Magazine article Geographical

On the Trail of Che Guevara: As South America's Poorest Country, Bolivia Isn't Known for Its Thriving Tourism Industry. but This May All Be about to Change Thanks to a New Community-Run Attraction Inspired by the World's Favourite Revolutionary. David Atkinson Travels to Bolivia's Steamy Tropical Lowlands to Find out More

Magazine article Geographical

On the Trail of Che Guevara: As South America's Poorest Country, Bolivia Isn't Known for Its Thriving Tourism Industry. but This May All Be about to Change Thanks to a New Community-Run Attraction Inspired by the World's Favourite Revolutionary. David Atkinson Travels to Bolivia's Steamy Tropical Lowlands to Find out More

Article excerpt

Towards the end of 1967, Che Guevara gained a new nickname: Fernando the Tooth Extractor. It was the final days of his attempt to start a peasant uprising in rural Bolivia and daily life for his group of guerrillas had become so grim that he had to develop his own DIY dentistry skills. The romantic fantasy Of Marxist ideology and hand-to-hand combat had been replaced by a miserable reality of ticks, malaria, diarrhoea and lancing pustules. Indeed, some of his comrades in arms were so thirsty they took to drinking their own urine.

Guevara and his dream of catalysing a pan-American socialist movement met a wretched end when he was executed by the Bolivian Army in the remote southern pueblo (hamlet) of La Higuera. Now, some 38 years after the Argentinean author, of the Cuban revolution penned his final words in his Bolivian Diary, the story of his last straggle has provided the inspiration for a new 340,000 [pounds sterling] tourism project. The Che Guevara Trail traces the rebel's tracks through tropical southeastern Bolivia and aims to bring prosperity to the same people Guevara's revolution was intended to emancipate.

Bolivia is the poorest country, in South America. with a per capita gross national income of US$890 (470 [pounds sterling]). In this context, developing a tourism industry hasn't been a high priority. The Che Guevara project has been both conceived and executed by the Guarani people. an indigenous community living in a region where rural poverty is extremely high. Now. after three years in development, funding from the British government's Department for International Development (DFID/and a guiding hand from the NGO Care International. the, project has been handed back to the Guarani to be managed by a Collective of interested groups and private enterprises working to promote the trail.

The trail was officially opened on 8 October last year at a ceremony attended by the Bolivian Ministry of Tourism and several international aid bodies. That day, says Nelly Romero, president of the Assemblia del Pueblo Guarani, an indigenous political movement based in the city Of Camiri, was a historic moment for the indigenous community. "It was a day of community power, when we proved we could collaborate with the government and international bodies to achieve our aims." she says. "As Che fought for the poor and disadvantaged, I'm sure he wouldn't feel his name was being exploited by us. the Guarani community, to improve our lives."

The trail comprises two main sections, north and south, with a total length of 300 kilometres and incorporating the newly inaugurated Inau National Park. The northern route is better known, leading from the central city of Santa Cruz to La Higuera via the quiet market town of Valle Grande. The southern leg leads directly along a new tarmac road to Camiri, where Jules Debray, the French intellectual and author of Revolution clans la revolution?, was imprisoned in the Casino Militar for his role in the uprising. (It was alleged that Debray, was conspiring with Guevara to build a European support base for his mission; he was later released following the direct intervention of the French government, and went on to serve in the government of Francois Mitterrand.)

At Ipati, the tarmac road from Santa Cruz intersects with a rough dirt track that leads to the village of Lagunillas, a sleepy pueblo where the locals snooze in the midday sun around the central plaza. It Was here that I met Magdalena Sosse, one of the trail's official guides. Originally from the rural Guarani community of Itaimi. the 24-year-old former teacher recently completed a three-month training course in basic tourism administration and English run by the local council,

As she showed me around the town's. museum--built in a former prison and featuring a series of black-and-white photos and documents recording the campaign to capture Guevara--Sosse told me that local, people used to be afraid of the revolutionary. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.