Whispers From the Che Mausoleum, Santa Clara, Cuba

Before visitors are allowed into this tomb they must hand over practically all of their belongings to a bag check guard. I was permitted to keep my notebook and pen and jacket. Somewhere on the internet perhaps there are official photos of the El Che Mausoleum…Or perhaps not….

I am not here. I am in your heart. I am the dreamer, and my dreams have filled hundreds, and thousands, and more. Many more.

The Argentine Ernesto Guevara, more commonly known as El Che, is a hero of heroes in Cuba. He is the model Cuban youth strive to emulate. His image can be seen everywhere in the country – on posters, in huge effigy on the sides of buildings, in statuary.

Statue of El Che in front of the Officina de la Provincia (PCC), Santa Clara

But it is in Santa Clara where his presence is most keenly felt. For this is where The Revolution was finally won, through the extraordinary tactical skill of El Che. It was through his inspired and decisive leadership that Batista’s government forces finally took a decisive blow with the derailment of the Tren Blindado (the armored troop carrier) as it passed through Santa Clara on December 29, 1958. At 3:00 a.m. on January 1, 1959 dictator Fulgencio Batista fled to the Dominican Republic.

Ernesto Guevara was captured in the Bolivian jungle in October 1967, weakened and depleted by asthma, having had little food and no medicine for weeks. The next day he was killed, and his hands removed so that positive identification could be made.

My bones are not me, they are relics of my body. But what lives on is my passion, my fervor. The vision. The courage of conviction.

Thirty years later, in July 1997, his remains and those of six of his guerrilla compatriots were located in a mass grave in the Bolivian jungle. The remains were repatriated to Cuba and are now in a mausoleum in Santa Clara.

Before visitors are allowed into this tomb they must hand over practically all of their belongings to a bag check guard. I was permitted to keep my notebook and pen and jacket. Somewhere on the internet perhaps there are official photos of the El Che Mausoleum..Or perhaps not..

In the mausoleum there are bronze facial images of Che’s fellow fighters who, like El Che, fought their last in Bolivia. Each is displayed with respect, separated into rows and columns, with ample space allowed to set off each. In the midst of these faces, arranged four high on subterranean walls that echo the irregular shape of cave walls is the image, head high of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.

On the floor of this cave-like space there is a pathway leading to El Che, about four feet wide and constructed of small, flat strips of gleaming stone in various shades of brown. Pieces are fitted together loosely, forming a totally flat surface, and the whole pathway resembles, in effect, a forest path in dappled shade.

I am in the wind, in the mountains, in the streams. In the Sierra del Escambray, in the Sierra Maestre.

Lacking my chance to use my camera, I am left with words. So here is a very personal experience of the Che Mausoleum, in words.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I am not here. I am in your heart. I am the dreamer, and my dreams have filled hundreds, and thousands, and more. Many more.

My bones are not me, they are relics of my body. But what lives on is my passion, my fervor. The vision. The courage of conviction.

Never could I stop, never desist until the dream was finally alive, in totality. But it was not to be, my dream of a United Sur America, from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego.

I counted upon the truth of that dream to bring the people to me – to feed us and hide us and fight with us, But there, in Bolivia, it did not happen. We were revealed, our secrets given to the government, our enemy. Our supplies were ransacked leaving nothing to fall back on; leaving no medications as I slipped further and further, my energy sapped, and finally my loyal forces surrounded, killed or captured. And I was captured.

I ought to have ended it myself so they could not. But in the end they feared me too much to sustain my life with torture and interrogation. In the end, they ended it for me.

I was stoic, and unafraid, and defiant. Having faced so much over the years, what was one more threat?

There were battles still to fight,
and ever shall there be.

I am in the wind, in the mountains, in the streams. In the Sierra del Escambray, in the Sierra Maestre.

This house is only to remind you never to give up, to always dream. I whisper to you, I sing to you. Dream, and strive, and care – deeply.

Yes I am here.

Plaza José Martí, Cienfuegos, Cuba


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