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Ernesto "Che" Guevara ( ; June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967) commonly known as Che Guevara, El Che, or simply Che, was an Argentinemarker Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, military theorist, and major figure of the Cuban Revolution. Since his death, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol and global insignia within popular culture.

As a young medical student, Guevara traveled throughout Latin America and was transformed by the endemic poverty he witnessed. His experiences and observations during these trips led him to conclude that the region's ingrained economic inequalities were an intrinsic result of monopoly capitalism, neocolonialism, and imperialism, with the only remedy being world revolution. This belief prompted his involvement in Guatemalamarker's social reforms under President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, whose eventual CIA-assisted overthrow solidified Guevara's radical ideology. Later, while living in Mexico Citymarker, he met Raul and Fidel Castro, joined their 26th of July Movement, and invaded Cuba aboard the Granmamarker with the intention of overthrowing U.S.marker-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to second in command, and played a pivotal role in the successful two year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime.

Following the Cuban Revolution, Guevara performed a number of key roles in the new government. These included reviewing the appeals and firing squads for those convicted as war criminals during the revolutionary tribunals, instituting agrarian reform as minister of industries, serving as both national bank president and instructional director for Cuba’s armed forces, and traversing the globe as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism. Such positions allowed him to play a central role in training the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and bringing to Cuba the Sovietmarker nuclear-armed ballistic missiles which precipitated the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Additionally, he was a prolific writer and diarist, composing a seminal manual on guerrilla warfare, along with a best-selling memoir about his youthful motorcycle journey across South America. Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to incite revolutions first unsuccessfully in Congo-Kinshasamarker and later in Boliviamarker, where he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and executed.

Guevara remains both a revered and reviled historical figure, polarized in the collective imagination in a multitude of biographies, memoirs, essays, documentaries, songs, and films. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while an Alberto Korda photograph of him entitled Guerrillero Heroico (shown), was declared "the most famous photograph in the world."

Early life

Ernesto Guevara was born to Celia de la Serna y Llosa and Ernesto Guevara Lynch on June 14, 1928 in Rosariomarker, Argentinamarker, the eldest of five children in a family of Spanish, Basque and Irish descent. In lieu of his parents' surnames, his legal name (Ernesto Guevara) will sometimes appear with de la Serna, or Lynch accompanying it. In reference to Che's "restless" nature, his father declared "the first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels." Very early on in life Ernestito (as he was then called) developed an "affinity for the poor". Growing up in a family with leftist leanings, Guevara was introduced to a wide spectrum of political perspectives even as a boy. His father, a staunch supporter of Republicans from the Spanish Civil War, often hosted many veterans from the conflict in the Guevara home.

Though suffering crippling bouts of acute asthma that were to afflict him throughout his life, he excelled as an athlete, enjoying swimming, soccer, golf, and shooting; while also becoming an "untiring" cyclist. He was an avid rugby union player, and played at fly-half for the University of Buenos Airesmarker First XV. His rugby playing earned him the nickname "Fuser"—a contraction of El Furibundo (raging) and his mother's surname, de la Serna—for his aggressive style of play. His schoolmates also nicknamed him "Chancho" ("pig"), because he rarely bathed, and proudly wore a "weekly shirt."

Guevara learned chess from his father and began participating in local tournaments by age 12. During adolescence and throughout his life he was passionate about poetry, especially that of Pablo Neruda, John Keats, Antonio Machado, Federico García Lorca, Gabriela Mistral, César Vallejo, and Walt Whitman. He could also recite Rudyard Kipling's "If" and José Hernández's "Martín Fierro" from memory. The Guevara home contained more than 3,000 books, which allowed Guevara to be an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, with interests including Karl Marx, William Faulkner, André Gide, Emilio Salgari and Jules Verne. Additionally, he enjoyed the works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Vladimir Lenin, and Jean-Paul Sartre; as well as Anatole France, Friedrich Engels, H.G. Wells, and Robert Frost.

A 22-year-old Guevara in 1951
As he grew older, he developed an interest in the Latin American writers Horacio Quiroga, Ciro Alegría, Jorge Icaza, Rubén Darío, and Miguel Asturias. Many of these authors' ideas he cataloged in his own handwritten notebooks of concepts, definitions, and philosophies of influential intellectuals. These included composing analytical sketches of Buddha and Aristotle, along with examining Bertrand Russell on love and patriotism, Jack London on society, and Nietzsche on the idea of death. Sigmund Freud's ideas fascinated him as he quoted him on a variety of topics from dreams and libido to narcissism and the oedipus complex. His favorite subjects in school included philosophy, mathematics, engineering, political science, sociology, history and archaeology.

Years later, a February 13, 1958, declassified CIA 'biographical and personality report' would make note of Guevara’s wide range of academic interests and intellect, describing him as "quite well read" and the comment that "Che is fairly intellectual for a Latino".

Motorcycle journey

In 1948, Guevara entered the University of Buenos Airesmarker to study medicine. But in 1951, he took a year off from studies to embark on a trip traversing South America by motorcycle with his friend Alberto Granado, with the final goal of spending a few weeks volunteering at the San Pablo Leper colony in Perumarker, on the banks of the Amazon River. On the way to Machu Picchu high in the Andes, he was struck by the crushing poverty of the remote rural areas, where peasant farmers worked small plots of land owned by wealthy landlords. Later on his journey, Guevara was especially impressed by the camaraderie among those living in a Leper Colony, stating "The highest forms of human solidarity and loyalty arise among such lonely and desperate people." Guevara used notes taken during this trip to write an account entitled The Motorcycle Diaries, which later became a New York Times best-seller, and was adapted into a 2004 award-winning film of the same name.

By trip's end, he came to view Latin America not as collection of separate nations, but as a single entity requiring a continent-wide liberation strategy. His conception of a borderless, united Hispanic America sharing a common 'Latino' heritage was a theme that prominently recurred during his later revolutionary activities. Upon returning to Argentina, he completed his studies and received his medical degree in June 1953, making him officially "Dr. Ernesto Guevara". Guevara later remarked that through his travels of Latin America, he came in "close contact with poverty, hunger and disease" along with the "inability to treat a child because of lack of money" and "stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment" that leads a father to "accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident". It was these experiences which Guevara cites as convincing him that in order to "help these people", he needed to leave the realm of medicine, and consider the political arena of armed struggle.

Guatemala, Arbenz and United Fruit

On July 7, 1953, Guevara set out again, this time to Boliviamarker, Perumarker, Ecuadormarker, Panamamarker, Costa Ricamarker, Nicaraguamarker, Hondurasmarker and El Salvadormarker. On December 10, 1953, before leaving for Guatemala, Guevara sent an update to his Aunt Beatriz from San José, Costa Ricamarker. In the letter Guevara speaks of traversing through the "dominions" of the United Fruit Company, which convinced him "how terrible" the "Capitalist octopuses" were. This affirmed indignation carried the "head hunting tone" that he adopted in order to frighten his more Conservative relatives, and ends with Guevara swearing on an image of the then recently deceased Josef Stalin, not to rest until these "octopuses have been vanquished." Later that month, Guevara arrived in Guatemalamarker where President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán headed a democratically elected government that, through land reform and other initiatives, was attempting to end the latifundia system. To accomplish this, President Arbenz had enacted a major land reform program, where all uncultivated portions of large land holdings were to be expropriated and redistributed to landless peasants. The biggest land owner, and one most affected by the reforms, was the United Fruit Company, from which the Arbenz government had already taken more than 225,000 uncultivated acres. Pleased with the road the nation was heading down, Guevara decided to settle down in Guatemala so as to "perfect himself and accomplish whatever may be necessary in order to become a true revolutionary".

In Guatemala Citymarker, Guevara sought out Hilda Gadea Acosta, a Peruvianmarker economist who was well-connected politically as a member of the left-leaning Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA, American Popular Revolutionary Alliance). She introduced Guevara to a number of high-level officials in the Arbenz government. Guevara then established contact with a group of Cuban exiles linked to Fidel Castro through the July 26, 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracksmarker in Santiago de Cubamarker. During this period he acquired his famous nickname, due to his frequent use of the Argentine vocative interjection che, a slang casual speech filler used similarly to "eh" or "pal."

