Memories of Che, a revolutionary son of Ireland

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The Independent Online

For the daughter of Che Guevara, the visit to Galway on the west coast of Ireland was something of a homecoming.

If she had chosen to walk on to the footpath outside the front door of the Great Southern Hotel, where she was holding media interviews and hosting a series of meetings, Dr Aleida Guevara would almost certainly have met a distant relative.

And if she was in need of further reassurance about her whereabouts, the Cuban paediatrician would probably have found it just a stone's throw away, where Galway's most fashionable nightclub is named after her homeland.

Dr Guevara is in the Republic of Ireland to explore her roots and, by association, the family tree of her father, the Latin American guerrilla leader. Galway was a vital stop. The town – population 60,000 – is home to the descendants of the Lynches, one of the 14 great tribes who once ruled the area.

Their influence continues. Lynch's Castle dominates the city centre; Lynch's Restaurant does the best lunchtime trade on the west coast; while the Lynch window, from where a mayor of Galway hanged his son in medieval times, is possibly the town's biggest tourist trap. But until Dr Guevara's visit, few tourists would have been aware that Che Guevara was descended from those self-same Lynches.

The history runs something like this. Patrick Lynch of Lydican Castle near Galwaymarried Agnes Blake, and their second son, Patrick, was born in 1715. Patrick left Ireland in the 1740s and settled in Buenos Aires in 1749.

His merchant background – Galway as a coastal town was a regular port of call for trading ships from around the world – served him well in his new environment. He succeeded in business and married Rosa de Galaya de la Camera, a wealthy heiress.

It was from this marriage that Che's grandmother, Ana Lynch y Ortiz, was descended. She married Roberto Guevara Castro, and their eldest son was Ernesto Guevara Lynch, who was born in 1900. Ernesto married Celia de la Serna de la Llose in 1927, and their first child, who would be known internationally as Che, was born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1928.

Reflecting on her father in Galway yesterday, the military hero was not what came immediately to the mind of Dr Guevara, but rather the caring, sensitive man who deeply loved his wife and five children.

"I was only four and a half years old when my father went to the Congo, but I remember him having a very special feature – he was very caring, very sensitive.

"We, his children, received all his tenderness. I remember one day when he was with my brother. I realise now that he was saying goodbye, but he was stroking my brother's head very tenderly. Somehow, that left a mark on me," she said through an interpreter.

Dr Guevara, a paediatric consultant in Havana, insists that the two sides of her father – the revolutionary and the caring father – serve to make the complete man. "We, his family, understand all the sacrifices he had to make. It must have been very difficult for him to leave his wife and family behind and to chase his dreams.

"My mother was very much in love with my father. It was an extraordinary love and if we as children have been socially useful, it is because she educated and formed us."

The young Che trained as a doctor, but in 1953 he left his homeland because of his opposition to the Peron regime. He went to Cuba, where he joined the revolution led by Fidel Castro, which overthrew the Batista dictatorship in 1959.

In 1965 he went to the Congo to fight against white mercenaries, and later travelled back to South America where he attempted to lead a peasant uprising in Bolivia. That conflict claimed his life in 1967.

During her visit Dr Guevara has given talks at meetings across the Republic to promote understanding of Cuba.