Translated by Marvin Najarro
The United States is a country with an impressive diversity of cultures. At a traffic light stop, waiting to cross the avenue, there may be fifty people from different countries, and they all have a history, a past, a root. The number of religions and of political thinking is also that diverse. In a social gathering, in a restaurant, in a simple supermarket or in the park you can find a variety of cultures and languages that are impossible to identify.
And I have met people from countries that I did not know they existed and which they have had to show me on a map, and that when starting a conversation with me they ask me about Che, Allende, Chavez and Fidel, as if waiting for me to tell the stories of those myths which they take for granted that I know by heart. And there they are like children waiting to be told a story.
And there I am in front of them, an emigrated Guatemalan woman, grown up in the era of deliberate amnesia, without much to tell because I know very little. You do not catch up on three readings with everything that was hidden from you all your life in a system structured for the success of collective ignorance. And they ask it in amazement because of the international relevance of these figures. And one feels insignificant, almost not a thing, before that enormous responsibility.
And something very curious happens, people take it for granted that because you are from Latin America you know from A to Z the history of the continent (and we should), thereupon they ask about Che, as if he was a friend from the block, or Allende, as if we were from the same town, or Cuba as if we had been born there on the same piece of land as Fidel. Chávez, Chávez !, they say excited, as if one had grown up selling araña (spider) sweets with the child in Sabaneta de Barinas.
Then they speak of South America, as if it was there, just around the main boulevard of the neighborhood where I grew up. Or they say Mexico as if it was next to Brazil, or Panama as if it was adjacent to Chile. And so with the same emotion they expect me to answer and tell them about the culture, politics and the history of the continent.
And it’s an enormous responsibility the mere fact of mentioning the name of these myths. Because as I have always said it, you can admire revolutionary people who changed the history of the world, but never say that you are one of them, because one thing is to admire and another to act. There lies the difference because what it is involved are the guts and the integrity to move from words to deeds. We are light years away from the true revolutionaries who rest in the greatness of immortality. What they sacrificed is no small thing.
Then, with the same emotion of children singing and dancing around in a circle in the neighborhood’s street, I tell them how little I know. And I love being able to share with other people about the world myths that the Patria Grande (Great Homeland) has given birth to. And while I tell them about Che, I transport them to Mexico to know the Adelitas, and while I talk about Fidel, I tell them the story of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. Juana Azurduy, I tell them, as if we had grown there in the same block.
And I paint them mustard and earth colors, green hope, and red fire, wild blue sea, and naked sky in a summer day. And they see the green of the Las Minas Mountains, and the plushy white of the snowy Andes. The red earth of Salamá, and the intense yellow of the pineapples of Misiones. And they come and go through the Magdalena River, the Amazon and the Tarahumara Mountains; the millenary Latin America with its pains, culture, myths and colors.
And their eyes sparkle when I talk about Che. Just by looking at the shoes he was wearing on the day of his capture, one understands the immortal greatness of a human being that was ahead of his time and that left everything to go in search of the freedom of the peoples, not only of Latin America, but of the world.
And everything starts with him: when I say that I am Latin American, they immediately name him, Che is the magnet, and who politically at the international level is the presentation card of Latin America, wounded, but fighting back. Che, Che Guevara, they tell me as if with thirst, hunger, as if hoping to find in the scorching sun of the desert, the shade of a tree.
And at that moment I am the one in charge to get them a glass of water, and I tell them that Che was born in Argentina and not in Cuba, their eyes open wide as in amazement, but then I tell them that he belongs to everyone: that Che is Asian, African, European, black, white, because his nature is inherent to those beings that love the earth as they love life.
And I feel privileged, because he gives me the opportunity to mention his name and tell his story; to me that in total ignorance try to know the history of the Great Homeland that he loved so much. Latin America looks different inside and outside the borders, being on the other side, always brings with it a responsibility that comes hand in hand with Historical Memory.
And although it seems quite the opposite, I am not knowledgeable enough, it’s just been 3 or 4 years ago that I started to wake up from the collective torpor; I barely knew my name, nothing more, and I continue to be amazed every day when I discover Latin America ancestral roots that these myths have honored.
And what about us mere mortals, when?
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Ilka Oliva Corado @ilkaolivacorado firstname.lastname@example.org
The Charm of Che
Translated by Marvin Najarro