Che Guevara (Ernesto Guevara de la Serna) was born into a middle-class family on June 14, 1928, in Rosario, Argentina. He was plagued by asthma in his youth but still managed to distinguish himself as an athlete. He also absorbed the left-leaning political views of his family and friends, and by his teens had become politically active, joining a group that opposed the government of Juan Perón.
From his first meeting with Fidel Castro in Mexico in 1955 to his death in the Bolivian Andes in 1967, Ché Guevara’s revolutionary career spanned little more than a decade. Yet the handsome young face, gaze set firmly on the future, has lived on through generations. In today’s imagination Ché remains a mythical, romantic hero — an uncompromising revolutionary, selfless, dedicated, incorruptible, ready to die for his beliefs.
By 1965, with the Cuban economy in shambles, Guevara left his post to export his revolutionary ideologies to other parts of the world. He traveled first to the Congo to train troops in guerrilla warfare in support of a revolution there, but left later that year when it failed.
Since his death, Guevara has become a legendary political figure. His name is often equated with rebellion, revolution and socialism. Others, however, remember that he could be ruthless and ordered prisoners executed without trial in Cuba.
In any case, Guevara’s life continues to be a subject of great public interest and has been explored and portrayed in numerous books and films, including The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), which starred Gael García Bernal as Guevara, and the two-part biopic Che (2008), in which Benicio Del Toro portrayed the revolutionary.
Guevara became disillusioned with the Soviet Union, attacking Moscow in every international forum. After Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev removed nuclear missiles from Cuba during the 1962 Missile Crisis, Guevara questioned Moscow’s commitment to international socialism.
He was also critical of Soviet insistence that Cuba continue to specialize in sugar. “The socialist countries are, in a way, accomplices of imperialist exploitation,” he told a gathering of Third World revolutionaries in Algiers.
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna Biography and Profile
Che Guevara was an Argentinean-born, Cuban revolutionary leader who became a left-wing hero. A photograph of him by Alberto Korda became an iconic image of the 20th century.
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, known as Che Guevara, was born on 14 June 1928 in Rosario, Argentina into a middle-class family. He studied medicine at Buenos Aires University and during this time travelled widely in South and Central America.
The widespread poverty and oppression he witnessed, fused with his interest in Marxism, convinced him that the only solution to South and Central America’s problems was armed revolution.
In 1954 he went to Mexico and the following year he met Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. Guevara joined Castro’s ’26th July Movement’ and played a key role in the eventual success of its guerrilla war against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Castro overthrew Batista in 1959 and took power in Cuba. From 1959-1961, Guevara was president of the National Bank of Cuba, and then minister of industry. In this position, he travelled the world as an ambassador for Cuba. At home, he carried out plans for land redistribution and the nationalisation of industry.
A strong opponent of the United States, he guided the Castro regime towards alignment with the Soviet Union. The Cuban economy faltered as a result of American trade sanctions and unsuccessful reforms.
During this difficult time Guevara began to fall out with the other Cuban leaders. He later expressed his desire to spread revolution in other parts of the developing world, and in 1965 Castro announced that Guevara had left Cuba.
Guevara then spent several months in Africa, particularly the Congo, attempting to train rebel forces in guerrilla warfare. His efforts failed and in 1966 he secretly returned to Cuba.
From Cuba he travelled to Bolivia to lead forces rebelling against the government of René Barrientos Ortuño. With US assistance, the Bolivian army captured Guevara and his remaining fighters.
He was executed on 9 October 1967 in the Bolivian village of La Higuera and his body was buried in a secret location. In 1997 his remains were discovered, exhumed and returned to Cuba, where he was reburied.
Guevara recorded the two years he spent in overthrowing Batista’s regime in a detailed account entitled Pasajes de la Guerra Revolucionaria, which came out in 1963. An English translation, Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War, was issued five years later.
A photograph taken by Alberto Korda in March 1960 soon became one of the century’s most recognizable images.
Che’s portrait was simplified and reproduced on a vast array of merchandise, such as T-shirts, posters, and baseball caps — and Guevara remains an icon of world revolution.
- Ernesto Guevara de la Serna Biography and Profile (BBC / Goodreadbiography)