Guevara's attempts to obtain a medical internship were unsuccessful and his economic situation was often precarious. On May 15, 1954, a shipment of Škoda infantry and light artillery weapons was sent from Communist Czechoslovakia for the Arbenz Government and arrived in Puerto Barriosmarker,. As a result, the U.S. CIA sponsored an army which invaded the country and installed the right-wing dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas. Guevara was eager to fight on behalf of Arbenz and joined an armed militia organized by the Communist Youth for that purpose, but frustrated with the group's inaction, he soon returned to medical duties. Following the coup, he again volunteered to fight, but soon after, Arbenz took refuge in the Mexican Embassy and told his foreign supporters to leave the country. Guevara’s repeated calls to resist were noted by supporters of the coup, and he was marked for murder. After Hilda Gadea was arrested, Guevara sought protection inside the Argentine consulate, where he remained until he received a safe-conduct pass some weeks later and made his way to Mexico. He married Gadea in Mexico in September 1955.

The overthrow of the Arbenz regime cemented Guevara's view of the United States as an imperialist power that would oppose and attempt to destroy any government that sought to redress the socioeconomic inequality endemic to Latin America and other developing countries. In speaking about the coup Guevara stated:

Guevara's conviction that Marxism achieved through armed struggle and defended by an armed populace was the only way to rectify such conditions was thus strengthened. Gadea wrote later, "It was Guatemala which finally convinced him of the necessity for armed struggle and for taking the initiative against imperialism. By the time he left, he was sure of this."

Mexico City and preparation

Guevara arrived in Mexico Citymarker in early September 1954, and worked in the allergy section of the General Hospital. In addition he gave lectures on medicine at the National Autonomous University of Mexicomarker and worked as a news photographer for Latina News Agency. His first wife Hilda notes in her memoir My Life with Che, that for a while, Guevara considering going to work as a doctor in Africa and that he continued to be deeply troubled by the poverty around him. In one instance, Hilda describes Guevara's obsession with an elderly washerwoman whom he was treating, remarking that he saw her as "representative of the most forgotten and exploited class." Hilda later found a poem that Che 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."

During this time he renewed his friendship with Ñico López and the other Cuban exiles whom he had met in Guatemala. In June 1955, López introduced him to Raúl Castro who subsequently introduced him to his older brother, Fidel Castro, the revolutionary leader who had formed the 26th of July Movement and was now plotting to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. During a long conversation with Castro on the night of their first meeting, Guevara concluded that the Cuban's cause was the one for which he had been searching and before daybreak he had signed up as a member of the 26J Movement. By this point in Guevara’s life, he deemed that U.S.-controlled conglomerates installed and supported repressive regimes around the world. In this vein, he considered Batista a "U.S. puppet whose strings needed cutting."

Although he planned to be the group's combat medic, Guevara participated in the military training with the members of the Movement. The key portion of training involved learning hit and run tactics of guerrilla warfare. Guevara and the others underwent arduous 15 hour marches over mountains, across rivers, and through the dense undergrowth, learning and perfecting the procedures of ambush and quick retreat. From the start Guevara was Alberto Bayo's "prize student" among those in training, scoring the highest on all of the tests given. At the end of the course, he was called "the best guerrilla of them all" by their instructor, Colonel Bayo.

Cuban Revolution

Invasion, warfare and Santa Clara

The first step in Castro's revolutionary plan was an assault on Cubamarker from Mexico via the Granmamarker, an old, leaky cabin cruiser. They set out for Cuba on November 25, 1956. Attacked by Batista's military soon after landing, many of the 82 men were either killed in the attack or executed upon capture; only 22 found each other afterwards. Guevara wrote that it was during this bloody confrontation that he laid down his medical supplies and picked up a box of ammunition dropped by a fleeing comrade, finalizing his symbolic transition from physician to combatant.

Only a small band of revolutionaries survived to re-group as a bedraggled fighting force deep in the Sierra Maestramarker mountains, where they received support from the urban guerrilla network of Frank País, the 26th of July Movement, and local campesinos. With the group withdrawn to the Sierra, the world wondered whether Castro was alive or dead until early 1957 when the interview by Herbert Matthews appeared in The New York Times. The article presented a lasting, almost mythical image for Castro and the guerrillas. 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, Guevara considered these "the most painful days of the war."

As the war continued, Guevara became an integral part of the rebel army and "convinced Castro with competence, diplomacy and patience." Guevara set up factories to make grenades, built ovens to bake bread, taught new recruits about tactics, and organized schools to teach illiterate campesinos to read and write. Moreover, Guevara established health clinics, workshops to teach military tactics, and a newspaper to disseminate information. The man who three years later would be dubbed by Time Magazine: "Castro's brain", at this point was promoted by Fidel Castro to Comandante (commander) of a second army column.

As the only other ranked Comandante besides Fidel Castro, Guevara was an extremely harsh disciplinarian who unhesitatingly shot defectors. Deserters were punished as traitors, and Guevara was known to send execution squads to hunt down those seeking to go AWOL. As a result, Guevara became feared for his brutality and ruthlessness. During the guerrilla campaign, Guevara was also responsible for the often summary execution of a number of men accused of being informers, deserters or spies.

In his trademark olive-green military fatigues, 2 June 1959

Although he maintained a demanding and harsh disposition, Guevara also viewed his role of commander as one of a teacher, entertaining his men during breaks between engagements with readings from the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Cervantes, and Spanish lyric poets. His commanding officer Fidel Castro has described Guevara as intelligent, daring, and an exemplary leader who "had great moral authority over his troops." Castro has further remarked that Guevara took too many risks, even having a "tendency toward foolhardiness". Guevara's teenage lieutenant, Joel Iglesias, recounts such actions in his diary, noting that Guevara's behavior in combat even brought admiration from the enemy. On one occasion Iglesias recounts the time he had been wounded in battle, stating "Che ran out to me, defying the bullets, threw me over his shoulder, and got me out of there. The guards didn't dare fire at him ... later they told me he made a great impression on them when they saw him run out with his pistol stuck in his belt, ignoring the danger, they didn't dare shoot."

Guevara was instrumental in creating the clandestine radio station Radio Rebelde in February 1958, which broadcast news to the Cuban people with statements by the 26th of July movement, and provided radiotelephone communication between the growing number of rebel columns across the island. 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 Guzmán.

In late July 1958, Guevara played a critical role in the Battle of Las Mercedes by using his column to halt a force of 1,500 men called up by Batista's General Cantillo in a plan to encircle and destroy Castro's forces. Years later, Major Larry Bockman of the United States Marine Corps would analyze and describe Che's tactical appreciation of this battle as "brilliant." During this time Guevara also became an "expert" at leading hit and run tactics against Batista’s army, and then fading back into the countryside before the army could counterattack.

As the war extended, Guevara led a new column of fighters dispatched westward for the final push towards Havanamarker. Travelling by foot, Guevara embarked on a difficult 7 week march only travelling at night to avoid ambush, and often not eating for several days. In the closing days of December 1958, Guevara’s task was to cut the island in half by taking Las Villas province. In a matter of days he executed a series of "brilliant tactical victories" that gave him control of all but the province’s capital city of Santa Clara. Guevara then directed his "suicide squad" in the attack on Santa Clara, that became the final decisive military victory of the revolution. In the six weeks leading up to the Battle of Santa Clara there were times when his men were completely surrounded, outgunned, and overrun. Che's eventual victory despite being outnumbered 10:1, remains in the view of some observers a "remarkable tour de force in modern warfare."

Radio Rebelde broadcast the first reports that Guevara's column had taken Santa Clara on New Year's Eve 1958. This contradicted reports by the heavily controlled national news media, which had at one stage reported Guevara's death during the fighting. At 3 am on January 1, 1959, upon learning that his generals were negotiating a separate peace with Guevara, Fulgencio Batista boarded a plane in Havana and fled for the Dominican Republicmarker, along with an amassed "fortune of more than $ 300,000,000 through graft and payoffs". The following day on January 2, Guevara entered Havanamarker to take final control of the capitol. Fidel Castro however took 6 more days to arrive, as he stopped to rally support in several large cities on his way to rolling victoriously into Havana on January 8, 1959.

