On the 48th anniversary of the death of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, writers, authors and politicians across the continent look to remember this extraordinary man, who died on the Bolivian battlefield in 1957.
“Nowadays we are in such crucial times across the world, where genocides and even wars are fed, we need to humanize Che and in particular remember his search for the truth and fight for noble and fair causes,” Argentine author Stella Caloni commented.
Alongside Fidel Castro, Che was a driving force behind the Cuban revolution, aiming to abolish an outdated class system which dominated the island and create a new, fairer Cuba.
Now more commonly found on posters in teenagers bedrooms and t-shirts at festivals, who was this man who has turned into a pop culture icon? And why does he continue to symbolize rebellion and free speech on bumper stickers and sweatshirts?
“Let’s be realists, let’s demand the impossible!”
Ernesto “Che” Guevara was born in Rosario, Argentina 1928. As a medical student with a desire to travel he undertook two trips across Latin America armed with his medical kit and trusty motorcycle: “La Poderosa”.
Che traveled through lush pampa grassland, steek mountain passes and even passed through the Peruvian Amazon into Venezuela, but it was during this trip that the sheer poverty and lack of basic healthcare that the young doctor uncovered inspired him to make a change.
Inspired by Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz’s anti-U.S. policies, Che’s political ideologies were solidified. A chance meeting with Fidel Castro in Mexico City saw the Argentine head to Cuba as part of the 26th of July movement against then president Fulgencio Batista.
Following six years of fighting, Batista was finally outed in 1959, replaced by a revolutionary socialist state.
The result of this revolution has meant that Fidel, and now Raúl Castro, still remain in power today.
“Until victory always!”
After the revolution, Che became a key figure in Cuban politics, backing a successful literacy campaign and agrarian land reform while serving as minister of industries.
He also trained Cuba’s military forces against the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, a failed CIA attempt to infiltrate Cuba.
A talented author and poet, Che was even inspired to put pen to paper and publish a novel about his earlier motorcycle trips.
Guevara’s decision to leave Cuba in 1965 resulted in his death, after capture in the remote Bolivian highlands saw him executed by the CIA.
“It is better to die standing than to live on your knees.”
Doctor, soldier, revolutionary, journalist, poet and even father. Leaving behind five children from two different marriages, Guevara was described as a loving, hardworking father by both his wives.
“Grow up as good revolutionaries. Study so that you can learn techniques to rule nature. Remember that the revolution is important, and that each one of us means nothing alone.Above all, always make sure you are able to feel whenever any injustice is committed across the world. That is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary. Until always children, I hope to see you soon. A big kiss and hug from papa.” – An extract from a letter written by Che for his children.
So next time you put on that Che Guevara t-shirt, remember the man behind it.