Che Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to second-in-command, and played a pivotal role in the two-year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime.
97 Facts About Che Guevara
Additionally, Che Guevara was a prolific writer and diarist, composing a seminal guerrilla warfare manual, along with a best-selling memoir about his youthful continental motorcycle journey.
Che Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to foment continental revolutions across both Africa and South America, first unsuccessfully in Congo-Kinshasa and later in Bolivia, where he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and summarily executed.
Che Guevara remains a controversial historical figure, polarized in the collective imagination in a multitude of biographies, memoirs, essays, documentaries, songs, and films.
Ernesto Che Guevara was born to Ernesto Che Guevara Lynch and Celia de la Serna y Llosa, on 14 June 1928, in Rosario, Argentina.
Che Guevara was the eldest of five children in an upper-class Argentine family of pre-independence immigrant Spanish, and Irish ancestry.
Che Guevara was an avid rugby union player, and played at fly-half for Club Universitario de Buenos Aires.
In 1948, Che Guevara entered the University of Buenos Aires to study medicine.
Che Guevara then spent six months working as a nurse at sea on Argentina's merchant marine freighters and oil tankers.
Che Guevara's second expedition, in 1951, was a nine-month, 8,000-kilometer continental motorcycle trek through part of South America.
In Chile, Che Guevara was angered by the working conditions of the miners at Anaconda's Chuquicamata copper mine, moved by his overnight encounter in the Atacama Desert with a persecuted communist couple who did not even own a blanket, describing them as "the shivering flesh-and-blood victims of capitalist exploitation".
Che Guevara's conception of a borderless, united Hispanic America sharing a common Latino heritage was a theme that recurred prominently during his later revolutionary activities.
Che Guevara cited these experiences as convincing him that to "help these people", he needed to leave the realm of medicine and consider the political arena of armed struggle.
On 7 July 1953, Che Guevara set out again, this time to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador.
On 10 December 1953, before leaving for Guatemala, Che Guevara sent an update to his aunt Beatriz from San Jose, Costa Rica.
Che Guevara adopted an aggressive tone to frighten his more conservative relatives, and the letter ends with Guevara swearing on an image of the then-recently deceased Joseph Stalin, not to rest until these "octopuses have been vanquished".
Later that month, Che Guevara arrived in Guatemala, where President Jacobo Arbenz headed a democratically elected government that, through land reform and other initiatives, was attempting to end the latifundia agricultural system.
In Guatemala City, Che Guevara sought out Hilda Gadea Acosta, a Peruvian economist who was politically well-connected as a member of the left-leaning, Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana.
Che Guevara introduced Guevara to a number of high-level officials in the Arbenz government.
Che Guevara then established contact with a group of Cuban exiles linked to Fidel Castro through the 26 July 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba.
Che Guevara was eager to fight on behalf of Arbenz, and joined an armed militia organized by the communist youth for that purpose.
However, frustrated with that group's inaction, Che Guevara soon returned to medical duties.
Che Guevara's repeated calls to resist were noted by supporters of the coup, and he was marked for murder.
Che Guevara's conviction strengthened that Marxism, achieved through armed struggle and defended by an armed populace, was the only way to rectify such conditions.
Che Guevara arrived in Mexico City on 21 September 1954, and worked in the allergy section of the General Hospital and at the Hospital Infantil de Mexico.
Hilda later found a poem that Che Guevara had dedicated to the old woman, containing "a promise to fight for a better world, for a better life for all the poor and exploited".
Che Guevara then married Hilda in Mexico in September 1955, before embarking on his plan to assist in the liberation of Cuba.
Che Guevara was not present for the interview, but in the coming months he began to realize the importance of the media in their struggle.
Meanwhile, as supplies and morale diminished, and with an allergy to mosquito bites which resulted in agonizing walnut-sized cysts on his body, Che Guevara considered these "the most painful days of the war".
Che Guevara set up factories to make grenades, built ovens to bake bread, and organized schools to teach illiterate campesinos to read and write.
Deserters were punished as traitors, and Che Guevara was known to send squads to track those seeking to abandon their duties.
Together with this role, and inspired by Jose Marti's principle of "literacy without borders", Che Guevara further ensured that his rebel fighters made daily time to teach the uneducated campesinos with whom they lived and fought to read and write, in what Che Guevara termed the "battle against ignorance".
