I once visited in 1987 as a reporter the far-flung village of La Higuera in Bolivia, where the famous guerrilla icon Ernesto Che Guevara was killed at the hands of a drunk sergeant. Even if twenty years have passed since my trip and 40 years on October 9 when he was killed, I can still recall details of that journey.
There’s an odd story today in the Bolivian government-run news agency ABI about Che Guevara’s assassin, an NCO called Mario Terán. Thanks to some Cuban medics, the article reports that the NCO had recovered his eyesight.
If the NCO is the same person, I was offered by the brother of Gary Prado, the Bolivian officer that captured Che Guevara, an exclusive interview with Terán for $1,000. I didn’t accept the offer.
One of the matters that surprised me most about the journey to La Higuera was how the village of 50 inhabitants had been spoiled by journalists. My guide told me that nobody would talk to you if you didn’t flash a few greenbacks.
I was, however, able to speak for free to the teacher of the school where Che Guevara was killed. She was one of the last people to speak to him before he was killed.
“It was a big mistake killing Che Guevara,” she said. “After his death we found out that he wasn’t a bandit but a man who died for us, the poor.”
Che Guevara’s military campaign in Bolivia lasted 11 months and eight days. As one villager in nearby Pucará told me: “When the sergeant [Terán] crashed in Che Gevara’s room [drunk after drinking 6 liters of beer], he [Guevara] stood up and said: Point your machine gun well and don’t forget who you’re shooting.”
Final note: After I reached the village of La Higuera on horseback, I wanted to visit as rapidly as possible the school where Che Guevara was killed. It was a very surreal experience to walk to that school with the backdrop of the majestic Andes all around you.
It was as if his life’s journey ended at the school but didn’t end at all.