I want to be like Che. I had been at the farm in Ñancahuazú for about ten days when He arrived. Before he came there was just me, Tumaini and three Bolivian men. They are called Apolinar, Serapino and Antonio. They are all right but I think they look down on me because I am so young. Our cover was keeping pigs, but the local landowner thinks that we are involved in making cocaine.
They came at night. Late. Their jeep had got damaged. They had to walk a long way. We had almost given up expecting them that night. But finally they arrived: Pacho, Tumaine, Pombo, Bigotes and Him. They called him Mongo, because no one is to know that Che Guevara is in Bolivia yet. At this stage, secrecy is important. We need to establish our base. Pacho told me they had been travelling for two days and told me to keep my head down. Mongo was expecting the three Bolivian farm workers and Tumaini, but he wasn’t expecting me to be there.
I did not recognise him at first. He had shaved his head to a bald pate and his hair was grey. He needed to do that to come into the country without being suspected. He looked old and respectable. Nothing like a revolutionary or a guerrilla. The cover worked but he looked so strange to me.
We sat down and Mongo explained why he was here. He said that he would stay until victory or death. He said our revolution is not just about Bolivia but the whole of Latin America. He said we have to be very careful who we trust. For example Mario Monje is a contact who should be helping – he leads the Bolivian Communist Party – but some people were not so sure that he could be trusted. Mongo told Bigotes (who is going back in a few days) to say nothing about his presence here yet.
I was yawning because it was late and I was very tired. Mongo asked me if I wanted to go back with Bigotes. I said no, like him, I would stay until death or until we shot our way over the border.
‘You stay?’ he said. ‘It is not the easy path. You will be tired, and hungry and wish you were home in your bed in Cuba many a night.’
‘I will stay.’ I said.
‘He is like a jejen,’ Pacho said. ‘You won’t shake him off easily.’
[A jejen is a small ‘midgie’ like mosquito ]
‘And will you be as much trouble as a jejen?’ Mongo asked me.
‘Not to you,’ I replied. ‘But to the enemy.’
He smiled. He crossed over to me and he looked me closely in the eyes. Even in the dark I could see that he was weighing up the honesty he might find there.
He tousled my hair.
‘So,’ he said. ‘If you stay, you must have a new name.’
He held out his hand.
‘Mongo,’ he said. ‘I am pleased to meet you, Jejen. But I shall call you Jejenito, because you are not even big enough to be a jejen.’
So little midgie I became. I didn’t mind. He gave me my name and I am determined to live up to his trust in me. That night he told us many things. Particularly he told me that we must be strict in calling each other by our nicknames.
The next morning when I woke up, I could hardly believe He was actually there, for real. I told him ‘I didn’t even recognise you when you came.’
‘It’s not what we look like that matters,’ he said. ‘It’s what we do.’
He was sitting writing in a book. I asked him what he was doing.
‘It is my diary, Jejen,’ he said.
‘What do you write in it?’ I asked.
‘It is to record what happens and how we progress,’ he said. ‘We learn through doing and through reflecting on what we do.’
He reached into the satchel again, got out another exercise book and a pen and gave them to me.
‘Write your own story, Jejen,’ he said ‘And leave me in peace.’
So I started to write in my diary. The first words. You just read them – I want to be like Che. That is the one thing I know. I do not know what the future will hold. I know it will be hard and that I will become not just a man but a revolutionary in the months and years ahead, but I do not know exactly what will happen. I know that I may die. So I am writing what happens. One day when I am an old man I may read this again and smile. Or if I die my mother may find some comfort in knowing that her son was a brave man who fought for freedom.
The next day Mongo told me we would soon start school. When others came to join us which would be very soon.
‘I am finished with school,’ I told him. I thought school was for children.
He was stern. He said, ‘You are here to learn as well as to fight. A man, or a boy, or a jejen with brawn and no brain is no use to me.’
‘I will learn,’ I said.
‘We will all learn, Jejen,’ he replied. ‘If we live we will learn.’
My practical learning started straight away. After we had cleaned the guns – I learned how to do that in Cuba – we went into the woods. Mongo wanted to start getting to know the area around us. The first day we went to test the radios in the woods. Tumaini said he will teach me how to use them. We went along the river but could not find the source. It runs along a steep ravine. Mongo says this is good. It rained a lot in the afternoon which made us go back into the house. The next day Pacho, Mongo and me went out scouting for many hours. We found a place near to a creek where we are going to set up camp. When we returned we found that others in the group had gone close to the zinc house and were seen by a local man. Mongo decided that we must move to the woods to be away from people where we must build our own house.
So I did not start to write this diary until today, November 11th, which was my last night in the farm. It was the first chance I had. I am sure I have forgotten things. I will write more often now – every day if I can, so that I can put things down as they happen, not afterwards. Pombo writes a diary too and so do some of the others and they all say it is important to put things down accurately when they are fresh in the mind.