solid objects, so dense bodies were as impenetrable as always. He collided with those.  It wasn’t as if it hurt him, he just couldn’t cross through them. Doors, windows,hallways, all the openings that man uses for his activity, kept on imposing directions to his flying. He could slip in through the keyhole of a lock, but with difficulty. He, a dead person, was not a sort of penetrating virus which could pass through anything without limits; he could only penetrate perceptible cracks, even if they were only the size of the pupil of an eye?  Nevertheless, he was feeling as when he was alive, invisible yes, but disembodied. He did not want to fly any more, and went down on the ground to return to his normal height. He recalled the memory of his absent body, of the customary positions, of the precise distances to where would be his skin, his hair, his limbs. He remembered this all over his body; and they were inserted where earlier they had resided.

This night, he flew over to his body, alongside his wife.  He also closed in on his friends and listened to their conversations.  He saw it all, right up to the last moment, when the cemetery soil, sounding lugubrious on the coffin, covered it.

He had all his life been a domestic man. From his office to his house, from his house to his office and had no-one else, outside of his wife and his daughters. He did not like to mingle with the teaming crowds. He preferred to imagine sitting in the old armchair, enjoying the peace around him.

Soon he resigned himself to not being able to communicate his presence to them. It was enough for him that his wife was lifting her eyes and looking at his portrait high upon the wall.

Sometimes he regretted not meeting other dead persons on his excursions, to exchange impressions with, but he didn’t get bored. He accompanied his wife everywhere and went to the movies with the children.

During the winter, his wife fell ill, and he wanted her to die.
He was hoping that upon her death, her spirit would join him for company.  She died, but her spirit was invisible to him, the same for the orphans.

He was alone again, more alone, since he could no longer see his wife.  He consoled himself with the fact that her spiritl was on his side, perhaps contemplating their children. His wife would know that he was here.  Yes, of course…how could he doubt it?  It was quite natural.

Until one day he had, for the first time since he had died, that sensation of the great beyond, of mystery, that he had sensed so many times when alive; as If the house was populated by shadows of distant relatives, forgotten friends, and of snoopers, who entertain their eternity spying on the orphan girls?

He trembled with disgust, as if it had put his hand in a hole full of worms. Spirits, spirits, hundreds of strange spirits mingling, blind amongst themselves, but with their malicious eyes open in the air that his daughters were breathing!

He could never get over that suspicion, although with time it stopped worrying him: What was he going to do!? His sister in law had taken theorphans.  He felt at home again. The years went by and he saw his three children die, one after the other. The burning sensation inside him, which, in extensive families, keeps spreading like a wildfire the country, extinguished forever.

But he knew that even in the invisibility of death, his family kept on triumphing, that they all liked to be visible together, inhabiting the same house, clinging to his sister-in-law as shipwrecked people on the last life raft.

His sister-in law also died.

He approached the coffin, where they were watching her, looked at herface, which was still shown as a mirror to the mystery, and he sobbed, alone, alone, how alone. Now there was nobody alive that would attract everyone with the force love. Now there would be no possibility of meeting somewhere in the universe.   Now there would be no hope.

There, between the burning candles, must be the spirits of his wife and of his  daughters.  He said goodbye to them, well knowing that they couldn’t hear him, he went outside and flew out into the night.

Translated by Kenny Beechmount, April 13, 2011

To site this translation, please quote: beachmount.wordpress.com/El Fantasma translated to English.

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FREEDOM AND JUSTICE

A BRIEF EXAMINATION OF CHE GUEVARA

  
 
 
 
 
 
 
Heroes are not ordinary humans; they are persons of great courage, endowed with mythical abilities as if God-like beings, who are worshipped without rational judgment of their actual humanity.
 (Beachmount)

INTRODUCTION

In every century, a few individuals rise above the horizon of human commonplace and through a circumstance of extraordinary events, manage to change the course of history and achieve either distinction or notoriety through their deeds. During the last century, a number of such persons comes to mind; Mao Tse-Tung, Gandhi, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, Einstein, Khrushchev, Roosevelt, Kennedy and others, but the list would not be complete without two people, whose lives and actions made a lasting impact on the world, and especially the Americas; Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the two most prominent participants in the Cuban revolution.

To analyse the life of Che requires a post-mortem examination of gargantuan quantities of literature dedicated to it; volumes of which have judged him in the light of the pro or con beams that focused on communism in general and on his particular revolutionary ideology especially. To understand Guevara, it is necessary not only to comprehend his formative years in Argentina and the events that shaped his thoughts and actions later in his life, but also the sweeping and far-reaching changes in the political climate of the world during 20th century. The regal masters had at last conceded to give freedom and independence to their former colonies. Dictatorships in the Americas and corruption on inconceivable scales had become the acceptable standard in many of its countries. The Second World War, the communist revolutions in China and earlier in Russia had changed the coherence of the world’s political fabric and caused cataclysmic upheavals in global security. It was in these times that Che Guevara entered adulthood. It was into this turbulent and raging current of political changes, intolerance and US neo-colonialism that he launched the raft that was to carry him into a sea of human fortitude and project him into a sphere of fame that reached far beyond the realm of the reality of his life.

