Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Boy and His Asthma

Che's family moved to Alta Gracia to help relieve his asthma. Alta Gracia is a sweet little town in the Sierra Chicos where the air is cleaner, crisper, etc. at slightly higher altitude. I spent a nice day up here walking in the rain. Che's boyhood home has been turned into a museum and there's even a little restaurant down the street serving Cuban food. Otherwise it's very much a suburban middle class neighborhood where Che and his family spent 11 years. The museum was not at all what I expected. Neither pro nor con vis-a-vis Che the revolutionary, it's really about Che the kid and the origins of his determination to fight injustice. I never thought I'd feel so emotional about Che as I have a complicated relationship with his life and myth as many people do. But Che the kid appears to have been awesome. A natural leader, he rounded up the other kids for games and became an avid reader when he was slowed down by his asthma. His childhood friends recalled numerous stories about how he protected animals and told the other kids not to hurt them, and he had a penchant for making friends with all kids--upper and lower class alike (not done in those days apparently among the middle and upper class Argentines--things haven't changed that much it seems). The lady at the front desk was incredibly nice and the gift shop was a kick...Cuban cigars, Che coasters, childhood pics, books, etc. One walked away with the feeling of knowing this kid when he was 8 or 9. One sees the roots of his later work, his sincere desire to fight for justice...which in some sense led to the rude awakening that it's really hard... he decided revolution was the only way. That's a whole nother topic, but this museum really gives a human face to Che, superceding the ubiquitous t-shirt visage and revealing the very human story behind his destiny. Argentines have an interesting relationship with him. He's a major historical figure and he speaks to their pride, yet he never really played a part in Argentine politics at all, though he certainly influenced radical left groups in the 70s. He's like part of the family, and you got to love him anyway. And call me sentimental, but I fell in love with Che in Alta Gracia. I'd always thought he was hot, but that's different, and I still won't wear the t-shirt because I don't support violent revolution. I have zero sentimentality for communism or any political system, but I think very highly of people who commit their lives to righting wrongs and fighting for justice. Not enough people do. Che said "I will triumph or die". He was committed. I almost shed a tear. Oh lord, I'll stop.... but yes, Laaners (my colleagues at www.laane.org), like el che, you have changed me and inspired me and you are committed to the only human endeavor that is worth pursuing, and I admire you for it. And I thank you, for you have helped me to see.

Off I went to La Gruta, which is a grotto for Our Lady of Lourdes with all that that entails. The anti-Che reality--but not really--and a lovely sacred spot. I especially enjoyed the little kids running about misbehaving while their parents encouraged solemnity (although not too strictly---parents are really sweet to their kids here and the kids seem strong, happy and confident, perhaps because of it). Perhaps Che was such a kid....I walked away past a gaggle of nuns...a child shouting and pointing...'monjas, monjas!' (nuns), reflecting on how people put their faith in things...some in religion, the earth (catholicism is not just Christian, esp at an earthy pagan place like a grotto) or a political philosophy....I thought sadly to myself...I wish my dear Che had become a priest or Buddhist monk...but then again, he had the balls to live his truth and he definitely left a mark and a legacy that has changed the Americas certainly and America's relationship to them. Someone asked me as I left...where is your faith? And I answered rather quickly...in the human heart, mine or yours. It's an unreliable, inexact, confused place, but it's the best of us, for what it's worth, and whatever faith I have is there. But I still doused myself with the holy water and made three wishes (my mother always told me that you get three wishes every time you visit a new church..I love this tradition and I have been doing lots of wishing..for myself, I admit, and for others as well--yes you too Mom, thanks for the magic! It's a nice feeling to wish :) Ojala!

No comments:

Post a Comment