After reading “Between Bohemianism and a Revolutionary Rebirth: Che Guevara in Mexico” by Eric Zolov, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of Che’s background of his time spent in Mexico referenced in the film “Che: Part 1.” In the writings of Zolov, he writes of their time training and preparing for the revolutionary attack portrayed in the film on Cuba. In the film there is but little storyline and scenes devoted to Castro and Che’s meeting in Mexico City in the mid 1950s, basically one scene which depicts them talking about their plans to start a revolution in Cuba one night in a dinner party-like scene. However, in reading, I learned more of their tactics for preparation for said revolution, which was enlightening. Watching the film I thought maybe they had prepared somewhat, but I did wonder how they handled themselves so well climbing through the forests. Zolov states that the revolutionaries trained with a Mexican wrestler, worked on their shooting, and took long marches across the city and through mountains.
The film depicted Che suffering from his chronic asthma various times as they marched across Cuba. Some might not think this detail important, but now reading about his individual training of hiking up El Popo, disciplining himself so that he could be an active part of the Cuban revolutionary movement, his asthmatic sufferings in the film shed a new light on his commitment to the cause.
Based on the Zolov reading as well, comes the notion that it is interesting to read of Che’s life prior to and after the Cuban Revolution. He is an exile in Mexico, bemoaning his own faults, or “lack of discipline,” and then later, in the mid-60s and thereafter, he is viewed as a figure who serves as “a symbol for international solidarity and anti-imperialistic struggle.” Che’s commitment to the Cuban Revolution is evidenced in the movie, and in this reading, showing that he has found something in which he believes and was whole-heartedly committed to serving this cause.
In “Guerrilla Warfare: A Method” by Che Guevara, he writes in reference to guerrilla warfare in Latin American countries, “peaceful struggle can be carried out through mass movements that compel—in special situations of crisis—governments to yield; thus the popular forces would eventually take over and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.” This is documented in the film “Che: Part 1.” For the majority of their warfare, Che and Castro and their armies try to peacefully move through the country, convincing Cubans to trust them and join the resistance. However, Che and his combats must also use violence and force, typically towards the government and military forces. But Che says that “…it would be criminal not to act to seize power” in situations that call for violent action against those who oppress the people.
Everything that Che writes in “Guerrilla Warfare: A Method” can be seen in the film “Che: Part 1.” He talks of seizing power and the means that the revolutionary must go by to obtain it, and this is what one sees when watching the film. He is against violence, save the fact that the guerrilla army must use it against the oppressing army and government, forming a people’s army to serve that purpose. He also wasn’t opposed to using violence against those who hindered the cause, or acted irresponsibly, as shown when Che finds and orders executions of his soldiers who have committed treason and indecent acts against those they are trying to help.
Che writes that guerrilla warfare has 3 stages. One can watch these stages play out in the film. The first being a “strategic defensive stage when the small force nibbles at the enemy and runs.” At the beginning of their fight, they are attacking military bases and soldiers on foot patrol, taking down every little bit of the enemy as possible. The second is “a state of equilibrium in which the possibilities of action on both sides—the enemy and the guerrillas—are established.” As Castro’s forces move through the land, they gradually incorporate more recruits and resources, making their army into a stronger opponent, standing up to the military forces. The third stage is “overrunning the repressive army leading to the capture of the big cities…” Che and his troops move forward, out of the farmland of Cuba and into the cities. The film documents their take-over of Santa Clara, Cuba, overthrowing the military and government forces with the help of the citizens.
Seeing how Che’s life changed drastically from the film “The Motorcycle Diaries” to “Che: Part 1,” I would be even more interested now to see how it ended.