For several generations of Cubans, the motto “Seremos como el Che (We will be like Che),” which elementary school students’ say every morning, is a tribute and commitment to the Heroic Guerrilla Ernesto Guevara de la Serna. However, it is possible that many do not know it was uttered for the first time on October 18, 1967, in a massive rally at the Revolution Square.
Fifty-six years ago, at the solemn evening to pay posthumous tribute to Commander Ernesto Che Guevara, assassinated in Bolivia after fighting wounded until his last bullet, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz made immortal that phrase in his eulogy.
“If we want to express how we aspire our revolutionary fighters, our militants, our men to be, we must say without hesitation of any kind: May they be like Che! If we want to express how we want the men of future generations to be, we must say: May they be like Che! If we want to say how we want our children to be educated, we must say without hesitation: We want them to be educated in the spirit of Che! If we want a model of man, a model of man that does not belong to this time, a model of man that belongs to the future, I heartily say that model without a single stain in his conduct, without a single stain in his attitude, without a single stain in his performance, that model is Che! If we want to express how we want our children to be, we must say with all the heart of vehement revolutionaries: We want them to be like Che!,” Fidel emphasized.
In that emotional moment, almost a million Cubans present in the Plaza de la Revolución, with moist eyes, shouted: “We will be like Che,” a patriotic commitment that would become part of the salute to the flag and the national anthem of the Cuban elemetary school students from that moment on.
Fidel outlined the main features of Che’s personality and his impressive trajectory since he became, together with him and Raul, the third expeditionary combatant of the Granma yacht, and then in the liberation war in the Sierra Maestra and at the head of the invading column.
“One of his essential characteristics was his immediate, instantaneous willingness to offer himself to carry out the most dangerous mission. And it, naturally, aroused admiration, double admiration for that comrade who fought alongside us, who was not born in this land, who was a man of profound ideas, who was a man in whose mind boiled dreams of struggle in other parts of the continent and, nevertheless, that altruism, that selflessness, that willingness to always do the most difficult thing, to constantly risk his life,” Fidel said.
“That was how he earned the ranks of Commander and chief of the second column organized in the Sierra Maestra; that was how his prestige began to grow, how he began to acquire his fame as a magnificent combatant that he had to take to the highest ranks in the course of the war.
“Che was an unsurpassable soldier; Che was an unsurpassable chief; Che was, from the military point of view, an extraordinarily capable, extraordinarily courageous, extraordinarily aggressive man. If as a guerrilla fighter he had an Achilles’ heel, that Achilles’ heel was his excessive aggressiveness, it was his absolute disregard for danger,” he stressed.
“The enemies intend to draw conclusions from his death,” Fidel warned.
“Che was a master of war, Che was an artist of the guerrilla struggle! And he showed it countless times, but he demonstrated it above all in two extraordinary feats, one was the invasion to central Cuba at the head of a column, pursued by thousands of soldiers through absolutely flat and unknown territory, carrying out – together with Camilo (Cienfuegos, commander) – a formidable military feat. Moreover, he demonstrated it in his withering campaign in Las Villas; and he demonstrated it, above all, in his audacious attack on the city of Santa Clara, penetrating with a column of barely 300 men into a city defended by tanks, artillery and several thousand infantry soldiers,” he said.
“Those two feats consecrate him as an extraordinarily capable leader, as a master, as an artist of revolutionary warfare,” Fidel stressed.
“The death of Che -as we were saying a few days ago- is a hard blow, it is a tremendous blow for the revolutionary movement, in that it deprives it without any doubt of its most experienced and capable leader,” said the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution.
“However, those who sing victory are mistaken. Those who believe that his death is the defeat of his ideas, the defeat of his tactics, the defeat of his guerrilla conceptions, the defeat of his theses, are mistaken. Because that man who fell as a mortal man, as a man who exposed himself many times to bullets, as a military man, as a leader, is a thousand times more capable than those who killed him with a stroke of luck.”
Fidel reminded current and future generations of Cubans, Latin Americans and fighters for justice all over the world that Che “left us his revolutionary thinking, his revolutionary virtues, his character, his will, his tenacity, his working spirit. In a word, he left us his example! And Che‘s example should be a model for our people, Che‘s example should be the ideal model for our people!
“New chiefs will arise. And men, receptive ears and outstretched hands will need leaders who will emerge from the ranks of the people, as leaders have emerged in all revolutions. Che has left the world a heritage, a great heritage, and from that heritage we -who knew him so closely- can be to a considerable degree his heirs,” emphasized Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, anticipating what has happened since then, what is happening today and will always happen in millions of fighters in Cuba and, all over the world, who feel Che’s heirs.