On a Medical Student

Ernesto came from an upper-class family in Argentina, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would become an attorney or physician or businessman. He chose medicine. It fit his personality to a degree, because he enjoyed puzzles and strategies. A junior chess champion, Ernesto found that he excelled at pretty much anything he put his mind to.

He was half-way through his medial training in Buenos Aries when he made the choice to take a short sabbatical. Over the course of several weeks in 1950, Ernesto embarked on an almost 3,000 mile journey around South America. The trip opened his eyes. Having been somewhat shielded from the world by his family’s fortune, Ernesto for the first time was confronted with not only the abject poverty that continues to plague much of Latin America today, but he also saw how the economic patron system of that hemisphere kept the rich in power and the poor subjugated.

The next year, 1951, Ernesto decided to take a whole year off from his medical studies. He and a med school buddy decided to ride around the continent and explore more of the land and people and culture. During his travels, Ernesto spent time with people of all races and classes. Over the course of 5,000 miles worth of exploring and interacting, Ernesto decided that the destiny of Latin America should be that the entire populace should be united in one confederation with one purpose–to create a fair economic system that leveled the economic playing field and ended the exploitation of the workers and the poorer classes. He and his friend even spent time with a colony of lepers in Peru on the banks of the Amazon, treating the people there with medicine and kindness. Ernesto kept a detailed diary about the journey that was later made into a film.

He returned to his studies in Buenos Aries a changed person. In June, 1953, he received his medical diploma at the age of 25. He knew that his life’s calling was to help people. However, he knew that as a doctor, he could help a good number, but usually only one at a time. No, in order to help the large numbers of truly poor and needy, Ernesto decided that he must forego his medical career and follow a calling that would make the most impact on the world while he lived on it.

He chose politics.

Oh, and being from Argentina, Ernesto had a habit of using a certain word that is more of a grunt, an addendum, that he put at the end of almost every sentence. It is much like how a Canadian uses the “eh?” in conversation. Except in Argentinian Spanish, it’s more of an exclamation than a question. And the expression became synonymous with this young doctor who used it so often.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

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