He became a product of his time; promulgating and idealizing what some, at that time, considered the road to a utopian life of equality, which in the end, however, proved to be a less than egalitarian solution to the age-old problem of inequity between the wealthy and the poor, between the rulers and the ruled, the oppressor and the oppressed. It is through the reality of this time period that we must seek to understand Che Guevara as a person who became obsessed with the idea of revolution to free the poor and the oppressed in the world. Any attempt to understand him from a present day perspective of communism and Cuba would be synonymous to illuminating his personality and his life through the vestiges of something that the passage of 50 years has transformed into a different actuality.

Ernesto Guevara did not achieve distinction as a respected leader nor, in some circles, notoriety as a ruthless guerrilla fighter, by means of inflated rumours or exaggerated reporting on his achievements. The two most essential characteristics of his personality were a complete belief in himself and the ideology of the cause he was advocating and a conviction that faithfulness and honesty were imperative functions in the realm of human interaction. It was these two qualities that propelled him to prominence and gained him respect as well as trepidation, not just in Cuba, but also in many parts of the world, especially where poverty, misery and injustice cried out for help. It is ironic, however, that these same virtues also in part were responsible for his failure to achieve his revolutionary goals and his early demise.

ARGENTINA AND HIS YOUTH

Much biographical material has been written about Che’s childhood; being home schooled, his asthma and studies in his father’s library as a teenager, that may have given him his first introduction to socialism through reading the works of leftist writers such as Karl Marx, Engels and Lenin. It is doubtful, however, that anything particular in his earliest childhood impacted appreciatively on his developing personality. Later, however, in the third school he attended, Colegio Nacional Dean Funes, his passion for reading expanded, as did his intellectual horizon through studies of philosophy and a broad range of fiction and poetry by such authors such as Nerudo, Faulkner, Kafka, Camus, Sartre and many others. (The Biography Project: popsubculture.com)

By the time he graduated from high school, he was quite well read, yet, there is no real suggestion that he had developed any adversarial attitude toward the extant political system in Argentina. He had not yet been smitten by the contagion of communism and leftist ideologies that had spread through Russia and China and become a fashionable subject of discussion and experimentation amongst artists, students and the educated bourgeois in the west, a trend that continued through the fifties and sixties. His family’s economic misfortunes, however, does appear to have made some impact on his attitude toward the upper crust of society and an impending sense of the injustices and inequities that existed within it.

He chose to study medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, rather than following his initially planned engineering career, because of a loving relationship with his grandmother that had endured all his life. She died from ill health shortly before he entered the University. The following quote illuminates this:

“Sin embargo, el estado de salud de la anciana se agrava, por lo que el joven Ernesto decide dejar el trabajo y viajar junto a su querida abuela que fallece unos días después de su llegada. Cuentan que durante los últimos días de su abuela, no se separó de su lecho. Según su hermana Celia, jamás lo había visto tan triste. Después de este suceso comunicó a sus padres que estudiaría Medicina en lugar de Ingeniería. A los pocos días solicitó su ingreso en la Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad de Buenos Aires.” (El Archivo Personal del Che: che.cubasi.cu/cronología)

It is paramount to mention that Che was rejected for military service due to his asthma. The critical issue deriving from this is if military service would have changed his outlook on life. Most people who have served in the military admit it changed their lives and it must be considered a possibility that Che’s philosophy or psyche could have undergone some form of transformation by experiencing the harshness of military discipline early in his life, the result of which might have propelled his destiny in a different direction and thus another conclusion.

In 1949, he makes a 4000-mile long journey through Northern Argentina alone on a moped. During this journey, his encounter with many indigenous tribes and his first-hand experience with extreme poverty made perhaps the first real impact on his feelings toward the inequities that existed in his country.

Two years later, in 1951, he goes on a motorcycle journey with his friend, Alberto Granado. They travel from Buenos Aires most of the way to Venezuela on an old motorcycle. Che kept a diary, describing events and experiences from the trip, which later was published as: The Motorcycle Diaries: A Journey Around South America, which in 2004 was made into a movie by the same name.

This second journey made a significant impact on him. Again he was exposed to the extensive poverty existing throughout rural South America and he became conscious of its widespread communality. He witnessed mistreatment and exploitation of the indigenous people and the working class, which galvanized his opinion on oppression of the poor. The movie has been subjected to a great deal of criticism, much of which views Che through a mirror, reflecting awareness of his later image as a revolutionary. The movie attempts to portray Che’s experiences on the journey, including the apparent compassionate human side he shows during the weeks he spends in a leper colony in Peru, rather than the later radical, single-minded, revolutionary side of him. Paul Berman an author, journalist and writer critiqued the movie from an interesting point of view and states:

“These weeks at the leper colony constitute the dramatic core of the movie. The colony is tyrannized by nuns, who maintain a cruel social hierarchy between the staff and the patients. The nuns refuse to feed people who fail to attend mass. Young Che, in his insistent honesty, rebels against these strictures, and his rebellion is bracing to witness. You think you are observing a noble protest against the oppressive customs and authoritarian habits of an obscurantist Catholic Church at its most reactionary. Yet the entire movie, in its concept and tone, exudes a Christological cult of martyrdom, a cult of adoration for the spiritually superior person who is veering toward death—precisely the kind of adoration that Latin America’s Catholic Church promoted for several centuries, with miserable consequences.” (Berman: The Cult of Che, sep. 2004)

Berman dredges up some other interesting points about Che, undressing the cultic mysticism that surrounds him in a distinct US anti-Cuba tunnel vision style that fails to se the whole man, yet his devastating critique can not be completely ignored. The movie may well be a hagiographic portrait of Guevara but it shows with lucid clarity Che’s predilection for rebellion during his encounter with the authoritarian nuns, and later on the journey, by stating that he was determined to stamp out this injustice of exploitation perpetrated against the indigenous people, which reiterates the old Arab proverb that idealism belongs to the youth, politics to the aged.

Anthony Daniels, a writer and doctor has a similar negative critique of the movie. He writes:

“In presenting Guevara as a romantic figure, generous and compassionate rather than ruthlessly priggish and self-centered, and by suggesting that he has anything to teach us other than negativity, the director is guilty of mendacity of a very high order. The film is an exercise in moral frivolity and exhibitionism, self-congratulation, of course, opportunism. It should sell as well as Guevara T-shirts.” (Anthony Daniels: The Real Che)

Daniels has compared the film to the book and clearly shows a permissive attitude by the film director in that the ‘facts’ in several scenes in the movie have been changed to create a more romantic and idealistic portrait of Che Guevara.

JEAN PAUL SARTRE AND HIS INFLUENCE ON CHE GUEVARA.

Che’s passion for reading exposed his intellect to many political theories and philosophies, both historic and recent. Jean Paul Sartre , the well-known French novelist, became prominent in the mid forties. He was a politically engaged intellectual who saw Communism as an ideology whose time had come. Sartre’s existentialism, the view that our liberty is our freedom to fight to be free, that nothing is right or wrong until we make a choice, and the individual struggle against isolation in a hostile world, no doubt had a major influence in Che Guevara’s thinking. In 1960, Sartre visited Cuba with his wife, Simone de Beauvoir and on his return to France called Guevara “the most complete human being of our age.” His reason for thinking Che was such a person warrants no further comments than to say it was the way Sartre perceived his humanity and personality. Someone else, with different political persuasions, may have viewed him as a rebellious, idealistic individual, suffering from hallucinatory visions of what constitutes a just society. In 1952, Sartre wrote “The Communists and Peace” (Hamilton, 1969), in which he enthused about communist “mass democracy” — which achieved unanimity constantly renewed by the liquidation of opponents. His point is well taken. The conservative British political philosopher Maurice Cranston captured Sartre’s argument in the line “Terror is the guarantee that my neighbour will stay my brother; it binds my neighbour to me by the threat of the violence it will use against him if he dares to be ‘un-brotherly.’” Forget such niceties as the rule of law. (The Absolute Intellectual, 2004) This is clearly the method adapted by Che Guevara and used to obtain the cooperation of the peasants in the countryside. Those who didn’t “Join the cause” would be ostracised or eliminated. This became a classic guerrilla tactic, used in many later revolutions or uprisings (Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala).

Sartre’s visit to Cuba underlines his proclivity toward socialism, but also tend to underscore that admiration between Guevara and Sartre was mutual. It is important, however, to note that Sartre eventually broke with the communists.

GUATEMALA AND CHE, THE BEGINNING OF THE END

In 1963, Che wrote a letter to Guillermo Lorentzen in which he stated, “I was born in Argentina, I fought in Cuba, and I began to be a revolutionary in Guatemala” (Che Guevara Reader, 370).

Che was in Guatemala touring the Maya ruins, when the government under Jacobo Arbenz endeavoured to nationalise the huge landholdings of the United Fruit Company .

