Finding Che – Alta Gracia, Argentina, South America
I'm not a fan of Che Guevara. I never expected to go to his childhood home. I especially never expected to be moved by anything he had to say.
Yet, here I am in Alta Gracia, his hometown. Why is that? Well, I am a big fan of side trips – an odd, last remnant of a middle class childhood – minivans, small museum panoramas, ice cream at the end. It's bizarre, but there it is.
Alta Gracia is an hour outside of Cordoba, in the hills of Cordoba, called, Estancias – Jesuit Estancias at that. But we're still in the middle of nowhere, verdant as it is. Che's family moved here as a cure for his asthma. If the humidity today is typical, they should have stayed in Buenos Aires and bought a fan.
The clock tower has four faces, famous for that. The Jesuit Church has a graceful pink stone barrier. The lake is full of large ducks and small children. I've already had a strong espresso.
I've been here an hour. Unless I meet someone, get married, have a couple kids right away, I'm stuck for the rest of the afternoon. The only thing left to do is see Che's house.
His old neighborhood has a couple fake castles, a handful of ruins. Mostly there are well-maintained stone houses on quarter-acre plots. I grew up in a place like this. I know how to be a boy here, how to race my bike down the street, how to feel secure. His home is unassuming by the standards of the block. I still don't expect to be moved by anything Che has to say. I might as well tell you my problem with Che.
To be a visionary, you need to have a vision. All he did was replace one autocrat with another, hardly attaining Gandhi's level of selflessness. He's nowhere near Mandela, either. Che's accomplishment hovers closest to Margaret Thatcher who, running in the opposite direction, took socialist security away from her people.
Worse, Che betrayed the people he knew best. All over Cuba, houses much like his were looted, ransacked. People similar to his best friends, his teachers, his grandmothers were scuttled into uncertain exile. It's unforgivable.
I went inside. His mother saved his report cards. That's sweet. In the second room is the last letter Che wrote her, in 1965, while he was about to attack Bolivia. Surprisingly, it reads as an apology. He writes in part: