Thursday, September 5, 2013

Che Guevara’s manuscripts preserved for posterity

Che Guevara’s manuscripts including his famous Motorcycle Diaries recently came under the spotlight, as UNESCO recognised that the items belonging to and concerning Guevara up until his execution in the Bolivian village of La Higuera in 1967, should be preserved for posterity.

UNESCO states that “the collection, Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara: from the original manuscripts of his adolescence and youth to the campaign Diary in Bolivia, includes 1007   documents ― grouped in a total of 8197 pages―, that cover the period from 1928 to 1967, concerning his revolutionary work, essays, news paper articles, biographical materials and personal works, as well as his correspondence. Of the total sum, 431 are manuscripts by Guevara and 567 are documents about or related to him.  It also includes valuable iconographic material by and about Che, films, letters and museum pieces.”

Motorcycle Diaries

Included in the collection are his famous Motorcycle Diaries. In January 1952 Guevara and his friend, Alberto Granado, decided to take a year off from their medical studies to embark on a trip traversing South America on a 1939 Norton 500 cc motorbike. The  diary starts:

“This is not a story of incredible heroism, or merely the narrative of a cynic; at least I do not mean it to be. It is a glimpse of two lives that ran parallel for a time, with similar hopes and convergent dreams…”

By the end of this “coming of age” journey the pair had witnessed immense poverty and exploitation throughout the many countries they had travelled through and it was these real experiences and encounters that made Guevara determined to fight for the cause of the poor.

Parlous state of preservation

The Memory of the World Programme was established in 1992. UNESCO states that… ” the Impetus came originally from a growing awareness of the parlous state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world.War and social upheaval, as well as severe lack of resources, have worsened problems which have existed for centuries. Significant collections worldwide have suffered a variety of fates. Looting and dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, inadequate housing and funding have all played a part. Much has vanished forever; much is endangered. Happily, missing documentary heritage is sometimes rediscovered. ”

However, not everyone agrees with the decision made by UNESCO. For example, Cuban born  U.S. Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, an outspoken critic of the institution and its policies, publicly stated:

“UNESCO continued its long-standing tradition of making a mockery of its own institution when it opted to venerate and memorialise the life of a blood thirsty, murderous sadist, Che Guevara…”

Past Horizons. 2013. “Che Guevara’s manuscripts preserved for posterity”. Past Horizons. Posted: July 30, 2013. Available online:

No comments: