Reading Question: How Did Che Guevara’s Experience at the San Pablo Leper Colony build into the framework of a Marxist Critique?
On the surface, the reality of the San Pablo leper colony may seem like a reasonable, natural division in society. It certainly was in the 1950s. While Che Guevara had expressed anger at the treatment of working people of lower socio-economic status in his travels, the arbitrary nature of class divisions is clear when the members of each class are not fundamentally different, but are rather the result of a larger social system. Leprosy of course carries with it a real socio-economic disadvantage that places the afflicted at the lowest point in the social hierarchy.
Che’s rejection of this boundary between people, where there is an obvious, yet superficial, physical difference between lepers and non-lepers is the one of the greatest expressions of his commitment to the ideal of egalitarianism. After having witnessed firsthand the stratification of Latin American societies, Che’s gravitation towards revolutionary politics makes a great deal of sense. To correct a system he views as so inherently corrupt, what can be characterized as an “extreme” stance seems to Him, and his fellow revolutionaries in the future, a reasonable one.