|It was after track practice one day in high school that I learned of
Che Guevara’s Jungle Revolution. I was sitting on the asphalt edge of the
high jump pit, leaning against the big blue cushions you land on. The
fiberglass bar stretched above me between two steel poles. I had found
the strange book in an uncle’s basement the previous weekend, and pulled
it out of my bag. The story I am about to recant from the book is not about
Che’s famous journey to Bolivia when he was finally hunted down and killed,
though the story does take place in the Bolivia, in the Bolivian Amazon.
The story I have discovered is about Che’s underground history in Bolivia,
the story of the Jungle Revolution.
The book was written by the daughter of one of the men who went to Bolivia with Che. The state police chased Che and his group out of the Andes and to the east, down through the Coroico Basin and into the edge of the Amazon. By that point Che’s group was out of money and ammunition, but the police did not follow them into the jungle. Weeks went by with very little success at their own hunting and gathering. The wet incessant heat was strangling them. They had quickly become lost. Daily there was some incident with a large unidentifiable insect. Monkeys pursued them at a distance, swinging in the branches, screaching, approaching, receding. By the time they reached the clearing some members of the group were crawling across the sticky leaves and protruding roots of the jungle.
Four thatched huts rose from the earth. Hundreds of vines came out from the trees and into the clearing and were attached to the huts. Che remarked that it looked like the huts were woven from the unattached vines, or even that the vines were growing out of the huts and into the jungle canopy. Naked people with poles and white circles painted over their bodies emerged from the huts and greeted Che and his group. Some of them built a fire and others went into the jungle. Some brought the group fresh water. Che remarked, holding up a giant leaf that held his water, that all humanity should be as water, one unit flowing together, nourishing the earth. A diversity of fruits and animals were brought forth from the jungle. And a great feast was prepared around the fire.
While the others ate, one of the tribespeople stood up, and through gestures and facial expressions—because the tribespeople spoke Tribespeople and not Spanish—he recanted the tale of their becoming. I am convinced that the tale did not come across very well, because according to the author of the book I was reading the storyteller said that his tribe (and the universe) was created by a fire-breathing squash of average size. After creating the universe the fire-breathing squash hung from a squash tree with all the other squashes, only shooting deadly fire when chimpanzees mocked its shape. It was recorded that Che Guevara was very impressed by The Great Squash hanging with the lesser squashes, and congratulated the tribespeople on their benevolent cosmology. The storyteller gestured that he wasn’t finished yet and that Che should finish his soup.
There was a demon force in the world as well, a force that grew from a wart that one day fell from The Great Squash. This demon force created the night and it created gastro-intestinal abberations, such as gas. The demon gave people unusual thoughts and was very beguiling. On earth it took the shape of a blue chili pepper. Not just one blue chili pepper, like The Great Squash being just one among many squashes—the demon force was all blue chili peppers. Unfortunately for the tribespeople the blue chili peppers were extremely tasty, though extremely hot, and ingestion gave the ingestor a magnificent sense of well being.
The storyteller admitted that it was difficult at times for the tribespeople to understand what was so demonic about such a thing, if it tasted great and made you feel fine, but the fire-breathing squash had told the tribespeople that the blue peppers were evil, so they were. Early on in the universe the world was populated by astonishing harvests of blue peppers. They grew everywhere out of the ground. They grew out of the sides of trees. Though no tribesperson ever saw it, it was said that sometimes it even rained blue peppers. But the fire-breathing squash forbade the tribespeople to eat any of the peppers, no matter how delicious, how satisfying, and how plentiful, because they were strictly evil.