In February, the revolutionary government proclaimed Guevara "a Cuban citizen by birth" in recognition of his role in the triumph. When Hilda Gadea arrived in Cuba in late January, Guevara told her that he was involved with another woman, and the two agreed on a divorce, which was finalized on May 22. On June 2, 1959, he married Aleida March, a Cuban-born member of the 26th of July movement with whom he had been living since late 1958.

La Cabaña, land reform, and literacy

During the rebellion against Batista's dictatorship, the general command of the rebel army, led by Fidel Castro, introduced into the liberated territories the 19th century penal law commonly known as the Ley de la Sierra. This law included the death penalty for extremely serious crimes, whether perpetrated by the dictatorship or by supporters of the revolution. In 1959, the revolutionary government extended its application to the whole of the republic and to those it considered war criminals, captured and tried after the revolution. According to the Cuban Ministry of Justice, this latter extension was supported by the majority of the population, and followed the same procedure as those in the Nuremberg Trialsmarker held by the Allies after World War II.

To implement a portion of this plan, Castro named Guevara commander of the La Cabaña Fortress prison, for a five-month tenure (January 2 through June 12, 1959). Guevara was charged with purging the Batista army and consolidating victory by exacting "revolutionary justice" against those considered to be traitors, chivatos (informants) or war criminals. Serving in the post as commander of La Cabaña, Guevara reviewed the appeals of those convicted during the revolutionary tribunal process. On some occasions the penalty delivered by the tribunal was death by firing squad. Raúl Gómez Treto, senior legal advisor to the Cuban Ministry of Justice, has argued that the death penalty was justified in order to prevent citizens themselves from taking justice into their own hands, as happened twenty years earlier in the anti-Machado rebellion. Biographers note that in January 1959, the Cuban public was in a "lynching mood", and point to a survey at the time showing 93% public approval for the tribunal process. With 20,000 Cubans estimated to have been killed at the hands of Batista's collaborators, and many of those sentenced to death accused of torture and physical atrocities, the newly empowered government carried out executions "without respect for due process." Although the exact numbers differ, it is estimated that several hundred people were executed during this time.

Conflicting views exist of Guevara's delight towards the executions at La Cabaña. Some exiled opposition biographers report that he relished the rituals of the firing squad, and organized them with gusto. What is acknowledged by all sides is that Guevara had become a "hardened" man, who had no qualms about the death penalty or summary and collective trials. If the only way to "defend the revolution was to execute its enemies, he would not be swayed by humanitarian or political arguments." This is further confirmed by a February 5, 1959, letter to Luis Paredes López in Buenos Airesmarker where Guevara states unequivocally "The executions by firing squads are not only a necessity for the people of Cuba, but also an imposition of the people."

Along with ensuring "revolutionary justice", the other key early platform of Guevara's was establishing agrarian land reform. Almost immediately after the success of the revolution on January 27, 1959, Che Guevara made one of his most significant speeches where he talked about "the social ideas of the rebel army." During this speech, he declared that the main concern of the new Cuban government was "the social justice that land redistribution brings about." A few months later on May 17 1959, the Agrarian Reform Law called on and crafted by Che Guevara went into effect, limiting the size of all farms to 1,000 acres. Any holdings over these limits were expropriated by the government and either redistributed to peasants in 67 acre parcels or held as state run communes. The law also stipulated that sugar plantations could not be owned by foreigners.

On June 12, 1959, Castro sent Guevara out on a three-month tour of 14 countries, most of them Bandung Pact members in Africa and Asia. Sending Guevara from Havana allowed Castro to appear to be distancing himself from Che and his Marxist sympathies, that troubled both the United States and some of Castro's 26th of July Movement members. He spent 12 days in Japan (July 15–27), participating in negotiations aimed at expanding Cuba's trade relations with that nation. During this visit, Guevara secretly visited the city of Hiroshima, where the American military had detonated an atom-bombmarker 14 years earlier. Guevara was "really shocked" at what he witnessed and by his visit to a hospital where A-bomb survivors were being treated.

Upon returning to Cuba in September 1959, it was evident that Castro now had more political power. The government had begun land seizures included in the agrarian reform law, but was hedging on compensation offers to landowners, instead offering low interest "bonds", which put the U.S. on alert. At this point the affected wealthy cattlemen of Camagüeymarker mounted a campaign against the land redistributions, and enlisted the newly disaffected rebel leader Huber Matos, who along with the anti-Communist wing of the 26th of July Movement, joined them in denouncing the "Communist encroachment." During this time Dominicanmarker dictator Rafael Trujillo was offering assistance to the "Anti-Communist Legion of the Caribbean" who was training in the Dominican Republic. This multi-national force comprised mostly of Spaniards and Cubans, but also of Croatiansmarker, Germans, Greeks, and right-wing mercenaries, were plotting to topple Castro's new regime.

Such threats were heightened when on March 4, 1960, two massive explosions ripped through the French freighter La Coubre, which was carrying Belgian munitions from the port of Antwerpmarker, and docked in Havana Harbor. The blasts killed at least 76 people and injured several hundred, with Guevara personally providing first aid to some of the victims. Cuban leader Fidel Castro immediately accused the CIA of "an act of terrorism" and held a state funeral the following day for the victims of the blast. It was at the memorial service that Alberto Korda took the famous photograph of Guevara, now known as Guerrillero Heroico.

These perceived threats prompted Castro to further eliminate "counter-revolutionaries", and utilize Guevara to now drastically increase the speed of land reform. To implement this plan, a new government agency the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) was established to administer the new Agrarian Reform law, and quickly became the most important governing body in the nation with Guevara serving as its head as minister of industries. Under Guevara's command, INRA established its own 100,000 person militia, used first to help the government seize control of the expropriated land and supervise its distribution, and later to set up cooperative farms. The land confiscated included 480,000 acres owned by U.S. corporations. Months later as retaliation, U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower sharply reduced the import of Cuban sugar (Cuba’s main cash crop), thus leading Guevara on July 10, 1960, to address over 100,000 workers in front of the Presidential Palacemarker at a rally called to denounce U.S. "economic aggression."

Along with land reform, one of the primary areas that Guevara stressed needed national improvement was in the area of literacy. Before 1959 the official literacy rate for Cuba was between 60-76 %, with educational access in rural areas and a lack of instructors the main determining factor. As a result, the Cuban government at Guevara's behest dubbed 1961 the "year of education", and sent "literacy brigades" out into the countryside to construct schools, train new educators, and teach the predominately illiterate Guajiros (peasants) to read and write. Unlike many of Guevara's later economic initiatives, this campaign was "a remarkable success." By the completion of the campaign, 707,212 adults were taught to read and write, raising the national literacy rate to 96 %.

The "New Man", Bay of Pigs and Missile Crisis

Guevara then acquired the additional position of Finance Minister as President of the National Bank, which along with Minister of Industries, placed Che at the zenith of his power, as the "virtual czar" of the Cuban economy.

As a consequence of his new position, it was now Guevara's duty to sign the Cuban currency, which per custom would bear his signature. However, instead of using his more dignified full name, he dismissively signed the bills solely "Che". It was through this symbolic act, which horrified many in the Cuban financial sector, that Guevara signaled his distaste for money and the class distinctions it brought about. Guevara's long time friend Ricardo Rojo later remarked that "the day he signed Che on the bills, (he) literally knocked the props from under the widespread belief that money was sacred."

