Trekking through the Bolivian jungle to relive Che Guevara’s final moments

Iconic image of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara on the wall of the hospital laundry room where his body was laid out

“Take a seat,” says the woman in charge of the unremarkable little whitewashed former school house.

Sitting on the chair where Che was finally shot

I lower myself into a fragile-looking, child-sized wooden chair.

The curator smiles. “You are now sitting in the very spot where the revolutionary hero Che Guevara was shot dead more than four decades ago.”

I find it hard to believe, but she insists she is telling the truth and points at something on the seat.

I notice a few flecks of deep maroon, they do indeed appear to be deeply ingrained blood stains.

We are in the former school that Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna , better known by his nickname Che (an Argentinian word for ‘mate’, which he would often use) was finally killed by Bolivian soldiers under orders from high-ranking US officials – or as some believe, the Bolivian president himself.

Spot the flecks of Che’s blood…

The one-time classroom has become a shrine to the man who left his life as an Argentinian doctor to lead the armed struggle against ‘Yankee Imperialism’ in South America.

The school walls are plastered with poignant quotes and poems, mugshot photos, a Che cigarette box and scores of other nik naks.

Other corners of the room carry posters telling the story of Che’s rise through the revolutionary ranks and his final months trying to muster a rebel force together in the heart of Bolivia.

Some of the items people have left in Che’s shrine

It has taken us two days and a series of different buses and lifts to reach the tiny, middle-of-nowhere, hamlet of La Higuera, where Che spent his final night.

Roger (pronounced ‘Roher’), who has driven us four hours on a rubble road from the town of Vallegrande, introduces us to his mum Irma Rosado.

“On the day Che was killed, my mother went to the school house to offer him some food, but he turned it down,” he says.

With the woman that met Che Guevara and the famous photo of him lying dead

Moments later we are sampling the same stuff she says she offered Che – a chewy bit of some kind of meat, cold rice and hard potatoes. To be honest, he didn’t miss much.

Earlier we had followed in the footsteps of Che’s very last march, down the side of a steep hill to the Churro Ravine.

Here, on October 8, 1967, Guevara was surrounded by more than 1,000 soldiers. They gradually closed in on him and in the early hours of the morning he was finally captured along with fellow revolutionary Simeón Cuba Sarabia (known as ‘Willy’), who was blinded in the skirmish.

Che and Willy were marched back up the hill at gunpoint and on to La Higuera, just a 20-minute walk away.

Sitting on the spot where Che Guevara was captured

It’s strange that in both the school where he was shot and at the spot where he was captured, Sophie, me and a Belgian girl called Anya who has joined us on the jaunt are the only people there.

For such a famous person, whose beret-topped image has been hailed the most iconic photo of the 21st century, why the place isn’t flooded with tourists is somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps it is something to do with the remoteness of the spot, deep in the Bolivian jungle.

The plain sink, where Che’s dead body was laid out

But for those who are fascinated by the Guevara story, the effort is rewarded.

In Vallegrande we visit the originally unmarked grave where he and some of his comrades were first buried, until the bodies were exhumed and repatriated to Cuba in 1995.

We also walk to the local hospital where Che’s dead body was laid out for several days and memorable photos of his forlorn face and piercing wide eyes were taken.

La Higuera is an unremarkable place for the ‘people’s hero’ to spend his final hours, but then again maybe that’s just how he would have wanted it.

“There are men that fight for a day, and they are good. There are others that fight for a year and they are better, but there are those that fight all their life. Those are the indispensibles”

About travellingtoothbrushes

We are a couple of journalists with restless toothbrushes. Our teeth scrubbers seem unable to leap out of their respective washbags to take up a permanent residency on the bathroom shelf. So, we've decided to let them live the way they want to and take them on a trip around South America...
This entry was posted in Bolivia, Santa Cruz and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Trekking through the Bolivian jungle to relive Che Guevara’s final moments

  1. Lesley and Ian says:

    Your Dad enjoyed the history lesson.

  2. Anonymous says:

    CHE !@ Dead ! ? i’M sure i had a drink with he and Phil in a bar in Arequipa.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s