What We Owe to Che Guevara

By Luis Antonio Gomez Perez* Havana (Prensa Latina) Ernesto Guevara, Che, was one of the pillars of the Cuban Revolution in January 1959, as well as a key figure during the first years of the government established on the island after the triumph of the rebels led by Fidel Castro.

On June 14, 2018, the 90th anniversary of his birth is celebrated. Especially for the occasion, the Heroic Guerrilla’s daughter, Dr. Aleida Guevara, spoke with Prensa Latina News Agency about her father’s ideals in present-day Cuba and what it remains to be done in this Caribbean country to honor his legacy.

According to Aleida, a collaborator of the Che Guevara Study Center, the hero’s thoughts are present every day in Cuban society, from the morning greeting of primary school students to the motto referring to the legendary internationalist fighter: ‘Pioneers for communism: We’ll be like Che!’

One of the center’s purposes is precisely to study how the little ones understand Che. ‘We have worked with groups of children and very nice things happen when you explain to them values such as internationalism,’ said the interviewee.

‘Once, talking about it, a child stood up saying to another: ‘Hey, you cry every day because your mom went to work in Venezuela. Your mom is exactly like Che, so why are you crying?”

The child -continued the pediatrician- came to a conclusion on what internationalism currently means, and he was able to associate it with Che. ”That’s what we want, that his figure is always present, permanently, perhaps as one of the basis for our young people’s education.”

According to Guevara, there are excellent experiences in many schools, although she does not know them all. However, she did refer to Solidaridad con Panama (Solidarity with Panama), the only center of its kind in the country designed for children with special needs, physical-motor or mental limitations.

The human work done there is great, she said. It is the kind of school where professors not only teach Mathematics, Spanish or Physics, but the values of life, solidarity, respect for the human being, love for everybody. And those are also Che’s values. I think that, if we manage to have that kind of schools, then we will have childhood guaranteed, and that is very important for our country. ”When we get a child to love his school and identify with it, that child will grow up with the desire to know, to learn and to be socially useful, which is crucial for us.’

Regarding her father’s values and thoughts, Aleida Guevara brought up the process of updating the economic and social model in Cuba. ”We certainly have to improve the country’s economy, but without forgetting the formation of values. If we only solve the material problems and we forget the human being, we will lose,’ she said. 

According to Dr. Guevara, Che’s legacy is present every day in different spheres and processes of Cuban reality, including the economic and social update, however she considers that it’s not enough and his ideas still need to be studied and practiced more often.

‘What is the most urgent thing? From an economic perspective, Che raised matters that cannot be ignored in any way, for example, the fact that quality means respect for the people. It’s a very simple phrase, but really important for people.’

Che thought about these economic issues from the first moment, when he spoke of the need to obtain and trade sugarcane derivatives and not only focus on raw materials, she recalled.

‘Now we are starting to work on it. In that sense, Che must be more present in our economy,’ she said.

Planning is also a significant aspect we have to improve. As Che himself expressed, ‘it fails if the workers do not recognize it or are not aware of it.’

At the same time, added Guevara, we should never miss something said by my father: society has to be a huge school where the new man is formed.

‘If you only think about your pocket, about how to live better, you can forget that we are trying to achieve a different society, and that is a real danger in recent times,’ Che pointed out.

According to Aleida, many things were neglected in Cuba, although it must also be recognized that the country was severely beaten during adverse moments, such as the special period.

‘Solutions were found, perhaps not the best ones, but they emerged from those circumstances. Now we still have time to find others: rectifying is one of the beautiful qualities of the revolutionary process,’ she said.

Dr. Guevara pointed out that Che cannot remain only as images or texts in schools. ‘That is one of the debts we have,’ she considered.

According to her, in one of his speeches to young people Che said that the goal of the new generations was to forget him and Fidel Castro. ‘When I heard it I asked myself: ‘Is my dad crazy? How could he say something like that?’ But what he meant was that if, in the future, we forgot about them it would be because we would have already been able to put into practice everything they taught us.’

‘That’s what Che was calling on: to reach a higher level. If we do so, then we will have fulfilled our aims.’

* Journalist of Prensa Latina News Agency’s National Editorial Department.

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