Last Saturday marked the day 81 years ago when Ernesto Guevara de la Serna y Lynch entered the world. As luck would have it, a PBS special titled "The 60's Experience" featuring former Animals' singer, Eric Burdon, sporting a humongous (as befits the quite rotund Burdon nowadays) Che Guevara T-shirt is recently making the rounds. Eric's tent-like covering shames both Carlos Santana's and Johnny Depp's Che shirts. It features an elegant collar, and a huge image of the gallant Che's face on both front and back. Naturally, Eric was belting out the Animals' classics, which featured his incomparable, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place."
EXACTLY, Eric!" I blurted at the TV. "That was the exact and desperate refrain from 6.3 million Cubans (Cuba's population in 1959) when your t-shirt icon imposed his liberation!" (Pre-Castro Cuba, by the way, took in more immigrants as a percentage of population than the U.S., mostly from Europe. People used to be almost as desperate to "get into that place" as they later became to quote Burdon's song.)
When your idiot professor and the idiots on The History Channel, etc. call Che a "guerrilla fighter" they're quite correct, but unwittingly. The term "Indian fighter" was used for cowboys who fought against Indians right? Well, did your history prof or The History Channel inform you that one of the bloodiest and longest guerrilla wars on this continent was fought - not by - but against Fidel and Che, and mostly by campesinos?
Didn't think so. Farm collectivization was no more voluntary in Cuba than in the Ukraine. And Cuba's Kulaks had guns, a few at first anyway. Had these rebels gotten a fraction of the aid the Afghan Mujahedeen got, the Viet Cong got -- indeed that George Washington's rebels got from the French -- had these Cuban rebels gotten any help, my kids would speak Spanish and Miami's jukeboxes today would carry Faith Hill rather than Gloria Estefan.
But JFK's Missile Crisis "solution" pledged to Castro and his Soviet sponsors that the U.S. pull the rug out from under Cuba's in-house freedom fighters. Raul Castro himself admitted that at the time of the Missile Crisis his troops and their Soviet advisors were up against 179 different "bands of bandits" as he labeled the thousands of Cuban anti-Communist rebels then battling savagely and virtually alone in Cuba's countryside, with small arms shipments from their compatriots in south Florida as their only lifeline.
Kennedy's deal with Khrushchev cut this lifeline. The Cuban freedom-fighters working from South Florida were suddenly rounded up for "violating U.S. Neutrality laws." The Coast Guard in Florida got 12 new boats and seven new planes to make sure Castro and his Soviet patrons remained utterly unmolested as they consolidated Stalinism 90 miles from U.S. shores. Think about it: here's the U.S. Coast Guard and Border patrol working 'round the clock arresting Hispanics in the U.S. who are desperate to return to their native country.
This ferocious guerrilla war, waged 90 miles from America's shores, might have taken place on the planet Pluto for all you'll read about it in the MSM and all you'll learn about it from those illustrious Ivy League Academics. To get an idea of the odds faced by those betrayed rural rebels, the desperation of their battle and the damage they wrought, you might revisit Tony Montana during the last 15 minutes of "Scarface."
Che had a very bloody (and typically cowardly) hand in this slaughter, one of the major anti-insurgency wars on this continent. Eighty percent of these anti-communist guerrillas were executed on the spot upon capture, a Che specialty. "We fought with the fury of cornered beasts," is how one of the lucky few who escaped described this desperate freedom fight against the Soviet occupation of Cuba through their proxies Fidel and Che.
In 1956 when Che linked up with Fidel, Raul, and their Cuban chums in Mexico city, one of them (now in exile) recalls Che railing against the Hungarian freedom-fighters as "Fascists!" and cheering their extermination by Soviet tanks.
In 1962 Che got a chance to do more than cheer from the sidelines. He had a hand in the following: "Cuban militia units commanded by Russian officers employed flame-throwers to burn the palm-thatched cottages in the Escambray countryside. The peasant occupants were accused of feeding the counterrevolutionaries and bandits." At one point in 1962, one of every 17 Cubans was a political prisoner. Fidel himself admits that they faced 179 bands of "counter-revolutionaries" and "bandits."
Mass murder was the order in Cuba's countryside. It was the only way to decimate so many rebels. These country folk went after the Reds with a ferocity that saw Fidel and Che running to their Soviet sugar daddies and tugging their pants in panic. That commie bit about how "a guerrilla swims in the sea which is the people, etc." fit Cuba's anti-Fidel and Che rebellion to a T. So in a relocation and concentration campaign that shamed anything the Brits did to the Boers, the gallant Communists ripped hundreds of thousands of Cubans from their ancestral homes and herded them into concentration camps on the opposite side of Cuba. I interview several of these "relocated" families too.
One of these Cuban redneck wives refused to be relocated. After her husband, sons, and a few nephews were murdered by the Gallant Che and his minions, she grabbed a tommy gun herself, rammed in a clip and took to the hills. She became a rebel herself. Cubans know her as La Niña Del Escambray.
For a year she ran rings around the Communist armies sweeping the hills in her pursuit. Finally she ran out of ammo and supplies and the reds rounded her up. Amazingly, she wasn't executed (Che must have taken that day off.) For years La Niña suffered horribly in Castro's dungeons, but she lingers in a Miami nursing home today, mentally shattered.
Seems to me her tragic story makes ideal fodder for Oprah, for all those women's magazines, for all those butch professorettes of "Women's Studies," for a Susan Sarandon role, for a little whooping up by Gloria Steinem, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary herself. If Sonia Sotomayor's is a Cinderella story La Nina's is Joan of Arc's.
Think about it: here's that favored theme for Hollywood producers and New York publishers - "the feisty woman." Well, they don't come much feistier than Zoila Aguila, her real name. Had she been fighting, say, Somoza or Pinochet or Batista you can bet your last penny Hollywood and New York would be all over her story. Instead she fought the Left's premier pin-up boys. So, naturally, nobody's heard of her.
Humberto Fontova is the author of four books including Exposing the Real Che Guevara. Visit hfontova.com.