Che Guevara: The legend of legends

Che Guevara

Che Guevara

Che Guevara was an Argentine guerrilla leader, physician, author, diplomat, military Marxist revolutionary and more than anything, he was a revolution. He is an inspiration for generations. After his execution by the Bolivian army, he was regarded as a martyred hero for generations of leftists worldwide. The only most powerful thing, than his revolutionary work is the legend of Che, that exists even after decades of his death.



Che was a sheer political fanatic who saw everything in bare black and white. Hence he vociferously expressed his dissent over freedom of religion, speech, press and protests. Very few of the youth wearing the fancy tees of Che, know about him, who supported  Cuba’s  1960’s repression .

Che Guevara T-shirt

A Che Guevara T-shirt

Birth and Childhood of Che Guevara:

Ernesto Guevara de la Serna was born on June 14, 1928 in Rosario, Argentina.  Che’s father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, was a civil engineer, who undertook many projects, but could not manage to complete most of them. He was a part time adventurer, an architecture student and got dropped out to enter a small business world.


Che’s parents were cultured and a little bohemian and from them Che inherited the sense of adventure and most significantly passion for books. Che, exhibited his determination from his early childhood.


Che’s parents felt the valor in his child from his very birth and such feelings got doubled by many incidents. Che’s family lived in Caraguatay,  Misiones province, where they held a small herb property and hence Che got directly involved with the nature from his early childhood. In may 1930, Che’s sister Celia was born and later in May 1930, after swimming in a nearby river, Che suffered his first asthma crisis, that accommodated him throughout his life.


Che began to participate in chess tournaments by the age of 12, which he learnt playing from his father. Later he developed passion for poetry and became a ferocious reader, with books ranging from literary classics to the works of Freud and hence philosophy. In his teens, he developed his interest in photography and archeology.


In spite of the asthma attacks, Che excelled as an athlete and a scholar. His sister and his parents thought he would die someday for the severe asthma attacks, but such problems never bothered Che at any part of his life.


The Motorcycle Journeys:

Initially, Che started hitchhiking around and later traveled back to Cordoba and to other local areas and later he wanted to travel farther, hence started on a bicycle with motor attached, to learn by inspecting the world around him.


22-year-old Guevara in 1951

22-year-old Guevara in 1951

Che learnt many things along the journey. While he met many hobos, lepers and hospital patients, Che ended up with a conclusion that there was a great divide, between the rich and the poor.


With the thirst to explore more, when Alberto Granado (Che’s friend) asked Che to accompany him on a motor cycle ride through South America, Che readily accepted the proposal.


On January 4, 1952, 23 year old Che and 29 year old Granado set off to their journey on an old  Norton 500cc motorcycle, (which Granado had named La Poderosa II). They traveled through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Columbia and Venezuela  in seven months. After some great experiences, the motorcycle broke down and hence the friends had to travel some distance by walking and hitchhiking. When Che visited the interesting ruins of Machu Picchu, he was impressed with the beauty of indigenous culture before European conquest .


Along the journey, Che developed different views on the world, he saw and later such views made him react against the capitalists. When Che returned home on July 31, 1952, he was a different man. He continued his medical studies and graduated in June 1953 and was planning for another life changing journey.


Without any preplanned maps this time, Che travelled to Bolivia, and then to Guatemala for an extended stay, where he met Hilda Gadea, who was an exiled revolutionary from Peru. She was the main reason for the radical thoughts developed in Che. She also introduced Marxism to Che. Meanwhile, Che became an anti-imperialist and almost a committed communist with revolutionary ambitions.


How Ernesto Guevara became “Che Guevara” :

Ernesto Guevara, obtained the nick name of Che from one of the Cuban exiles’ Antonio ‘Nico’Lopez. The word ‘Che’ was added by the Argentineans at the end of sentences as an interjection, meaning “man” or “Hey you!”, which Che often used.


Che, Castro and Cuba:

In late September 1954, Che travelled to Mexico city along with his revolutionary friends, found work there and moved on with Hilda. In 1955, Che met Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel Castro along with his friends and Che proposed for a dinner, while Raul agreed readily. Later both found many qualities common in them.


