Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, guerilla leader, author, and military theorist. Guevara was one of the key figures of the Cuban Revolution, and his unique vision of rebellion and global trademark led him to becoming a countercultural symbol all around the world.
The story of Che Guevara and his journey to becoming a revolutionist starts in South America. Guevara travelled throughout South America and found a fire burning inside of him. One that could only be put out once he had ridden the continent of poverty, hunger, and disease.
That burning desire to help the continent grew even stronger when he witnessed the capitalist exploitation of Latin America by the United States. The events in Guatemala intensified his fascination for social reforms. Guevara had been witnessing the Guatemalan inequalities first hand, immersing himself with the Mayan locals. Such socio-economic injustices were not new to Guevara having recently toured Bolivia the previous year, but this time it was different. There was a notable concerted effort being in the pursuit for positive action.
The president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman’s policies on positive land reforms, and increased workers rights saw tensions heighten with US multinational, United Fruit Company. Due to this, Arbenz was in direct conflict with the US state department and the CIA. United Fruit were a political and commercial powerhouse, but Arbenz had no intentions of negotiating, instead wishing to deconstruct the company and redistribute its land amongst the people. Che Guevara was fascinated by Arbenz’ display of fierce integrity and confirmed Guevara’s passion for social justice.
Following these events, with his newly reaffirmed ideologies, he met up with Raul and Fidel Castro in Mexico City, joining their 26th July Movement. Together, they sailed to Cuba with intentions of overthrowing the U.S.- backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Guevara soon grew strong amongst the rebel alliance, and was promoted to second-in-command, only behind Castro himself. Che Guevara played a pivotal part in the two-year guerilla campaign that had seen the end to the Batista regime, and in return Guevara was idolised as a South American hero.
Guevara, with his ever-burning desire to change the world grew restless and left Cuba for Bolivia. With a changed identity having shaved his iconic long, black hair, he once more led a guerilla group in the region of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. After some initial success, Guevara and his band of rebel freedom fighters found themselves constantly on the run from the Bolivian army. On October 8th, 1967, the group was almost entirely annihilated by a special attachment of the Bolivian army, assisted by CIA advisers. Guevara was hurt from the attack, but not dead. The Bolivian army captured the wounded crusader, and executed him the next day.
Prior to executing the legendary revolutionist, Che Guevara left the world with one of the most iconic quotes in history. In pure Machiavellian style he said: “Shoot coward, you are only going to kill a man.” To which Fidel Castro stated: “They are mistaken to believe that his death is the defeat of his ideas, the defeat of his tactics, the defeat of his guerilla concepts.” Che Guevara’s ally and best friend Fidel Castro was right. Guevara and his world-defining ideologies would live long in the memories of many.
The death of Che Guevara was a devastating blow to the world, but he would never be forgotten. In 1965, Carlos Puebla composed a song titled ‘Hasta Siempre, Comandante’ which translates to ‘Until Forever, Commander’ The song’s lyrics refer to Che Guevara’s farewell letter when he left Cuba in order to promote a revolution in the Congo and Bolivia, where he met his unfortunate end. The song sings highly of his work in the Cuban Revolution, describing Che Guevara, and his role as a revolutionary commander.
Che Guevara remains to this day remains a hugely respected historical figure, through his life-long dedication, incessant urge to end class struggles, and burning desire to create the consciousness of a society driven by moral, rather than material incentives. Guevara evolved into the archetypal figurehead for various leftist movements, and has been documented in many biographies, memoirs, songs, and films.
His legacy will live on forever, and so it should. The Argentine icon stood in the face of the evil that is capitalism, and came very close to toppling the systemic regime. Viva la revolución.