Guevara's first desired economic goal, which coincided with his aversion for wealth, was to see a nation-wide elimination of material incentives in favor of moral ones. He viewed capitalism as a "contest among wolves" where "one can only win at the cost of others," and thus desired to see the creation of a "new man and woman." 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 collective spirit." A primary goal of Guevara's thus became to reform "individual consciousness" and values to produce better workers and citizens. In his view, Cuba's "new man" would be able to overcome the "egotism" and "selfishness" that he loathed and discerned was uniquely characteristic of individuals in capitalist societies. In describing this new method of "development", Guevara stated:

A further integral part of fostering a sense of "unity between the individual and the mass", Guevara believed, was volunteer work and will. To display this, Guevara "led by example", working "endlessly at his ministry job, in construction, and even cutting sugar cane" on his day off. He was known for working 36 hours at a stretch, calling meetings after midnight, and eating on the run. Such behavior was befitting of Guevara's new program of moral incentives, where each worker was now required to meet a quota and produce a certain number of goods. However, as a replacement for the pay increases abolished by Guevara, workers who now exceeded their quota only received a certificate of commendation, while workers who failed to meet their quotas were given a pay cut. Guevara unapologetically defended his personal philosophy towards motivation and work, stating:

Whatever the merits or demerits of Guevara’s economic principles, his programs soon ended in failure. Guevara's program of "moral incentives" for workers caused a rapid drop in productivity and a rapid rise in absenteeism. In reference to the collective failings of Guevara's vision, reporter I.F. Stone who interviewed Che twice during this time, remarked that he was "Galahad not Robespierre", while opining that "in a sense he was, like some early saint, taking refuge in the desert. Only there could the purity of the faith be safeguarded from the unregenerate revisionism of human nature."

On April 17, 1961, 1,400 U.S. trained Cuban exiles invaded the island during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Guevara himself 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 Riomarker and drew forces commanded by Guevara to that region. However, historians give Guevara, who was director of instruction for Cuba’s armed forces at the time, a share of credit for the victory. Author Tad Szulc in his explanation of the Cuban victory, assigns Guevara partial credit, stating: "The revolutionaries won because Che Guevara, as the head of the Instruction Department of the Revolutionary Armed Forces in charge of the militia training program, had done so well in preparing 200,000 men and women for war." It was also during this deployment where he suffered a bullet grazing to the cheek when his pistol fell out of its holster and accidentally discharged.

In August 1961, during an economic conference of the Organization of American Statesmarker in Punta del Estemarker, Uruguaymarker, Che Guevara sent a note of "gratitude" to U.S. President John F. Kennedy through Richard N. Goodwin, a young secretary of the White House. It read "Thanks for Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs). Before the invasion, the revolution was shaky. Now it's stronger than ever." In response to U.S. Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon presenting the Alliance for Progress for ratification by the meeting, Guevara antagonistically attacked the United States claim of being a "democracy", stating that such a system was not compatible with "financial oligarchy, discrimination against blacks, and outrages by the Ku Klux Klan." Guevara continued, speaking out against the "persecution" that in his view "drove scientists like Oppenheimer from their posts, deprived the world for years of the marvelous voice of Paul Robeson, and sent the Rosenbergs to their deaths against the protests of a shocked world." Guevara ended his remarks by insinuating that the United States was not interested in real reforms, sardonically quipping that "U.S. experts never talk about agrarian reform; they prefer a safe subject, like a better water supply. In short they seem to prepare the revolution of the toilets."

Guevara, who was practically the architect of the Soviet-Cuban relationship, then played a key role in bringing to Cuba the Sovietmarker nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. During an interview with the British Communist newspaper The Daily Worker a few weeks after the crisis, Guevara still fuming over the perceived Soviet betrayal, stated that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have fired them off. Sam Russell, the British correspondent who spoke to Guevara at the time came away with "mixed feelings", calling him "a warm character" and "clearly a man of great intelligence", but "crackers from the way he went on about the missiles." The missile crisis further convinced Guevara that the two World's superpowers (U.S. & U.S.S.R.) used Cuba as a pawn in their own global strategies, afterward he denounced the Soviets almost as frequently as he denounced the Americans.

International diplomacy

By December 1964, Che Guevara had emerged as a "revolutionary statesmen of world stature" and thus traveled to New York Citymarker as head of the Cuban delegation to speak at the United Nations. During his impassioned address, he criticized the United Nations inability to confront the "brutal policy of apartheid" in South Africa, proclaiming "can the United Nations do nothing to stop this?" Guevara then denounced the United States policy towards their black population, stating:

An indignant 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." This "epic", Guevara declared, would be written by the "hungry Indian masses, peasants without land, exploited workers, and progressive masses." To Guevara the conflict was a struggle of mass and ideas, which would be carried forth by those "mistreated and scorned by imperialism" who were previously considered "a weak and submissive flock." With this "flock", Guevara now asserted, "Yankee monopoly capitalism" now terrifyingly saw their "gravediggers." It would be during this "hour of vindication" Guevara pronounced, that the "anonymous mass" would begin to write its own history "with its own blood", and reclaim those "rights that were laughed at by one and all for 500 years." Guevara ended his remarks to the United Nations general assembly by hypothesizing that this "wave of anger” would "sweep the lands of Latin America", and that the labor masses who "turn the wheel of history", for the first time were "awakening from the long, brutalizing sleep to which they had been subjected.

Guevara later learned that there were two failed attempts on his life by Cuban exiles during his stop at the U.N. complex. The first from Molly Gonzales who tried to break through barricades upon his arrival with a seven-inch hunting knife, and later during his address by Guillermo Novo with a timer-initiated bazooka that was fired off target from a boat in the East Rivermarker at the United Nations Headquartersmarker. Afterwards, Guevara commented on both incidents stating that "it is better to be killed by a woman with a knife than by a man with a gun", while adding with a languid wave of his cigar that the explosion had "given the whole thing more flavor."

While in New York City, Guevara also appeared on the CBS Sunday news program Face the Nation and met with a range of people, from U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy to associates of Malcolm X. Malcolm X expressed his admiration, declaring Guevara "one of the most revolutionary men in this country right now" while reading a statement from him to a crowd at the Audubon Ballroommarker.

On December 17, Guevara left for Paris and embarked on a three-month tour that included the People's Republic of Chinamarker, the United Arab Republic (Egyptmarker), Algeriamarker, Ghanamarker, Guineamarker, Malimarker, Dahomeymarker, Congo-Brazzavillemarker and Tanzania, with stops in Irelandmarker and Praguemarker. While in Ireland, Guevara embraced his own Irish heritage, celebrating Saint Patrick's Day in Limerick Citymarker. He wrote to his father on this visit, humorously stating "I am in this green Ireland of your ancestors. When they found out, the television [station] came to ask me about the Lynch genealogy, but in case they were horse thieves or something like that, I didn't say much."

During this voyage, he wrote a letter to Carlos Quijano, editor of a Uruguayanmarker weekly, which was later re-titled Socialism and Man in Cuba. Outlined in the treatise was Guevara's summons for the creation of a new consciousness, status of work, and role of the individual. He also laid out the reasoning behind his anti-capitalist sentiments, stating:

Guevara ended the essay by declaring that "the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love" and beckoning on all revolutionaries to "strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into acts that serve as examples", thus becoming "a moving force". The genesis for Guevara's assertions relied on the fact that he believed the example of the Cuban Revolution was "something spiritual that would transcend all borders."

In Algiersmarker on February 24, 1965, he made what turned out to be his last public appearance on the international stage when he delivered a speech at an economic seminar on Afro-Asian solidarity. He specified the moral duty of the socialist countries, accusing them of tacit complicity with the exploiting Western countries. He proceeded to outline a number of measures which he said the communist-bloc countries must implement in order to accomplish the defeat of imperialism. Having criticized the Soviet Union (the primary financial backer of Cuba) in such a public manner, he returned to Cuba on March 14 to a solemn reception by Fidel and Raúl Castro, Osvaldo Dorticós and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez at the Havana airport.

Two weeks later, in 1965 Guevara dropped out of public life and then vanished altogether. His whereabouts were a great mystery in Cuba, as he was generally regarded as second in power to Castro himself. His disappearance was variously attributed to the failure of the industrialization scheme he had advocated while minister of industry, to pressure exerted on Castro by Soviet officials disapproving 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.

