"I am consumed with the fever of the revolution." Despite her fame, many will be shocked in Havana this week to see Tanja representing FARC in these crucial negotiations. But for sure...along with her gender and her beauty...it is her passion for the poor that will be on display. Deep in the heart of the Colombian jungle, Botero says he is still awed by how "beautifully" she played the guitar and "so soulfully" sang "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." [On You Tube you can hear Tanja sing "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" by typing in "Tanja Niyimeijer zingt lied voor haar ouders." Another You Tube video of Tanja singing and playing the guitar in the jungle when she is backed up by another woman and two men is very professionally performed. Tanja -- an amazing, ongoing odyssey!]
In October of 1964 Che sent her to Bolivia under the name Laura Gutierrez Bauer. In La Paz, she became friends with Bolivian President Rene Barrientos and even accompanied him on a trip to Peru. From an apartment in La Paz, she created a rebel cell and radioed coded messages to Che, Celia Sanchez, and Fidel Castro in Havana. When Che famously left Cuba for the last time in 1966 on his ill-fated attempt to replicate the Cuban Revolution in Bolivia, Tania joined his tiny guerrilla campaign in the Bolivian mountains. She was a brilliant fighter and she and Che became lovers. But the CIA-directed Bolivian army monitored their every trail. In late August of 1967 Tania was pregnant with Che's child and fierce defensive fighting and short rations had left her with a high fever, a leg wound, and painful effects of the Chigoe flea parasite. With Che seeking food and medicine near an alpine village, Tania tried to lead fifteen other guerrillas across the Rio Grande River near the town of Vado del Yeso in hopes of evading a pursuing Bolivian army unit. At 5:20 P. M. on August 31, 1967, she was wading the river holding her rifle, ammunition belt, and a bag of biscuits above her head. A bullet from across the river ripped through her left arm, piercing her lung. Then two more bullets hit her. She and eight other rebels were killed in the river. Her body floated downstream and was recovered on Sept. 6-1967. The plan was to dump her body in a pit with the other slain guerrillas but local campesino women demanded that Tania's body be given a Christian burial. When Che heard about her death, he refused to believe it but soon Fidel Castro and Celia Sanchez in Havana confirmed it and declared Tania "A Hero of the Cuban Revolution."