Guevara and Fidel Castro

Che Guevara (left) and Fidel Castro

A couple of weeks later, when Fidel Castro arrived in Mexico city, Che met him and when Fidel Castro offered Che to join his revolutionary movement to overthrow the government of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Che accepted it readily.


Meanwhile Che discovered Hilda to be pregnant and married her on August 19, 1955. On February 15,1956, their daughter Hilda, was born. The radical thoughts in Che determined him to go with Fidel Castro, despite having a wife and a family.


On November 25, 1956, Che, Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and other 79 revolutionaries headed to Cuba on a yacht, named Granma. Three days after their arrival, the revolutionaries were ambushed by the Cuban army and Che ran into the forest, with an injury on his neck. The injury on his neck seemed nothing compared to his revolutionary ambitions and hence he survived.


Twenty to thirty revolutionaries survived the attack, regrouped themselves and headed for the attack. By May 1958, Che was second in command of the group and exhibited the qualities of a brave soldier and a great leader.


Castro, with guerrilla tactics, along with Che, captured town after town. Che was remembered for capturing the city of Santa Clara in December, 1958 and by January 1959, Batista, the Cuban dictator, fled from Cuba and hence the Cuban revolution was over.


Later, Che was offered many higher posts like Minister of Industry, Chairman of National Bank in the new Cuban government. He organized and went for many tours around the world including China, to develop Cuba. Che found changing Cuba to be a developed nation was not as easy as he and his ministers thought. Che was not satisfied with his posts and he found himself that he was not happy being a bureaucrat.


In Cuba, Che married Aleida March, whom he met during the campaign at Santa Clara, after obtaining permission from Hilda. Che had four children with Aleida over later years.


Disappearance of Che and the secret mission in Africa:

The radical ideas of Che prevented him from staying in the Cuban government and hence he disappeared from the public life in April 1965, leaving his family and his government posts behind. He spent much of the later part of his life in the Congo to organize a revolutionary force, that could serve as Foco for the Congo.


Che had to withdrew from his attempts, as the leaders there appeared to be interested in political powers for them.


Final Mission in Bolivia:

In July, 1966, Che travelled to Havana in the greatest secrecy to prepare a new mission to Bolivia, consulting Fidel Castro. After travelling across Moscow, Prague and Vienna, Che reached Bolivia via Brazil, on 3 November, 1966.


Che started the initial revolution with Peruvian and Cuban force. He wanted to obtain the help of the local Communists, but couldn’t succeed because of the differences in the opinions with the Bolivia’s Communist party leader. Later Che tried to acquire the support of the peasants, but in vain due to the Government’s propaganda against Che and his rebellions.


Everything was against Che at that movement and the worst happened when the Bolivian government discovered Che’s location in their country, before Che established himself.

By March 1967, Bolivian army captured the revolutionaries and Che’s group splintered and many were captured and killed.


Researches hypothesis say that Che’s mission in Bolivia failed because of the following reasons:

  • Che expected to deal with the Bolivian army, who were poorly trained and equipped and was unaware that U.S. government was supporting the Bolivia.
  • Che did not receive the expected support from the local peasants and from the communist party.
  • Che expected to be in radio contact with Havana, but the faulty short wave transmitters provided by Cuba prevented him to make contact with Guerillas.
Death of Che Guevara:

When Che and his men were facing million problems in the forest, an Indian women revealed the location of Che to the Bolivian army and hence Che, along with three other guerrillas were captured and taken to a small school house in a village called La Higuera. The very next day October 9, a helicopter arrived carrying colonel Joaquin Zenteno Anaya and a United States CIA agent Felix Rodriguez photographed all the pages from the diary found from Che and interviewed him.


When Rodriguez asked Che for any messages for his family, Che replied  “Tell Fidel that he will soon see a triumphant revolution in America. And tell my wife to remarry and to try to be happy”.


After orders to kill Che, a Bolivian sergeant, who lost his friends in the fight with the guerrillas volunteered the execution and with instructions shot Che in the neck and the revolutionary heart stopped beating.

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