The coincidence of Guevara's views with those expounded by the Chinese Communist leadership was increasingly problematic for Cuba as the nation's economy became more and more dependent on the Soviet Union. Since the early days of the Cuban revolution, Guevara had been considered by many an advocate of Maoist strategy in Latin America and the originator of a plan for the rapid industrialization of Cuba which was frequently compared to China's "Great Leap Forward". Castro became weary of Guevara, because of the fact that Guevara was opposed to Soviet conditions and recommendations that Castro pragmatically saw as necessary. Of which Guevara described as corrupt "pre-monopolist". However, both Guevara and Castro were supportive publicly on the idea of a united front.

Following the Cuban Missile Crisis and what Guevara perceived as a Soviet betrayal when Nikita Khrushchev withdrew the missiles from Cuban territory, Guevara had grown more skeptical of the Soviet Union. As revealed in his last speech in Algiers, he had come to view the Northern Hemispheremarker, led by the U.S. in the West and the Soviet Union in the East, as the exploiter of the Southern Hemispheremarker. He 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".

Pressed by international speculation regarding Guevara's fate, Castro stated on June 16, 1965 that the people would be informed when Guevara himself wished to let them know. Still, rumors spread both inside and outside Cuba. On October 3, Castro revealed an undated letter purportedly written to him by Guevara some months earlier: in it, Guevara reaffirmed his enduring solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, but declared his intention to leave Cuba to fight for the revolutionary cause abroad. Additionally, he resigned from all his positions in the government and party, and renounced his honorary Cuban citizenship. Guevara's movements continued to be a closely guarded secret for the next two years.


In 1965, Guevara decided to venture to Africa and offer his knowledge and experience as a guerrilla to the ongoing conflict in the Congo. According to Algerianmarker President Ahmed Ben Bella, Guevara thought that Africa was imperialism's weak link and therefore had enormous revolutionary potential. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had fraternal relations with Che dating back to his 1959 visit, saw Guevara's plans to fight in the Congo as "unwise" and warned that he would become a "Tarzan" figure, doomed to failure. Despite the warning, Guevara traveled to the Congo while using the alias Ramón Benítez. Guevara led the Cuban operation in support of the Marxist Simba movement, which had emerged from the ongoing Congo Crisis. Guevara, his second-in-command Victor Dreke, and 12 other Cuban expeditionaries arrived in the Congo on April 24, 1965 and a contingent of approximately 100 Afro-Cubans joined them soon afterward. They collaborated for a time with guerrilla leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who had previously helped supporters of the CIA-slain Patrice Lumumba lead an unsuccessful revolt months earlier. As an admirer of the late Lumumba, Guevara declared that his "murder should be a lesson for all of us." Guevara, with limited knowledge of Swahili and the local languages was assigned a teenage interpreter Freddy Ilanga. Over the course of seven months Ilanga grew to "admire the hard-working Guevara", who according to Mr. Ilanga, "showed the same respect to black people as he did to whites." However Guevara soon became disillusioned with the discipline of Kabila's troops and later dismissed him, stating "nothing leads me to believe he is the man of the hour."

As an additional obstacle, white South African mercenaries, led by Mike Hoare in concert with Cuban exiles and the CIA, worked with the Congo National Army to thwart Guevara in the mountains near the village of Fizimarker on Lake Tanganyikamarker. They were able to monitor his communications, and so pre-empted his attacks and interdicted his supply lines. Despite the fact that Guevara sought to conceal his presence in the Congo, the U.S. government was aware of his location and activities: The National Security Agencymarker was intercepting all of his incoming and outgoing transmissions via equipment aboard the USNS Pvt Jose F. Valdez , a floating listening post that continuously cruised the Indian Oceanmarker off Dar es Salaammarker for that purpose.

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. In his Congo Diary, he cites the incompetence, intransigence and infighting of the local Congolese forces as key reasons for the revolt's failure. Later that year, ill with dysentery, suffering from acute asthma, and disheartened after seven months of frustrations, Guevara left the Congo with the Cuban survivors (Six members of his column had died). At one point Guevara considered sending the wounded back to Cuba, and fighting in Congo alone until his death, as a revolutionary example; however, after being urged by his comrades and pressed by two emissaries sent by Castro, at the last moment he reluctantly agreed to retreat. In speaking about the Congo, Guevara concluded that "The human element failed. There is no will to fight, the leaders are corrupt; in a word, there was nothing to do." A few weeks later, when writing the preface to the diary he kept during the Congo venture, he began: "This is the history of a failure."

Guevara was reluctant to return to Cuba, because Castro had made public Guevara's "farewell letter" — a letter intended to only be revealed in the case of his death — wherein he severed all ties in order to devote himself to revolution throughout the world. As a result, Guevara spent the next six months living clandestinely in Dar es Salaammarker and Praguemarker. During this time he compiled his memoirs of the Congo experience, and wrote drafts of two more books, one on philosophy and the other on economics. He then visited several Western European countries to test his new false identity papers, created by Cuban Intelligencemarker for his later travels to South America. As Guevara prepared for Bolivia, he wrote a last letter to his five children to be read upon his death, which ended with him instructing them:


Guevara while using the false name Adolfo Mena González (1966)
Guevara's location was still not public knowledge. Representatives of Mozambiquemarker's independence movement, the FRELIMO, reported that they met with Guevara in late 1966 or early 1967 in Dar es Salaam regarding his offer to aid in their revolutionary project, which they ultimately rejected. In a speech at the 1967 International Workers' Day rally in Havana, the Acting Minister of the armed forces, Major Juan Almeida, announced that Guevara was "serving the revolution somewhere in Latin America". The persistent reports that he was leading the guerrillas in Bolivia were eventually shown to be true.

At Castro's behest, a parcel of montane dry forest in the remote Ñancahuazú region had been purchased by native Bolivian Communists for Guevara to use as a training area and base camp. Before he departed for Bolivia, Guevara had altered his appearance so he would be unrecognizable as Che Guevara. Guevara arrived in Bolivia, used the false name Adolfo Mena González, and posed as a Uruguayan businessman working for the Organization of American Statesmarker.
Training at this camp in the Ñancahuazú valley proved to be more hazardous than combat to Guevara and the Cubans accompanying him. Little was accomplished in the way of building a guerrilla army. Former Stasi operative Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider, better known by her nom de guerre "Tania", who had been installed as his primary agent in La Pazmarker, was reportedly also working for the KGBmarker and in several Western sources she is inferred to have unwittingly served Soviet interests by leading Bolivian authorities to Guevara's trail.

Guevara's guerrilla force, numbering about 50 and operating as the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional de Bolivia; "National Liberation Army of Bolivia"), was well equipped and scored a number of early successes against Bolivian regulars in the difficult terrain of the mountainous Camirimarker region. As a result of Guevara’s units winning several skirmishes against Bolivian troops in the spring and summer of 1966, the Bolivian government began to overestimate the true size of the guerrilla force. But in September, the Army managed to eliminate two guerrilla groups in a violent battle, reportedly killing one of the leaders.
Guevara's plan for fomenting revolution in Bolivia failed, apparently because:
  • He had expected to deal only with the Bolivian military, who were poorly trained and equipped. However, Guevara was unaware that the U.S. government had sent a team of the CIA's Special Activities Division commandos and other operatives into Bolivia to aid the anti-insurrection effort. The Bolivian Army would also be trained, advised, and supplied by U.S. Army Special Forces including a recently organized elite battalion of Rangers trained in jungle warfare that set up camp in La Esperanza, a small settlement close to the location of Guevara's guerrillas.
  • Guevara had expected assistance and cooperation from the local dissidents which he did not receive, nor did he receive support from Bolivia's Communist Party, under the leadership of Mario Monje, which was oriented toward Moscow rather than Havana. In Guevara's own diary captured after his death, he bristled with complaints about the Communist Party of Bolivia, which he characterized as "distrustful, disloyal and stupid."
  • He had expected to remain in radio contact with Havana. However, the two shortwave transmitters provided to him by Cuba were faulty; thus the guerrillas were unable to communicate with and be resupplied, leaving them isolated and stranded.

In addition, Guevara's known preference for confrontation rather than compromise, which had previously surfaced during his guerrilla warfare campaign in Cuba, contributed to his inability to develop successful working relationships with local leaders in Bolivia, just as it had in the Congo. This tendency had existed in Cuba, but had been kept in check by the timely interventions and guidance of Fidel Castro.

