Che, Part 1- The Argentine

The movie, Che, Part 1: The Argentine made in 2008, is a continuation of the life and quest of Ernest Guevara. The film takes the audience on a journey with Ernesto as he evolves into a revolutionary guerrilla fighter along side Fidel Castro. The film takes the viewer back to the beginning in Mexico City in 1955 where a group is meeting for “dinner” and to talk about a coup against Batista. Ernesto is there and Fidel Castro comes to eat with them. They talk about the land ownership being in the hands of 1.5% of the population and the impacts of poverty and illiteracy. They also discuss the U.S. making money off Cuba with obvious animosity toward the U.S.  Che Guevara Internet Archive: Message to the Tricontinental lends credence to this portrayal by saying, “While envisaging the destruction of imperialism, it is necessary to identify its head, which is no other than the United States of America.” Eric Zolov writes that Che was upheld as “the image of […] a defender of US imperialism…” (247). Ernesto says in the film that in a capitalist system people live in an “invisible bubble.”  This belief is supported by Che Guevara Internet Archive: Message to the Tricontinental, which supports their belief that the only solution to being invisible was “establishing a government of socialist tendencies.”

 In March 1957, and back in Cuba, Ernesto meets up with Fidel and more guerrilla troops in the jungle and they set up camp. Meeting Castro and the exiled community gave Ernesto “the sense of mission and purpose that he had clearly been seeking” (Zolov 267).

It is at this point that Fidel tells Ernesto to stop having a complex about being a foreigner from Argentina because he’s as Cuban as the rest of them.  He came over on the boat with them and was wounded and trained with them (Che, Part 1: The Argentine).

In Che Guevara Internet Archive: Message to the Tricontinental, this mindset was put into words. The message stated that there was a “great similarity between the classes.” It went on to say, “Language, habits, religion, a common foreign master, unite them.”

 In May 1957 the guerrillas launched an attack on army barracks. They were out numbered but Ernesto went back to this mindset of unification saying that it was not the size of the troops fighting, but the “spirit of the troops” (Che, Part 1: The Argentine).

Ernesto also told his troops that they were not to touch the peasants, their families or their land with whom they came into contact with or they would be punished, an exhibition of how he believed while they may be from different classes or races, they all were fighting against oppression.

 Che Guevarra’s manual on guerrilla warfare states basic principles: (class notes)

1) Popular forces can win a war against the army.

2) It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist; the insurrection can create them.

3) In underdeveloped America, the countryside is the basic area for armed fighting.

 And discussed the guerrilla fighter: (class notes)

1) Who were the combatants in guerrilla warfare? Guerrilla warfare is a war of the masses, a war of the people. (class notes)

Che went on to say in Guerrilla warfare: A method,  “The guerrilla is the combat vanguard of the people, situated in a specified place in a certain region, armed and willing to carry out a series of warlike actions for the one possible strategic end — the seizure of power. The guerrilla is supported by the peasant and worker masses of the region and of the whole territory in which it acts. Without these prerequisites, guerrilla warfare is not possible.”

This belief was evident in how Che went about adding guerrillas to the army. Those he added were everyday citizens who were fighting for their very way of life. They fought with heart and for a better life. The film showed many groups of recruits coming in to the camp to join up to fight and Che took an interest in who they were, where they were from, and even if they could read and write. He was meticulous in his selection, seeming to want to add only those who could contribute. He did not just add for the sake of numbers. There had to be purpose.

 2) Why does the guerrilla fighter fight? Because he is a social reformer who takes up arms responding to the angry protest of the people against their oppressors. (class notes)

Guerrilla warfare: A method goes on to point out “two factors that complement each other and which deepen during the struggle: consciousness of the necessity of change and confidence in the possibility of this revolutionary change.”

 The film portrayed this belief quite well. Those who fought had been effected some way by the oppressive government they were fighting against. The loss of land, economic opportunity and education was wide spread and the need for change was palpable. As for the “confidence in the possibility of this revolutionary change,” the portion of the film where Che gave his fighters the chance to leave and return home portrayed how a majority believed 100% in what they were doing. While some left, under great disgust and verbal chastisment by Che, there two young men who made their dedication known. Che had initially not wanted to allow them to say and fight. They had not weapons and were very young, but their determination to fight for the cause prooved steadfast.

 3) Why does the guerrilla fighter carry out his action in “wild places of small population?” Because he needs to have good knowledge of the surrounding countryside paths and entry and escape, possibility of speedy maneuver, good hiding places and counts on the support of the people. (class notes)

 A majority of this film takes place in the jungle where the guerrillas had set up camp and fought against the army. The idea that Che and the rest of the guerrillas were all fighting for the same cause no matter if they were from the same homeland or not was expressed by the following words in Che Guevara Internet Archive: Message to the Tricontinental:

 “Each spilt drop of blood, in any country under whose flag one has not been born, is an experience passed on to those who survive, to be added later to the liberation struggle of his own country. And each nation liberated is a phase won in the battle for the liberation of one’s own country.”

 With that statement in mind, Eric Zolov supported it when he wrote, “…Che lives on a symbol of internationalist solidarity…” among those who still fight for their cause (247).

 Ernesto wrote to his mother that he was determined to wipe out the part of himself that was “unconcerned about his neighbor and imbued with a sense of self-sufficiency….”  (Zolov 267). The film definitely showed this side of Che, as a man who believed in a cause bigger than himself, a cause that he believed to be for the betterment of the people. We have read in other articles that even though he is portrayed as being a man who fought for the people he was not without prejudices. One must keep that in mind.

 When asked in an interview what Che felt was “the most important quality for a revolutionary,” he replied, “Love of humanity, justice and truth….”

Whether we believe in his cause or not, such qualities in mankind can only add to any society.