Che just before his death

Che shortly before he was captured

Another three hours away in a pick-up truck, through the spectacular scenery of sometimes wooded, sometimes cleared, mountainsides, sparsely dotted with hamlets (including the eastern-most Inca village of Pucará), is the village of La Higuera where Che was shot. The story has been told and retold many times over the four decades since the event as the pieces of the picture have been put together.  To say the village has hardly changed would not be true. It has been embellished or disfigured (according to your point of view) by a small plaza with a 12 ft statue of Che, another bust with a cross on a huge stone (reflecting the increasingly syncretic politico-religious nature of the Che myth), a new community centre cum clinic with Cuban doctors in situ, and, most incongruous of all, two backpacker hostels in exquisite taste run by French people (it is literally in the middle of nowhere but you can get an espresso coffee and a delicious organic salad with proper vinaigrette). One of the hostels is the former house of the telegrapher who informed the army that the guerrillas were there: odd that an historic monument should have been allowed to be privatised.  But at the same time, La Higuera is still a tiny Bolivian village with unpaved streets, adobe houses and country people going about their country business, much as it was when Che was held in the schoolhouse (now a museum) in 1967. It is slightly surreal. The locals mingle with people from all over the world. Some are ageing hippies like myself, but most are young people who have come huge distances to sit all day, and sometimes all night, and just commune with Che. Many are his compatriots from neighbouring Argentina, born when to merely mention the name of Che would get you killed or disappeared, discussing his example of sacrifice, his selflessness, his humanity, his social conscience, his sense of justice, his international solidarity, his ideas of fair trade, etc. To them, these eternal yet modern beliefs, in a world of corruption, self-interest, and greed, are to be revered.

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