Thursday, 9 August 2012

Book Review: Remembering Ché – My Life With Che Guevara, Aleida March

In this touchingly affectionate book, Aleida March – Ché’s second wife – recalls a revolutionary romance tragically cut short by Ché’s execution in Bolivia by CIA-backed troops.  From a young “girl from the sticks” hopelessly addicted to romantic fiction, Aleida joins the guerrilla struggle against Batista before falling in love with iconic revolutionary hero Ernesto ‘Ché’ Guevara. 

Their first encounter – deep in the Escambray Mountains – involves Ché removing a secret package of supplies and money strapped to Aleida’s torso. Whilst Ché confessed he suspected her of being sent to “monitor him because of his reputation as a communist,” Aleida found Ché’s “penetrating gaze rather intriguing”. It is not long before Ché is serenading Aleida with poetry as they cavort through battlefields.

Aleida – with tremendous passion and poignancy – conjures a remarkable picture of a remarkable man. Unlike most literature surrounding the subject, the book gives a truly unique insight into Ché’s personality and touching humour. Like all of us, he is a flawed human being, but he is underpinned by steely determination and selfless dedication.

It also gives the first detailed impression of the life and role of Aleida March herself. Her strength and courage is exemplified – not just by her role bringing up four children with an absent father – but the crucial part she played establishing and developing the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) which is now the biggest NGO in the whole of Latin America. No other organisation has done more to champion and advance the role of women in Cuban society. Furthermore, she succeeded in raising her family – according to the frugal ideals she shared with Ché – as ordinary Cubans. She went on to institute the Ché Guevara Studies Centre in Santa Clara and, to this day, remains its Director. 

The book gives a fresh perspective on decisive historical events – such as the Battle of Santa Clara – and illustrates the qualities of Ché’s leadership. Correspondence between Ché and his family and between Ché and Fidel help deepen understanding of Ché’s revolutionary sojourns in the Congo and Bolivia. When Aleida’s narrative requires further clarification, helpful footnotes explain the historical significance. 

Letters and poems sent between Ché and Aleida are peppered throughout the book and reveal Ché’s psychological state as he endeavours to export revolution. In a remarkable short story, The Stone, written in the Congo and reproduced in full here, Ché predicts: “I would decompose on the grass or they might exhibit me”. The precise foreshadow is truly chilling.

One hundred priceless photographs from family albums – many published here for the first time – illustrate the story and add further depth to our understanding of Ché. One particular photo shows Ché disguised as the balding “old uncle Ramón” with his four children in 1966. It tragically captures the last time Ché saw his beloved family.

As Ché once wrote: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.” This book provides an authentic insight into Ché’s love – for the world’s dispossessed, popular revolution and his treasured family.

Buy it now for just £12.99 from our Cuba Connect website

Che and Aleida’s daughter – Dr. Aleida Guevara March – will be touring the U.K. in September. Catch her at a venue near you - full details here

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