BUENOS AIRES – On the eve of the 50th death anniversary of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, his friend Carlos Ferrer, or Calica, in an interview with EFE, recalled their journey together through South America and how it changed his life and molded the character of the iconic Argentine revolutionary.
In 1953, when Calica was 24 – one year younger than Che – both of them traveled through Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, surviving on very little money.
These experiences, recounted in Ferrer’s book “De Ernesto al Che” (From Ernesto to Che) has been re-published this year by the Marea publishing house as “Los viajes del Che por Sudamerica” (Che’s travels through South America) to mark the 50th year of Che’s death.
The two had met, when Carlos, now 88, was barely three years old, in Alta Gracia, a small village in the mountains in Cordoba province, where the Guevara family had moved to facilitate asthma treatment for their child by Calica’s father, a renowned doctor.
In the conservative environment of the village, the two families – who shared similar progressive worldviews and sympathy for the republicans in the Spanish Civil War – forged a quick friendship.
Years later, looking more for work than adventure, the young men left for Venezuela, hitching rides on passing trucks, enjoying the luxury of a bed with clean linen “once or twice, and by chance.”
However, as Calica said, the dictatorships, poverty and indigenous conflicts that they came across in their travels molded Che’s character.
The two separated in Ecuador when Carlos was offered a job with a local football team, and Che carried on toward the north, along a path that would finally lead him to Fidel Castro.
Ferrer’s first reaction to the news of Che’s death was disbelief and he could only accept it when the Cuban government confirmed the news.
“He was carrying an injured companion. Ernesto could have saved himself, like the others. But...,” Calica said, recounting the story of the capture of his friend on Oct. 8, 1957 in Bolivia and his execution a day later.
Ferrer believes the legacy of Che lives on especially among leftist governments that have proliferated in Latin America in recent times.
“In this political change, Che and his ideas are present,” he said.
He has also, finally, made his peace with the way his friend has ended up a consumerist icon.
“At least they remember Che,” he said.