Insatiable curiosity

Che, reading Goethe, in a rough campesino shack during the war in the Sierra Maestra

Last weekend was the 50th anniversary of, as the Cubans say, the “physical disappearance” of Che Guevara, and the Cuban newspapers and airwaves were a virtual historical banquet, featuring items well-known and others less so.

The best was Manuel Pérez’s documentary (Che Guevara, donde nunca jamás se lo imaginan – Che Guevara, where you’d least expect him) which aired several times and contains some unusual footage, including:

Che speaking French, fluidly. His mother taught him. You can get an idea from this video interview, which resurfaced this summer on Cuban television. (The English subtitles could stand some proofreading, but the content is extremely current.  La plus ça change….)

Che’s moving reunion with his mother in Havana. The two throw their arms around one another in a tight embrace that lasts five, six seconds; exactly like a tightly bonded mother and son who hadn’t seen one another for years and fully expected that the reunion might never happen. Che’s mother died several years later, while he was in the Congo, and thus avoided the heartbreak that would come later from Bolivia.

Che, always reading. This I attribute largely to his mother’s influence and also to his growing up without an idiot box.  His desire to learn was insatiable.  While he headed Cuba’s central bank, he studied economic theory and Pérez includes a clip of his professor describing the experience.  After four years of private lessons – during which, Che moved from the central bank to preside over the Ministry of Industry, the professor said, “Look, I’ve taught you everything I know; I really can’t go any further.” Che then asked him to give him courses in engineering. The professor said, “I can’t teach you that. I don’t know anything about it.” “Well then, we’ll learn together,” Che answered. And so they did.

 

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