Tamara Bunke : biography
Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider (November 19, 1937 – August 31, 1967), better known as Tania or Tania the Guerrilla, was an Argentine-born East German communist revolutionary and spy who played a prominent role in the Cuban government after the Cuban Revolution and in various Latin American revolutionary movements. by Christine Toomey, The Sunday Times, August 10, 2008 She was the only woman to fight alongside Marxist guerrillas under Che Guevara during the Bolivian Insurgency (1966–1967) where she was killed in an ambush by CIA-assisted Bolivian Army Rangers.
Early life (1937–1952)
Bunke was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of German communists Erich Bunke and Nadia Bider (who was of Polish origin). Her father Erich had joined the Communist Party of Germany in 1928 and fled with his wife to Argentina when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Her parents immediately joined the Argentine Communist Party, ensuring that Tamara and her brother Olaf would grow up in a highly charged political atmosphere. Their family home in Buenos Aires was often used for meetings, helping refugees, hiding publications and occasionally stashing weapons.
As a youth Bunke was a keen athlete and an excellent student, who developed a particular fondness for the folk music of South America. However in 1952, the family returned to East Germany and settled in Stalinstadt (later named Eisenhüttenstadt).
University years (1953–1959)
Bunke thrived in her new environment and began studying political science at Humboldt University in East Berlin. She soon joined the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany's youth organization, the Free German Youth (FGY). In addition, she also joined the World Federation of Democratic Youth, allowing her to attend the World Festival of Youth and Students in Vienna, Prague, Moscow and finally Havana, Cuba. Her keen interest in and familiarity with Latin America, along with her linguistic abilities (she spoke fluent Russian, English, Spanish and German), soon saw her translating on behalf of the FGY's International Department. In this capacity she entertained and translated for the growing stream of visitors from Cuba, following the victory of the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
Bolivian insurgency (1964–1967)
In October 1964, Bunke traveled to Bolivia under the name Laura Gutiérrez Bauer, as a secret agent for Guevara's last campaign. Her first mission was to gather intelligence on Bolivia's political elite and the strength of its armed forces. Posing as a right-wing folklore expert of Argentine background, she quickly found herself infiltrating high society and rubbing shoulders with the glitterati of Bolivia's academic and official circles.Tania: Undercover with Che Guevara in Bolivia, by Ulises Estrada, 2005, Ocean Press, ISBN 1-876175-43-5 Showing how high she was able to rise in La Paz society, she won the adoration of Bolivian President René Barrientos, and even went on holiday with him to Peru. In order to maintain her cover, she also busied herself part-time with her explorations of folk music (producing one of the most valuable collections of Bolivian music in the process) and entered into a marriage of convenience with a young Bolivian to gain citizenship.
Tactically, she was initially invaluable to Guevara's guerrillas because she used radio equipment hidden in a compartment behind the wall in her apartment to not only send coded messages to Fidel Castro in Havana; but to Guevara's guerrillas in the field by posing as a radiohost giving encoded relationship advice to fictitious lovelorn couples.
In late 1966 however, the unreliability of many comrades in the urban network set up to support Che's guerrillas forced Bunke to travel to their rural camp at Ñancahuazú on a number of occasions. On one of these trips, a captured Bolivian communist gave away a safe house where Tania's jeep was parked in which she had left her address book. As a result, her cover was blown, and she now had no other choice than to join Guevara's armed guerrilla campaign. In this capacity she was in charge of rationing food and monitoring radio broadcasts. There continues to also be the allegation from fellow surviving guerrilla Benigno, that Bunke and Guevara had at some point become lovers in Bolivia; with Benigno remarking decades later in 2008 that "You could tell by the way they spoke so quietly and looked at each other when they were together near the end."
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