Che Guevara's commanding officer, Fidel Castro, described Guevara as intelligent, daring, and an exemplary leader who "had great moral authority over his troops".
Castro further remarked that Che Guevara took too many risks, even having a "tendency toward foolhardiness".
Che Guevara was instrumental in creating the clandestine radio station Radio Rebelde in February 1958, which broadcast news to the Cuban people with statements by 26 July movement, and provided radiotelephone communication between the growing number of rebel columns across the island.
Che Guevara had apparently been inspired to create the station by observing the effectiveness of CIA supplied radio in Guatemala in ousting the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman.
Che Guevara then directed his "suicide squad" in the attack on Santa Clara, which became the final decisive military victory of the revolution.
Radio Rebelde broadcast the first reports that Che Guevara's column had taken Santa Clara on New Year's Eve 1958.
In mid-January 1959, Che Guevara went to live at a summer villa in Tarara to recover from a violent asthma attack.
Che Guevara was charged by the new government with purging the Batista army and consolidating victory by exacting "revolutionary justice" against those regarded as traitors, chivatos or war criminals.
Some exiled opposition biographers report that he relished the rituals of the firing squad, and organized them with gusto, while others relate that Che Guevara pardoned as many prisoners as he could.
All sides acknowledge that Che Guevara had become a "hardened" man who had no qualms about the death penalty or about summary and collective trials.
Almost immediately after the success of the revolution, on 27 January 1959, Guevara made one of his most significant speeches where he talked about "the social ideas of the rebel army".
In total, Che Guevara would have five children from his two marriages.
Che Guevara next spent 12 days in Japan, participating in negotiations aimed at expanding Cuba's trade relations with that country.
At this stage, Che Guevara acquired the additional position of Minister of Finance, as well as President of the National Bank.
The blasts killed at least 76 people and injured several hundred, with Che Guevara personally providing first aid to some of the victims.
At the memorial service Alberto Korda took the famous photograph of Che Guevara, now known as Guerrillero Heroico.
INRA quickly became the most important governing body in the nation, with Che Guevara serving as its head in his capacity as minister of industries.
Che Guevara taught me the most beautiful thing which is to be human.
Unlike many of Che Guevara's later economic initiatives, this campaign was "a remarkable success".
Che Guevara interprets history, understands its dynamic, predicts the future, but in addition to predicting it, he expresses a revolutionary concept: the world must not only be interpreted, it must be transformed.
Che Guevara hoped his "new man" to be ultimately "selfless and cooperative, obedient and hard working, gender-blind, incorruptible, non-materialistic, and anti-imperialist".
Che Guevara's first desired economic goal of the new man, which coincided with his aversion for wealth condensation and economic inequality, was to see a nationwide elimination of material incentives in favor of moral ones.
Che Guevara continually stressed that a socialist economy in itself is not "worth the effort, sacrifice, and risks of war and destruction" if it ends up encouraging "greed and individual ambition at the expense of collective spirit".
Che Guevara was known for working 36 hours at a stretch, calling meetings after midnight, and eating on the run.
Che Guevara unapologetically defended his personal philosophy towards motivation and work, stating:.
Che Guevara did not play a key role in the fighting, as one day before the invasion a warship carrying Marines faked an invasion off the West Coast of Pinar del Rio and drew forces commanded by Che Guevara to that region.
Che Guevara elaborated in this period that moral incentives should exist as the main motivator to increase workers' production.
In December 1964, Che Guevara had emerged as a "revolutionary statesman of world stature" and thus traveled to New York City as head of the Cuban delegation to speak at the United Nations.
Che Guevara then denounced the United States policy towards their black population, stating:.
An indignant Che Guevara ended his speech by reciting the Second Declaration of Havana, decreeing Latin America a "family of 200 million brothers who suffer the same miseries".
Che Guevara later learned there had been two failed attempts on his life by Cuban exiles during his stop at the UN complex.
Che Guevara laid out the reasoning behind his anti-capitalist sentiments, stating:.
Che Guevara sees only the vastness of a seemingly infinite horizon before him.
The genesis for Che Guevara's assertions relied on the fact that he believed the example of the Cuban Revolution was "something spiritual that would transcend all borders".
Che Guevara specified the moral duty of the socialist countries, accusing them of tacit complicity with the exploiting Western countries.
