From a speech made in Chile at the site of a statue of Che on November 28, 1971
Men contribute to the making of history, but history also makes men.
I met Che in Mexico in 1955. An Argentine by birth, he was Latin American in spirit and in heart. He had just come from Guatemala.
About Che, as about all revolutionaries, many tales have been invented. They try to present him as a conspirator, a shadowy subversive dedicated to devising plots and revolutions. As a young man, like so many other young students, as a graduate of his country's university, like so many other graduates-in his case, as a doctor-Che, who had a special curiosity and interest in things related to Latin America, a special interest in study and knowledge, a special desire to see all our nations, made a tour of several countries. He had nothing more than is degree.
At times on foot, at times on motorcycle, he went from country to country. In fact, when we were in Chiquicamata [in northern Chile] we were shown the place he had stopped for a day on the first trip he made outside his country. He had no money. He wasn't a tourist. He went to see the work centers, the hospitals, the historic sites. He crossed the Andes, took a boat or a raft, and went as far as a leper hospital in the Amazon, where he worked for a time as a doctor.
In 1955 the first Moncada combatants who had just come out of prison had to leave Cuba. One of the first comrades subjected to persistent harassment was Raúl (Castro), who left for Mexico. I arrived a few weeks later. Raul had already made contact with other comrades who had not been in prison, and he had also met Che. A few days after my arrival in Mexico I met Che in a house where some Cubans were staying on Emparan Street, if I remember the name correctly-but I can't remember the number of the house now.
Che wasn't Che then. He was Ernesto Guevara. It was because of the Argentine custom of calling people "che" that the Cubans began calling him Che. That was how he got that name, a name he later made famous, a name he turned into an emblem.
Return to Timetable - 1971