The end result was that Guevara was unable to attract any inhabitants of the local area to join his militia in the 11 months he attempted recruitment . Near the end of the venture Guevara complained in his diary that "the peasants do not give us any help, and are turning into informers."

Capture and execution

Félix Rodríguez, a Cuban exile turned CIA Special Activities Division operative, advised Bolivian troops during the hunt for Guevara in Bolivia. On October 7, an informant apprised the Bolivian Special Forces of the location of Guevara's guerrilla encampment in the Yuro ravine. They encircled the area with 1,800 soldiers, and Guevara was wounded and taken prisoner while leading a detachment with Simeón Cuba Sarabia. Che biographer Jon Lee Anderson reports Bolivian Sergeant Bernardino Huanca's account: that a twice wounded Guevara, his gun rendered useless, shouted "Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead."

Guevara was tied up and taken to a dilapidated mud schoolhouse in the nearby village of La Higueramarker on the night of October 7. For the next day and a half Guevara refused to be interrogated by Bolivian officers and would only speak quietly to Bolivian soldiers. One of those Bolivian soldiers, helicopter pilot Jaime Nino de Guzman, describes Che as looking "dreadful". According to Guzman, Guevara was shot through the right calf, his hair was matted with dirt, his clothes were shredded, and his feet were covered in rough leather sheaths. Despite his haggard appearance, he recounts that "Che held his head high, looked everyone straight in the eyes and asked only for something to smoke." De Guzman states that he "took pity" and gave him a small bag of tobacco for his pipe, with Guevara then smiling and thanking him. Later on the night of October 8, Guevara, despite having his hands tied, kicked Bolivian Officer Espinosa into the wall, after the officer entered the schoolhouse in order to snatch Guevara's pipe from his mouth as a souvenir. In another instance of defiance, Guevara spat in the face of Bolivian Rear Admiral Ugarteche shortly before his execution.

The following morning on October 9, Guevara asked to see the "maestra" (school teacher) of the village, 22-year-old Julia Cortez. Cortez would later state that she found Guevara to be an "agreeable looking man with a soft and ironic glance" and that during their conversation she found herself "unable to look him in the eye", because his "gaze was unbearable, piercing, and so tranquil." During their short conversation, Guevara complained to Cortez about the poor condition of the schoolhouse, stating that it was "anti-pedagogical" to expect campesino students to be educated there, while "government officials drive Mercedes cars" ... declaring "that's what we are fighting against."

Later that morning on October 9, Bolivian President René Barrientos ordered that Guevara be killed. The executioner was Mario Terán, a half-drunken sergeant in the Bolivian army who had requested to shoot Che on the basis of the fact that three of his friends from B Company all named "Mario" had been killed in an earlier firefight with Guevara's band of guerrillas. To make the bullet wounds appear consistent with the story the government planned to release to the public, Félix Rodríguez ordered Terán to aim carefully to make it appear that Guevara had been killed in action during a clash with the Bolivian army. Gary Prado, a Bolivian soldier who was with the group that captured Guevara, said that the reasons Barrientos ordered the immediate execution of Guevara is so there would be no possibility that Guevara would escape from prison and so there would be no drama in regards to a trial.

Moments before Guevara was executed he was asked if he was thinking about his own immortality. "No", he replied, "I'm thinking about the immortality of the revolution." Che Guevara then told his executioner, "I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man." Terán hesitated, then opened fire with his semiautomatic rifle, hitting Guevara in the arms and legs. Guevara writhed on the ground, apparently biting one of his wrists to avoid crying out. Terán then fired several times again, wounding him fatally in the chest at 1:10 pm, according to Rodríguez. In all Guevara was shot nine times. This included five times in the legs, once in the right shoulder and arm, once in the chest, and finally in the throat.

Post-execution, remains and memorial

Guevara's body was then lashed to the landing skids of a helicopter and flown to nearby Vallegrandemarker where photographs were taken of him lying on a concrete slab in the laundry room of the Nuestra Señora de Malta. As hundreds of local residents filed past the body, many of them considered Guevara's corpse to represent a "Christ-like" visage, with some of them even surreptitiously clipping locks of his hair as divine relics. Such comparisons were further extended when two weeks later upon seeing the post-mortem photographs, English art critic John Berger observed that they resembled two famous paintings: Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and Andrea Mantegna's Lamentation over the Dead Christ.

A declassified memorandum dated October 11, 1967 to United States President Lyndon B. Johnson from his National Security Advisor, Walt Whitman Rostow, called the decision to kill Guevara "stupid" but "understandable from a Bolivian standpoint." After the execution, Rodríguez took several of Guevara's personal items, including a Rolex GMT Master wristwatch which he continued to wear many years later, often showing them to reporters during the ensuing years. Today, some of these belongings, including his flashlight, are on display at the CIA. After a military doctor amputated his hands, Bolivian army officers transferred Guevara's body to an undisclosed location and refused to reveal whether his remains had been buried or cremated. The hands were preserved in formaldehyde to be sent to Buenos Aires for fingerprint identification. (His fingerprints were on file with the Argentine police.) They were later sent to Cuba.

On October 15, Fidel Castro acknowledged that Guevara was dead and proclaimed three days of public mourning throughout the island. On October 18, Castro addressed a crowd of one million mourners in Havana's Plaza de la Revoluciónmarker and spoke about Guevara's character as a revolutionary. Fidel Castro closed his impassioned eulogy thusly:

French intellectual Régis Debray, who was captured in April 1967 while with Guevara in Bolivia, gave an interview from prison, in August 1968, where he enlarged on the circumstances of Guevara's capture. Debray, who had lived with Guevara's band of guerrillas for a short time, said that in his view they were "victims of the forest" and thus "eaten by the jungle." Debray described a destitute situation where Guevara's men suffered malnutrition, lack of water, absence of shoes, and only possessed six blankets for 22 men. Debray recounts that Guevara and the others had been suffering an "illness" which caused their hands and feet to swell into "mounds of flesh" to the point where you could not discern the fingers on their hands. Despite the futile situation, Debray described Guevara as "optimistic about the future of Latin America" and remarked that Guevara was "resigned to die in the knowledge that his death would be a sort of renaissance", noting that Guevara perceived death "as a promise of rebirth" and "ritual of renewal."

In late 1995, retired Bolivian General Mario Vargas revealed to Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, that Guevara's body was located near a Vallegrandemarker airstrip. The result was a multi-national search for the remains, which would last more than a year. In July 1997, a team of Cuban geologists and Argentine forensic anthropologists discovered the remnants of seven bodies in two mass graves, including one man with amputated hands (like Guevara). Bolivian government officials with the Ministry of Interior later identified the body as Guevara when the excavated teeth "perfectly matched" a plaster mold of Che's teeth, made in Cuba prior to his Congolese expedition. The "clincher" then arrived when Argentine forensic anthropologist Alejandro Inchaurregui inspected the inside hidden pocket of a blue jacket dug up next to the handless cadaver and found a small bag of pipe tobacco. Nino de Guzman, the Bolivian helicopter pilot who had given Che a small bag of tobacco, later remarked that he "had serious doubts" at first and "thought the Cubans would just find any old bones and call it Che"; however he stated "after hearing about the tobacco pouch, I have no doubts." On October 17, 1997, Guevara's remains, with those of six of his fellow combatants, were laid to rest with military honors in a specially built mausoleummarker in the Cuban city of Santa Claramarker, where he had commanded over the decisive military victory of the Cuban Revolution.

Removed when Guevara was captured was his 30,000-word, hand-written diary, a collection of his personal poetry, and a short story he authored about a young Communist guerrilla who learns to overcome his fears. His diary documented events of the guerrilla campaign in Bolivia with the first entry on November 7, 1966 shortly after his arrival at the farm in Ñancahuazú, and the last dated October 7, 1967, the day before his capture. The diary tells how the guerrillas were forced to begin operations prematurely because of discovery by the Bolivian Army, explains Guevara's decision to divide the column into two units that were subsequently unable to re-establish contact, and describes their overall unsuccessful venture. It also records the rift between Guevara and the Communist Party of Bolivia that resulted in Guevara having significantly fewer soldiers than originally expected and shows that Guevara had a great deal of difficulty recruiting from the local populace, partly because of the fact that the guerrilla group had learned Quechua, unaware that the local language was actually Tupí-Guaraní. As the campaign drew to an unexpected close, Guevara became increasingly ill. He suffered from ever-worsening bouts of asthma, and most of his last offensives were carried out in an attempt to obtain medicine.

The Bolivian Diary was quickly and crudely translated by Ramparts magazine and circulated around the world. There are at least four additional diaries in existence—those of Israel Reyes Zayas (Alias "Braulio"), Harry Villegas Tamayo ("Pombo"), Eliseo Reyes Rodriguez ("Rolando") and Dariel Alarcón Ramírez ("Benigno")—each of which reveals additional aspects of the events. In July 2008, the Bolivian government of Evo Morales unveiled Guevara's formerly sealed diaries composed in two frayed notebooks, along with a logbook and several black-and-white photographs. At this event, Bolivia's vice minister of culture, Pablo Groux, expressed that there were plans to publish photographs of every handwritten page later in the year. Meanwhile, in August of 2009, anthropologists working for Bolivia's Justice Ministry discovered and unearthed five of Guevara's fellow guerrillas near the Bolivian town of Teoponte.


A stylized graphic of Guevara's face on a flag above the words "El Che Vive" (The Che Lives).

Over forty years after his execution, Che's life and legacy still remain a contentious issue. The contradictions of his ethos at various points in his life have created a complex character of unending duality.

As a result of his perceived martyrdom, poetic invocations for class struggle, and desire to create the consciousness of a new man driven by moral rather than material incentives, Guevara evolved into a quintessential icon of leftist-inspired movements. An array of notable individuals have viewed Che Guevara as a hero; for example, Nelson Mandela referred to him as "an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom" while Jean-Paul Sartre described him as "not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age." Others who expressed their admiration include authors Graham Greene who remarked that Che "represented the idea of gallantry, chivalry, and adventure", and Susan Sontag who expounded that "(Che's) goal was nothing less than the cause of humanity itself." In the black community, philosopher Frantz Fanon professed Guevara to be "the world symbol of the possibilities of one man", while Black Panther Party head Stokely Carmichael eulogized that "Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us." Praise has been reflected throughout the political spectrum, with the anarcho-capitalist / libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard extolling Guevara as a "heroic figure", lamenting after his death that "more than any man of our epoch or even of our century, (Che) was the living embodiment of the principle of revolution", while journalist Christopher Hitchens commented that "[Che's] death meant a lot to me and countless like me at the time, he was a role model, albeit an impossible one for us bourgeois romantics insofar as he went and did what revolutionaries were meant to do — fought and died for his beliefs." Guevara remains a beloved national hero to many in Cuba, where his image adorns the $3 Cuban Peso and school children begin each morning by pledging "We will be like Che." In his native homeland of Argentina, where high schools bear his name, numerous Che museums dot the country, which in 2008 unveiled a 12 foot bronze statue of him in his birth city of Rosario. Additionally, Guevara has been sanctified by some Bolivian campesinos as "Saint Ernesto", to whom they pray for assistance.

Conversely, Machover, one of his biographers, dismisses the hero-worshipping and portrays him as a ruthless executioner. Detractors have theorized that in much of Latin America, Che-inspired revolutions had the practical result of reinforcing brutal militarism and internecine conflict for many years. In an assessment of Guevara, British historian Hugh Thomas acknowledge's that Che was a "brave, sincere and determined man who was also obstinate, narrow, and dogmatic." At the end of his life, according to Thomas, "he seems to have become convinced of the virtues of violence for its own sake", while "his influence over Castro for good or evil" grew after his death, as Fidel took up many of his views. In Thomas' assessment "as in the case of Martí, or Lawrence of Arabia, failure has brightened, not dimmed the legend." Alvaro Vargas Llosa of The Independent Institute has hypothesized that Guevara’s contemporary followers "delude themselves by clinging to a myth", while describing Guevara as "Marxist Puritan" who employed his rigid power to suppress dissent, while also operating as a "cold-blooded killing machine". Llosa has also accused Guevara's "fanatical disposition" as being the linchpin of the "Sovietization" of the Cuban revolution, speculating that he possessed a "total subordination of reality to blind ideological orthodoxy." Guevara remains a hated figure amongst many in the Cuban exile community, who view him with animosity as "the butcher of La Cabañamarker." Guevara's exiled grandson Canek Sánchez Guevara has also recently become an outspoken critic of the current Cuban regime.

Despite his polarized status, a high-contrast monochrome graphic of his face has become one of the world's most universally merchandized and objectified images, found on an endless array of items, including t-shirts, hats, posters, tattoos, and bikinis, ironically contributing to the consumer culture he despised. Yet, Guevara still remains a transcendent figure both in specifically political contexts and as a wide-ranging popular icon of youthful rebellion.


Archival media

Video footage

  • Guevara interviewed in 1964 on a visit to Dublinmarker, Irelandmarker, (2:53), English translation, from RTÉ Libraries and Archives, Video Clip
  • Guevara reciting a poem, (1:00), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip
  • Guevara showing support for Fidel Castro, (0:22), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip
  • Guevara speaking about labor, (0:28), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip
  • Guevara speaking about the Bay of Pigs, (0:17), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip
  • Guevara speaking against imperialism, (1:20), English subtitles, from El Che: Investigating a Legend - Kultur Video 2001, Video Clip

Audio recording

List of works

Originally written in Spanish by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, later translated into English
  • A New Society: Reflections for Today's World, Ocean Press, 1996, ISBN 1-875284-06-0
  • Back on the Road: A Journey Through Latin America, Grove Press, 2002, ISBN 0-8021-3942-6
  • Che Guevara, Cuba, and the Road to Socialism, Pathfinder Press, 1991, ISBN 0-87348-643-9
  • Che Guevara on Global Justice, Ocean Press (AU), 2002, ISBN 1-876175-45-1
  • Che Guevara: Radical Writings on Guerrilla Warfare, Politics and Revolution, Filiquarian Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-59986-999-3
  • Che Guevara Reader: Writings on Politics & Revolution, Ocean Press, 2003, ISBN 1-876175-69-9
  • Che Guevara Speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings, Pathfinder Press (NY), 1980, ISBN 0-87348-602-1
  • Che Guevara Talks to Young People, Pathfinder, 2000, ISBN 0-87348-911-X
  • Che: The Diaries of Ernesto Che Guevara, Ocean Press (AU), 2008, ISBN 1-920888-93-4
  • Colonialism is Doomed, Ministry of External Relations: Republic of Cuba, 1964, ASIN B0010AAN1K
  • Critical Notes on Political Economy: A Revolutionary Humanist Approach to Marxist Economics Ocean Press, 2008, ISBN 1-876175-55-9
  • Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War, 1956–58, Pathfinder Press (NY), 1996, ISBN 0-87348-824-5
  • Guerrilla Warfare: Authorized Edition Ocean Press, 2006, ISBN 1-920888-28-4
  • Latin America: Awakening of a Continent, Ocean Press, 2005, ISBN 1-876175-73-7
  • Marx & Engels: An Introduction, Ocean Press, 2007, ISBN 1-920888-92-6
  • Our America And Theirs: Kennedy And The Alliance For Progress, Ocean Press, 2006, ISBN 1-876175-81-8
  • Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War: Authorized Edition Ocean Press, 2005, ISBN 1-920888-33-0
  • Self Portrait Che Guevara, Ocean Press (AU), 2004, ISBN 1-876175-82-6
  • Socialism and Man in Cuba, Pathfinder Press (NY), 1989, ISBN 0-87348-577-7
  • The African Dream: The diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo Grove Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8021-3834-9
  • The Argentine, Ocean Press (AU), 2008, ISBN 1-920888-93-4
  • The Bolivian Diary of Ernesto Che Guevara Pathfinder Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87348-766-4
  • The Diary of Che Guevara: The Secret Papers of a Revolutionary, Amereon Ltd, ISBN 0-89190-224-4
  • The Great Debate on Political Economy, Ocean Press, 2006, ISBN 1-876175-54-0
  • The Motorcycle Diaries: A Journey Around South America London: Verso, 1996, ISBN 1-85702-399-4
  • To Speak the Truth: Why Washington's "Cold War" Against Cuba Doesn't End, Pathfinder, 1993, ISBN 0-87348-633-1


