Che Guevara life and biography

Che Guevara picture, image, poster

Che Guevara biography

Date of birth : 1928-06-14
Date of death : 1967-10-09
Birthplace : Rosario, Argentina
Nationality : Argentine
Category : Historian personalities
Last modified : 2010-05-06
Credited as : Marxist revolutionary and guerrilla leader, the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro

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Ernesto "Che" Guevara (June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967), commonly known as El Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat, military theorist, and major figure of the Cuban Revolution. Since his death, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol and global insignia within popular culture.

As the author of the Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara’s autobiographical narrative soon became an acclaimed film in 2004 displaying the young Guevara putting his medical studies on hold to tour all of South American on his motorcycle. Guevara was a revolutionary idealized in Cuba and other third-world countries as a combatant for those less fortunate. It was his studies, travels, and relationships that molded him into the elusive guerilla fighter and leader corrupt governments feared.

Born of Basque and Irish ancestry and referred to by his nickname ‘Che’ (Argentinean slang for “hey” or “friend”), Guevara was known as a radical, even as a young lad. He was a star chess and rugby player, and an avid reader – a dichotomy that revealed his tough yet intellectual side. It was this formula that would take Che to the literal ends of the Earth promoting revolution by the masses to fight for a better way of life. This life would be one where equality in opportunity, finance, and health were balanced.

After his motorcycle adventure with Alberto Granado, a biochemist, Che went ahead and finished his medical studies, driven by the desire to find a cure for his chronic asthma. During his times off, he would travel South America and Latin America extensively. Deciding to move, he eventually stayed in Guatemala to make political connections with those who would support his efforts. He always had the idea of becoming a ‘true revolutionary’ on his mind. When a shipment of weapons arrived from Eastern Europe, Guevara fought in battles in attempt to overthrow the Guatemalan government, supposedly with air support from the United States. In their failed attempt, Guevara was forced to leave Guatemala and sought protection from the Argentine Embassy.

It was in Mexico City in 1955 that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara met. From that first meeting, Che knew Castro was the revolutionary he had been searching for. Upon landing in Cuba, many of Castro’s men were killed so Guevara and Castro fled to the mountains to regroup. Castro and Guevara were able to gain military support against Batista, and Guevara was responsible for the execution of many of Batista’s supporters. He was thereby declared a true citizen of Cuba.

Through 1966 and 1967, no one could guess where Guevara would appear next – in Africa, Asia, or China. Che saw that if the world were to have a revolution, then Africa, it’s weakest link, would have to be made strong. It was in Bolivia, however, while leading Guerilla attacks in the mountains, that Che Guevara was captured and executed. His Bolivian Diary has been translated almost as much as his autobiography regarding his motorcycle tour that changed the way he viewed the world’s conditions.


Over forty years after his execution, Che's life and legacy still remain a contentious issue. The contradictions of his ethos at various points in his life have created a complex character of unending duality.

As a result of his perceived martyrdom, poetic invocations for class struggle, and desire to create the consciousness of a new man driven by moral rather than material incentives, Guevara evolved into a quintessential icon of leftist-inspired movements. An array of notable individuals have viewed Che Guevara as a hero; for example, Nelson Mandela referred to him as "an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom" while Jean-Paul Sartre described him as "not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age". Others who expressed their admiration include authors Graham Greene who remarked that Che "represented the idea of gallantry, chivalry, and adventure", and Susan Sontag who expounded that "(Che's) goal was nothing less than the cause of humanity itself". In the black community, philosopher Frantz Fanon professed Guevara to be "the world symbol of the possibilities of one man", while Black Panther Party head Stokely Carmichael eulogized that "Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us". Praise has been reflected throughout the political spectrum, with the anarcho-capitalist / libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard extolling Guevara as a "heroic figure", lamenting after his death that "more than any man of our epoch or even of our century, (Che) was the living embodiment of the principle of revolution", while journalist Christopher Hitchens commented that "[Che's] death meant a lot to me and countless like me at the time, he was a role model, albeit an impossible one for us bourgeois romantics insofar as he went and did what revolutionaries were meant to do — fought and died for his beliefs."[205] Guevara remains a beloved national hero to many in Cuba, where his image adorns the $3 Cuban Peso and school children begin each morning by pledging "We will be like Che."[206] In his native homeland of Argentina, where high schools bear his name,[207] numerous Che museums dot the country, which in 2008 unveiled a 12 foot bronze statue of him in his birth city of Rosario.Additionally, Guevara has been sanctified by some Bolivian campesinos as "Saint Ernesto", to whom they pray for assistance.

Conversely, Jacobo Machover, an exiled opposition author, dismisses the hero-worshipping and portrays him as a ruthless executioner. Detractors have theorized that in much of Latin America, Che-inspired revolutions had the practical result of reinforcing brutal militarism and internecine conflict for many years. In an assessment of Guevara, British historian Hugh Thomas opines that Che was a "brave, sincere and determined man who was also obstinate, narrow, and dogmatic". At the end of his life, according to Thomas, "he seems to have become convinced of the virtues of violence for its own sake", while "his influence over Castro for good or evil" grew after his death, as Fidel took up many of his views. In Thomas' assessment "as in the case of Martí, or Lawrence of Arabia, failure has brightened, not dimmed the legend". Alvaro Vargas Llosa of The Independent Institute has hypothesized that Guevara’s contemporary followers "delude themselves by clinging to a myth", while describing Guevara as "Marxist Puritan" who employed his rigid power to suppress dissent, while also operating as a "cold-blooded killing machine". Llosa has also accused Guevara's "fanatical disposition" as being the linchpin of the "Sovietization" of the Cuban revolution, speculating that he possessed a "total subordination of reality to blind ideological orthodoxy". Guevara remains a hated figure amongst many in the Cuban exile and Cuban-American community of the United States, who view him with animosity as "the butcher of La Cabaña".

Despite his polarized status, a high-contrast monochrome graphic of his face has become one of the world's most universally merchandized and objectified images, found on an endless array of items, including t-shirts, hats, posters, tattoos, and bikinis, ironically contributing to the consumer culture he despised. Yet, Guevara still remains a transcendent figure both in specifically political contexts and as a wide-ranging popular icon of youthful rebellion.

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