Centuries went by, the tribespeople existing in a world filled to the brim with blue chili peppers, never touching them from fear of afterworldly punishment. Then one day, four hundred years ago, one of the tribespeople, who today is remembered only as The Iguana, asked the others why they were taking orders from a vegetable. "And a squash, no less," said The Iguana. "Because it breathes fire!" said the tribespeople, never really realizing that was the reason until they said it right there. The Iguana took a long stick and walked up under the tree from which The Great Squash hung. He poked The Great Squash with the stick until it started breathing fire. A little stream of fire came out, about two feet long. The Iguana said, "My grandmother spits scarier than this." The tribespeople had to admit that The Great Squash’s fire-breathing was pathetic. No one remembered hearing about anybody ever seeing The Great Squash’s fire breath before. But one very wise tribesperson warned, "The fire breath may be pathetic, but anyone eating a blue pepper will lose their soul to damnation, verily." The Iguana said, "Bollocks. I’m eating a blue pepper." The Iguana picked a blue pepper off the trunk of a tree and bit into it. "Hot enough for ya?" said the wise man.
The Iguana ran a few laps around the clearing, waving his hands in front of his mouth, then poured a week’s ration of water down his throat. But when he cooled off he felt fantastic. He took deep, marvelous breaths and claimed that he felt really, really alive. A few of the tribespeople, frankly tired of the same old day-in/day-out jungle routine, hunting, gathering, yadda, yadda, poked at some blue peppers growing out of the ground. Poking led to squeezing, squeezing to nibbling, and nibbling to chomping. Soon the whole tribe was chomping the blue peppers and were blown away by the beautiful effect they had. In fact they became so taken by the experience that they kept eating them. Then, in a sense, the blue peppers started eating the tribespeople. They were hooked. Within a few years all the blue peppers had been eaten. Except one. That one they kept. They passed it from generation as a symbol of their foolishness.
Che Guevara, impressed by the story but somewhat skeptical, asked to see The Great Squash. The storyteller, intuiting what Che was saying, gestured and facially expressed that Che could not see The Great Squash.
"What do you mean?" Che said, scratching his ass. "I literally can’t see the thing, or you just won’t let me."
"Won’t let you," the storyteller gestured and facially expressed.
"Orders from The Great Squash," the storyteller gestured and facially expressed.
"You know," Che said, tugging at his beard, "I find that highly suspicious."
"Have some faith, my friend," the storyteller gestured and facially expressed. "Now please, have more soup."
"You can have your soup," Che Guevara said. "I want the squash."
"Look Cha-Chi," the storyteller gestured and facially expressed, "I’m not going to argue semantics with you. You wanna debate metaphysics, come to Papa. He’s over in that hut right there. You want epistemology you come to me. Yeah? Until that time, you can take your logical semantics and hit the jungle."
"You got epistemology with no logical semantics?" Che Guevara said. "That’s absurd."
"You bet your sweet ass I do. Take a hike."
Che Guevara rolled up his sleeves. "You show me that fire-breathing squash, or else."
"Or else what?" the storyteller gestured and facially expressed.
"Or else I’m gonna take that blue chili pepper and pepper it up your ass!"
The storyteller folded his arms, and said, using just his facial expressions, "You don’t know where it is."
"That’s it," Che Guevara said. "No more talking. This jungle revolution has begun." Che turned to his group and divided them into fourths, sending one to each hut. Each group ransacked, then set ablaze, the hut. Papa, a 95-year-old tribesman, hobbled out of one of the huts in his underwear, holding aloft the blue chili pepper. Che’s group surrounded the old man.
"Back off," hollered the old man, "or I’m eating the pepper!"
The storyteller pushed his way through Che’s group and grabbed the pepper from the old man. "Oh just give him the damn pepper," the storyteller gestured and facially expressed. He handed Che the blue pepper. "Here you go tough guy. Feel good about yourself now? Real big man?"
Che put the ancient blue pepper in his pocket and said, "Fastest revolution victory I’ve ever had. Sorry about the huts, Mack."
One of the members of Che’s group said to another member, "Only revolution victory."
"Can it!" said Che Guevara.
"Could you leave now?" the storyteller gestured and facially expressed to Che. "Nice ta see ya."
"You too," said Che to the storyteller. "Take care."
That is the story of Che Guevara’s Jungle Revolution. Further on in
the book it is written that Che made it back to Cuba with the blue pepper,
and presented it to Castro. It is also written that Che Guevara is still
alive, up in the mountains of Haiti, cultivating harvests of the blue pepper
and fine-tuning their phenomenal effects, preparing soon to flood the black market….
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