Sunday, November 19, 2006

Family heritage and early life

Ernesto Guevara de la Serna was born in Rosario, Argentina, the eldest of five children in a family of Spanish and Irish descent; both his father and mother were of Basque ancestry.Basque The date of birth recorded on his birth certificate was June 14, 1928, although one tertiary source (Julia Constenla, quoted by Jon Lee Anderson) asserts that he was actually born on May 14 of that year. (Constenla alleges that she was told by an unidentified astrologer that his mother, Celia de la Serna, was already pregnant when she and Ernesto Guevara Lynch were married and that the birthdate of their son was forged a month later than the actual date to avoid scandal.) One of Guevara's forebears, Patrick Lynch, was born in Galway, Ireland, in 1715. He left for Bilbao, Spain, and traveled from there to Argentina. Francisco Lynch (Guevara's great-grandfather) was born in 1817, and Ana Lynch (his beloved grandmother) in 1868Galway Her son, Ernesto Guevara Lynch (Guevara's father) was born in 1900. Guevara Lynch married Celia de la Serna y Llosa in 1927, and they had three sons and two daughters.

Growing up in this upper-class family with leftist leanings, Guevara became known for his dynamic personality and radical perspective even as a boy. He idolized Francisco Pizarro and yearned to have been one of his soldiers. Though suffering from the crippling bouts of asthma that were to afflict him throughout his life, he excelled as an athlete. He was an avid rugby union player despite his handicap and earned himself the nickname "Fuser" — a contraction of "El Furibundo" (English: "The Raging") and his mother's surname, "Serna" — for his aggressive style of play.

Guevara on a burro at the age of 3Guevara learned chess from his father and began participating in local tournaments by the age of 12. During his adolescence he became passionate about poetry, especially that of Pablo NerudaNeruda[›]. Guevara, as is common practice among Latin Americans of his class, also wrote poems throughout his life. He was an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, with interests ranging from adventure classics by Jack London, Emilio Salgari and Jules Verne to essays on sexuality by Sigmund Freud and treatises on social philosophy by Bertrand Russell. In his late teens, he developed a keen interest in photography and spent many hours photographing people, places and, during later travels, archaeological sites.

With his parents and siblings in 1936In 1948 Guevara entered the University of Buenos Aires to study medicine. While a student, he spent long periods traveling around Latin America. In 1951 his older friend, Alberto Granado, a biochemist, suggested that Guevara take a year off from his medical studies to embark on a trip they had talked of making for years, traversing South America. Guevara and the 29-year-old Granado soon set off from their hometown of Alta Gracia astride a 1939 Norton 500 cc motorcycle they named La Poderosa II (English: "the Mighty One, the Second") with the idea of spending a few weeks volunteering at the San Pablo Leper colony in Peru on the banks of the Amazon River. Guevara narrated this journey in The Motorcycle Diaries, which was translated into English in 1996 and used in 2004 as the basis for a motion picture of the same name.

Witnessing the widespread poverty, oppression and disenfranchisement throughout Latin America, and influenced by his readings of Marxist literature, Guevara decided that the only solution for the region’s inequalities was armed revolution. His travels and readings also led him to view Latin America not as a group of separate nations but as a single entity requiring a continent-wide strategy for liberation. His conception of a borderless, united Ibero-America sharing a common 'mestizo' cultureIbero-America[›] was a theme that would prominently recur during his later revolutionary activities. Upon returning to Argentina, he expedited the completion of his medical studies in order to resume his travels in Central and South America and received his diploma on 12 June 1953.