History – Che Guevara was a prominent communist figure in the Cuban Revolution who went on to become a guerrilla leader in South America. Executed by the Bolivian army in 1967, he has since been regarded as a martyred hero by generations of leftists worldwide. Guevara’s image remains a prevalent icon of leftist radicalism and anti-imperialism.
The revolutionary leader was born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna on June 14, 1928, in Rosario, Argentina. After completing his medical studies at the University of Buenos Aires, Guevara became politically active first in his native Argentina and then in neighboring Bolivia and Guatemala. In 1955, he met Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl while in Mexico.
Did you know? Che Guevara has been the subject of a number of films, including “The Motorcycle Diaries,” which was based in part on Che’s own account of his nine-month journey across South America in 1951–52, an experience that shaped his leftist beliefs.
Guevara became part of Fidel Castro’s efforts to overthrow the Batista government in Cuba. He served as a military advisor to Castro and led guerrilla troops in battles against Batista forces. When Castro took power in 1959, Guevara became in charge of La Cabaña Fortress prison. It is estimated that at least 144 people were executed on Guevara’s extra-judicial orders during this time.
Later, he became president of the Cuban national bank and helped to shift the country’s trade relations from the United States to the Soviet Union. Guevara addressed the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1964, where he also expressed support for the people of Puerto Rico. One year later, he was appointed minister of industry. Guevara left this post in 1965 to export the ideas of Cuba’s revolution to other parts of the world. In 1966, he began to try to incite the people of Bolivia to rebel against their government, but had little success. With only a small guerrilla force to support his efforts, Guevara was captured and killed on October 9, 1967 in La Higuera by the Bolivian army, which had been aided by CIA advisers.
Since his death, Guevara has become a legendary political figure. His name is often equated with rebellion, revolution, and socialism. Others, however, have remembered that he could be ruthless and ordered prisoners executed without trial in Cuba. Guevara’s life continues to be a subject of great public interest and been explored and portrayed in numerous books and films, including The Motorcycle Diaries (2004).