Che Guevara proceeded to outline a number of measures which he said the communist-bloc countries must implement in order to accomplish the defeat of imperialism.
Che Guevara strongly supported communist North Vietnam in the Vietnam War, and urged the peoples of other developing countries to take up arms and create "many Vietnams".
Che Guevara wanted the complete elimination of money, interest, commodity production, the market economy, and "mercantile relationships": all conditions that the Soviets argued would only disappear when world communism was achieved.
Two weeks after his Algiers speech and his return to Cuba, Che Guevara dropped out of public life and then vanished altogether.
Che Guevara's whereabouts were a great mystery in Cuba, as he was generally regarded as second in power to Castro himself.
Che Guevara's disappearance was variously attributed to the failure of the Cuban industrialization scheme he had advocated while minister of industries, to pressure exerted on Castro by Soviet officials who disapproved of Guevara's pro-Chinese communist stance on the Sino-Soviet split, and to serious differences between Guevara and the pragmatic Castro regarding Cuba's economic development and ideological line.
In early 1965, Che Guevara went to Africa to offer his knowledge and experience as a guerrilla to the ongoing conflict in the Congo.
Che Guevara led the Cuban operation in support of the Marxist Simba movement, which had emerged from the ongoing Congo conflict.
Che Guevara soon became disillusioned with the poor discipline of Kabila's troops and later dismissed him, stating "nothing leads me to believe he is the man of the hour".
Che Guevara's aim was to export the revolution by instructing local anti-Mobutu Simba fighters in Marxist ideology and foco theory strategies of guerrilla warfare.
Later that year, on 20 November 1965, suffering from dysentery and acute asthma, and disheartened after seven months of defeats and inactivity, Che Guevara left Congo with the six Cuban survivors of his 12-man column.
Che Guevara stated that he had planned to send the wounded back to Cuba and fight in the Congo alone until his death, as a revolutionary example.
In late 1966, Che Guevara's location was still not public knowledge, although representatives of Mozambique's independence movement, the FRELIMO, reported that they met with Che Guevara in Dar es Salaam regarding his offer to aid in their revolutionary project, an offer which they ultimately rejected.
On 3 November 1966, Che Guevara secretly arrived in La Paz on a flight from Montevideo, under the false name Adolfo Mena Gonzalez, posing as a middle-aged Uruguayan businessman working for the Organization of American States.
Three days after his arrival in Bolivia, Che Guevara left La Paz for the rural south east region of the country to form his guerrilla army.
The result was that Che Guevara was unable to attract inhabitants of the local area to join his militia during the eleven months he attempted recruitment.
One of those Bolivian soldiers, a helicopter pilot named Jaime Nino de Guzman, describes Che Guevara as looking "dreadful".
About 30 minutes before Che Guevara was killed, Felix Rodriguez attempted to question him about the whereabouts of other guerrilla fighters who were currently at large, but Che Guevara continued to remain silent.
Che Guevara was pronounced dead at 1:10 pm local time according to Rodriguez.
Also removed when Che Guevara was captured were his 30,000-word, hand-written diary, a collection of his personal poetry, and a short story he had authored about a young communist guerrilla who learns to overcome his fears.
Che Guevara's diary documented events of the guerrilla campaign in Bolivia, with the first entry on 7 November 1966, shortly after his arrival at the farm in Nancahuazu, and the last dated 7 October 1967, the day before his capture.
Che Guevara endured ever-worsening bouts of asthma, and most of his last offensives were carried out in an attempt to obtain medicine.
Rallies in support of Che Guevara were held from "Mexico to Santiago, Algiers to Angola, and Cairo to Calcutta".
The population of Budapest and Prague lit candles to honor Guevara's passing; and the picture of a smiling Che appeared in London and Paris.
In July 2008, the Bolivian government of Evo Morales unveiled Che Guevara's formerly-sealed diaries composed in two frayed notebooks, along with a logbook and several black-and-white photographs.
Che Guevara's paradoxical standing is further complicated by his array of seemingly diametrically opposed qualities.
Conversely, Jacobo Machover, an exiled opposition author, dismisses all praise of Che Guevara and portrays him as a callous executioner.
Che Guevara has been sanctified by some Bolivian campesinos as "Saint Ernesto", who pray to him for assistance.
In contrast, Guevara remains a hated figure amongst many in the Cuban exile and Cuban American community of the United States, who view him as "the butcher of La Cabana".