Ernesto Guevara who is best-known as Che Guevara was one of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution that took place in the 1960s. He adopted Marxist ideas when he was a medical student and he fought for the rights and freedom of working people in Cuba as well as other South American countries.
It is noteworthy that one of his images has become a symbol of rebellion with little or even no reference to his actual ideas. The photo taken by Alberto Korda and entitled “Guerrillero Heroico” is “the most famous… symbol of the 20th century” (as cited in Harris, 2011, p. xi). His image as well as his life has been romanticized by many, and some people have forgotten and/or do not know about the role Che Guevara played in the history.
Ernesto Guevara was born on May 14, 1928 though according to his birth certificate he was born on June 14 (Anderson, 2010). It was necessary to conceal Ernesto’s date of birth as his mother married his father when she was 3-month pregnant. Ernesto’s parents pertained to once wealthy families but they did not support the regime in Argentina and had to leave the country. They came back but their financial status changed.
They had certain property but Ernesto’s father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, had to work as a builder-architect (Harris, 2011). It is noteworthy that Ernesto Guevara Lynch supported ideas of Republicans who fought during the Spanish Civil War. Therefore, it is possible to note that Che Guevara was exposed to leftist ideas since his childhood. Che Guevara had quite severe health issues as he had asthma. The family had to move to a dry region and they settled in Alta Gracia.
At the same time, even though Che Guevara sometimes suffered quite severe asthma attacks, nobody would call him an ill boy. The boy excelled in many kinds of sport. More so, his peers stressed that he was a decisive and very active boy (Harris, 2011). The family had various financial issues (due to Ernesto’s father’s entrepreneurial activity, Ernesto’s health issues and so on), but Ernesto obtained a good education (Anderson, 2010).
Importantly, due to his asthma Ernesto did not attend school regularly until he was nine and this led to establishment of a very special bond between him and his mother who educated him and spent a lot of time with her son. He also developed a great interest in literature and chess.
During school years, he seemed to be uninterested in grades and his achievements were regarded as satisfactory and good. It is also necessary to add that he was not interested in politics and was quite passive even when his peers were involved in various political agendas.
Che Guevara’s university years can be seen as a turning point in his life. In 1948, he became a medical student. Notably, he first wanted to pursue an engineering career, but after his grandmother’s death (in 1947) he decided to become a doctor and find cure from asthma.
When he entered University of Buenos Aires, he was having quite an average life of a freshman. He became one of the best rugby players and he also met his best friend Alberto Granado. This was also the period when his political ideas became more leftist and he became more active.
This was also the period when he made a significant (4,500km) trip across the north of Argentina. In summer 1950, he went on a bicycle trip that affected his views on the world significantly (Anderson, 2010). Another trip (made in 1951) was even more influential. Ernesto and his friend Alberto Granado travelled across South America.
They visited many places and saw the poverty people had to live in. Admittedly, the trips affected the way Ernesto saw his future and the future of his country. In 1953, he obtained his degree in medicine, but he also understood that medicine could not help millions of people living in South America. He understood that he had to change the way people lived in Latin America through uniting the population of the countries of South America and liberating them from the bondage of social unfairness (Harris, 2011).
After graduation, Che Guevara moved to Guatemala. At that time, the president of the country launched an important land reform that was negatively accepted by large landowners and especially United Fruit Company. Ernesto supported policies of the president and, when the president was overthrown, Che joined the Communist Youth to resist the power of capitalist. However, Che Guevara was soon disappointed with the organization that was quite inactive in this fight.
In 1954, the young revolutionary moved to Mexico City where he worked at the General Hospital and lectured at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Harris, 2011). There, he met Raul Castro who introduced him to Fidel Castro. These two revolutionary leaders fought against the regime of the dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Che Guevara had developed an idea that the USA was the major enemy of South American countries and, hence, he quickly joined the group of fighters against the capitalist dictatorship in Cuba as he thought that Batista was only a US puppet who had to be overthrown.
On November 25, 1956, Che Guevara with over 80 men set out from Mexico to Cuba on the ship Granma. However, this group was attacked by Batista’s men and only 22 men survived and started their fight in the Sierra Maestra mountains (Harris, 2011). Che Guevara was the medic in the group.
However, during the revolution, he started playing a very important role among the revolutionaries. He persuaded Castro to pay attention to the population of the country while fighting for the liberation of the people of Cuba. Thus, Che Guevara set up plant where weapons were produced, set up schools where people were taught to write and read as over 40% of the population were illiterate, he taught his comrades about tactics, he developed ovens where bread was baked (Anderson, 2010).
Importantly, he set up clinics for Cubans. Che Guevara also acknowledged the importance of media and established a newspaper to communicate their ideas to people, which resulted in recruitment of new combatants and development of support among the population.
In 1959, the Revolution ended in the victory of Castro and Che Guevara played quite a significant role in the political life of the new country. He had several posts in the government of Cuba and contributed greatly to the development of the country. However, in 1965 he left the country to liberate other countries from the influence of the United States (Anderson, 2010). He first went to Congo and then moved to Bolivia in 1966 where he fought against the governmental forces. However, in autumn 1967, he was captured and executed.
There are quite many questions as to the execution as well as the reasons he was captured so easily. There are also various speculations concerning the life of the famous revolutionary. Nonetheless, one thing is clear Che Guevara is one of the most renowned men who had a great influence on development of many countries. He changed the way many people thought and he is still a symbol of eternal fight for freedom that inspires many people to act.
Anderson, J. (2010). Che Guevara: A revolutionary life. New York, NY: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Harris, R.L. (2011). Che Guevara: A biography. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.