The US government (CIA) together with two executive directors of United Fruit Company organised an armed Coup, which overthrew Arbenz . The most visible head of this pejorative aggression was the US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, lawyer for and stockholder in the company. (ibid 20)  This was Che’s first experience with the dirty tricks department of the US government and it became the determining factor in his decision to fight these injustices by whatever means possible. He became:” A child of my environment.” (ibid 113) That it was The United Fruit Company that instigated this coup is no surprise. The record of misery, rebellion and exploitation left (and still being left) by this company is so mindless as to surpass even the most vivid imagination. “They (The Company’s management) were told to squeeze every cent possible out of the operations.”5

MEXICO: ALEA YACTA EST

After Castro was released from prison in Cuba, following the unsuccessful attack on the Moncada military garrison, he headed for Mexico, (ibid 21) where with the help of a small team of intimate collaborators he began the task of organizing the armed fighters that would invade Cuba. Che, through a friend of his, was introduced to Fidel Castro, who shortly thereafter invited him to join the team. Skipping the details of planning the “invasion” of Cuba-, jail time in Mexico, the near disastrous beginning of the Cuban revolution, it is paramount to reflect on the fact that none of the participants, who had different social persuasions (ibid 87) considered that the revolution should be communist in nature. Their goal was to overthrow Batista and create a more just society in Cuba, with no particular detailed foresight on just what this should constitute. It is interesting to note that both the Chinese and the Russian revolutions began as citizen revolutions, only later to become mass communist movements.

CASTRO, CHE, CUBA AND THE MAKING OF A REVOLUCIONARY.

During the fight for Cuba’s independence, Che’s admiration and respect for Fidel Castro grew and was clearly reciprocated by Castro, who promoted him to the rank of commander before the fighting was over. Che showed his ability as a leader and fighter early on, but demonstrated a developing degree of ruthlessness, something that is hardly surprising when you are fighting for your life, seeing death and destruction on a daily basis. It forged his character into an entity that perhaps had lain dormant in the deepest recesses of his psyche. This is well understood by the following statement he supposedly wrote before he went to Bolivia:

Hate as a factor in the struggle, intransigent hatred for the enemy that takes one beyond the natural limitations of a human being and converts one into an effective, violent, selective, cold, killing machine – our soldiers must be like that; a people without hate cannot triumph over a brutal enemy. (ibid 360)

After the revolution was over and the time came to deal with the oppressors, Che was charged with signing the death warrants and overseeing the execution of condemned men from the Batista regime. His role in this inevitable phase of the revolution has been much criticized, but those who, in the light of this, attempted to paint him as a brutal executioner, failed to consider similar revenge-driven events that took place during other revolutions. The French revolution is but a single example.

His perception of economic independence is illustrated very well by the following:

“If a country does not have its own economy, if it is penetrated by foreign capital, then it cannot be free from the tutelage of the country it is dependent on. Much less can a country make its will prevail if it clashes with powerful interest in the country that dominates it economically “(ibid 99)

Few people, including many Canadians, realize that the very essence of this statement applies to almost every country in the Americas. No country in the western hemisphere is without some degree of US economic domination.

How Che viewed his inner self is to some extend illustrated by the following two statements he made:

“I had thought it quite doubtful when I first enrolled with the rebel commander, to whom I was linked from the beginning by a liking for romantic adventure and the thought that it would be well worth dying on a foreign beach for such a pure ideal. “(ibid 21)

In the Motorcycle Diaries, he describes the character of Pedro de Valdivia, the conquistador of Chile:

“Valdivia’s actions symbolize man’s indefatigable thirst to take control of a place where he can exercise total control. He belonged to that special class of men the species produces every so often, in whom a craving for limitless power is so extreme that any suffering to achieve it seems natural”.

Both statements illuminate aspects of the inner sanctum of a young man, whose personality was inclined toward romanticism, but with the gloomy, self-sacrificial idealism of someone awakened and provoked by the reality of the inequities that have existed in the realm of humanity since time immortal.

Che did not heed Karl Marx’s elemental warning that “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given, and transmitted from the past” (Marx cited in Feuer, 1969, p. 360) (Matt Tilling: The University In Times Of Revolution.)

He failed when he attempted to create revolutions in areas and under circumstances that was of his choosing, using his revolutionary ideology, rather than adapting it to some existing historic precedence.

Freedom, in the truest sense of the meaning, does not exist in a structured society,there is only liberty to live within the rules established by the same

All rights reserved

Kenny Beachmount

NOTA BENE: Alberto Granado died in Cuba at the age of 88, on March 5, 2011. May his next journey be as happy as the previous.

Bibliography.

Not published due to copy rights of this essay.

Creative Commons Licence
This work by K. Larsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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