Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
About forty students attended a movie screening and lecture on the life of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, a revolutionary known throughout the Latin American world as “El Che.” The event, held in the Intercultural Center Big Room, was called “Che Vive” [Che Lives] organized by the Latin American Studies program, the Intercultural Center, and Enlace.
The event began with a twenty-five minute excerpt from a documentary entitled “El Che: Investigating a Legend.” Ricardo Ocampo ’05, who organized the lecture with Professor of Spanish Aurora Camacho de Schmidt, introduced the movie and the talk. Many students seemed familiar with the story of Che Guevara from studies of revolution movements in South America, and some had seen “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a film based on Guevara’s diaries about his life in his early twenties. The documentary presented during the event focused on a bigger picture of Guevara’s life and his commitment to working for social revolution.
The film excerpt traced the trajectory of Guevara’s life from his birth to a middle class family in Argentina to his involvement with Fidel Castro in the revolution in Cuba. It focused on the difficulties Che faced in overcoming his asthma and not allowing it to become a sign of weakness in front of the militias he would organize, reaching the audience through original sources including home movies taken by Che’s family and interviews with those he interacted with.
Following the presentation of the clip, Ocampo introduced Professor Camacho de Schmidt, who spoke for almost an hour about the life of Che. She brought a map to help students gain an appreciation for Guevara’s extensive voyages from Argentina to Mexico to Cuba and back to his death in Bolivia. Camacho de Schmidt obviously has great respect for and knowledge of Guevara’s work, and her enthusiasm showed as she presented an engaging talk. She quoted from some of Guevara’s extensive writings, speaking perhaps most poignantly about the profoundly intimate friendship Guevara shared with Fidel Castro. Though she apologized for not having extensive academic training in Guevara’s work, Camacho de Schmidt explained his relevance to her life having grown up as a Latin American woman living in Mexico City when Che might have been meeting just blocks away.
While many students of liberation movements are familiar with Che Guevara as a rugged yet dedicated leader who worked throughout Central and South America, “Che Vive” succeeded in presenting attendees with a more rounded picture of the background of the life of one of the world’s most famous and enigmatic social revolutionaries.