  1. The date of birth recorded on was June 14, 1928, although one tertiary source, (Julia Constenla, quoted by Jon Lee Anderson), asserts that he was actually born on May 14 of that year. Constenla alleges that she was told by an unidentified astrologer that his mother, Celia de la Serna, was already pregnant when she and Ernesto Guevara Lynch were married and that the date on the birth certificate of their son was forged to make it appear that he was born a month later than the actual date to avoid scandal. (Anderson 1997, pp. 3, 769.)
  2. Casey 2009, p. 128.
  3. On Revolutionary Medicine Speech by Che Guevara to the Cuban Militia on August 19, 1960
  4. At the Afro-Asian Conference in Algeria A speech by Che Guevara to the Second Economic Seminar of Afro-Asian Solidarity in Algiers, Algeria on February 24, 1965
  5. Beaubien, NPR Audio Report, 2009, 00:09-00:13
  6. "Castro's Brain" 1960.
  7. Taibo 1999, p. 267.
  8. Kellner 1989, p. 69-70.
  9. Anderson 1997, p. 526-530.
  10. Ryan 1998, p. 4
  11. Dorfman 1999.
  12. Maryland Institute of Art, referenced at BBC News May 26, 2001
  13. Che's last name "Guevara" derives from the Castilianized form of the Basque "Gebara", a habitational name from the province of Álava. Through his grandmother, Ana Lynch, he was a descendant of Patrick Lynch, an emigrant from Galway, Ireland in the 1740s.
  14. Lavretsky 1976
  15. Kellner 1989, p. 23.
  16. Argentina: Che's Red Mother Time Magazine, July 14, 1961
  17. Anderson 1997, p. 22-23.
  18. Sandison 1996, p. 8.
  19. Kellner 1989, p. 24.
  20. Cain, Nick & Growden, Greg "Chapter 21: Ten Peculiar Facts about Rugby" in Rugby Union for Dummies (2nd Edition), John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 139780470035375, p. 293.
  21. Anderson 1997, p. 28.
  22. Hart 2004, pg 98.
  23. Haney 2005, p. 164.
  24. (Anderson 1997, p. 37–38)
  25. Sandison 1996, p. 10.
  26. Kellner 1989, p. 26.
  27. Ratner 1997, p. 25.
  28. Kellner 1989, p. 27.
  29. NYT bestseller list: #38 Paperback Nonfiction on 2005-02-20, #9 Nonfiction on 2004-10-07 and on more occasions.
  30. Anderson 1997, pp. 98.
  31. A copy of Guevara's University transcripts showing conferral of his medical diploma can be found on pg 75 of Becoming Che: Guevara's Second and Final Trip through Latin America, by Carlos 'Calica' Ferrer (Translated from the Spanish by Sarah L. Smith), Marea Editorial, 2006, ISBN 9871307071. Ferrer was a longtime childhood friend of Che, and when Guevara passed the last of his 12 exams in 1953, he gave him a copy to prove to Ferrer, who had been telling Guevara that he would never finish, that he had finally completed his studies.
  32. Anderson 1997, p. 126.
  33. Taibo 1999, p. 31.
  34. Kellner 1989, p. 31.
  35. Guevara Lynch 2000, p. 26.
  36. Radio Cadena Agramonte 2006.
  37. Ignacio 2007, p. 172.
  38. U.S. Department of State 2008.
  39. Anderson 1997, p. 144.
  40. Kellner 1989, p. 32.
  41. Taibo 1999, p. 39.
  42. Snow, Anita. " 'My Life With Che' by Hilda Gadea." Associated Press at WJXX-TV. August 16, 2008. Retrieved on February 23, 2009.
  43. Che Guevara 1960–67 by Frank E. Smitha
  44. Kellner 1989, p. 33.
  45. Rebel Wife, A Review of My Life With Che: The Making of a Revolutionary by Hilda Gadea by Tom Gjelten, The Washington Post, October 12, 2008
  46. Taibo 1999, p. 55.
  47. Sandison 1996, p. 28.
  48. Kellner 1989, p. 37.
  49. Anderson 1997, p. 194.
  50. Anderson 1997, p. 213.
  51. Sandison 1996, p. 32.
  52. DePalma 2006, pp. 110–111.
  53. Kellner 1989, p. 45.
  54. Anderson 1997, pp. 269–270.
  55. Castañeda 1998, pp. 105, 119.
  56. Anderson 1997, pp. 237-238, 269–270, 277–278.
  57. Sandison 1996, p. 35.
  58. Ignacio 2007, p. 177.
  59. Ignacio 2007, p. 193.
  60. Poster Boy of The Revolution by Saul Landau, The Washington Post, October 19, 1997, Page X01
  61. Bockman 1984.
  62. Kellner 1989, p. 40.
  63. Kellner 1989, p. 47.
  64. Castro 1972, pp. 439–442.
  65. Dorschner 1980, pp. 41–47, 81–87.
  66. Sandison 1996, p. 39.
  67. Kellner 1989, p. 48.
  68. Kellner 1989, p. 13.
  69. Anderson 1997, 397.
  70. Anderson 1997, pp. 400–401.
  71. Anderson 1997, pp. 424.
  72. Guevara had children from both his marriages, and one illegitimate child, as follows: With Hilda Gadea (married August 18, 1955; divorced May 22, 1959), Hilda Beatriz Guevara Gadea, born February 15, 1956 in Mexico City; died August 21, 1995 in Havana, Cuba; with Aleida March (married June 2, 1959), Aleida Guevara March, born November 24, 1960 in Havana, Cuba, Camilo Guevara March, born May 20, 1962 in Havana, Cuba, Celia Guevara March, born June 14, 1963 in Havana, Cuba, and Ernesto Guevara March, born February 24, 1965 in Havana, Cuba; and with Lilia Rosa López (extramarital), Omar Pérez, born March 19, 1964 in Havana, Cuba (Castañeda 1998, pp. 264–265).
  73. Gómez Treto 1991, p. 115. "The Penal Law of the War of Independence (July 28, 1896) was reinforced by Rule 1 of the Penal Regulations of the Rebel Army, approved in the Sierra Maestra February 21, 1958, and published in the army's official bulletin (Ley penal de Cuba en armas, 1959)" (Gómez Treto 1991, p. 123).
  74. Gómez Treto 1991, pp. 115–116).
  75. Anderson 1997, pp. 372, 425.
  76. Anderson 1997, p. 376.
  77. Niess 2007, p. 60
  78. Gómez Treto 1991, p. 116).
  79. Anderson 1997, pp. 388.
  80. Niess 2007, p. 61
  81. Different sources cite different numbers of executions, with some of the discrepancy resulting from which deaths to attribute directly to Guevara or to the regime as a whole. Anderson gives the number specifically at La Cabaña prison as 55 (p. 387.), while also stating that as a whole "several hundred people were officially tried and executed across Cuba" (p. 387). (Castañeda 1998) notes how historians differ on the number killed and place it as anywhere from 200-700 nationwide (p. 143). This is supported by Lago who gives the figure as 216 executions ordered by Guevara across Cuba in three years (1957-1960).
  82. Castañeda 1998, pp. 143-144.
  83. Anderson 1997, pp. 375.
  84. Kellner 1989, p. 54.
  85. Kellner 1989, p. 57.
  86. Anderson 1997, p. 423.
  87. Niwata 2007. Guevara requested that the Japanese government arrange for him to visit Hiroshima. When they refused, he covertly left his Osaka hotel to visit Hiroshima by night train, along with his aide Omar Fernández.
  88. Anderson 1997, p. 435.
  89. Casey 2009, p. 25.
  90. Casey 2009, p. 25-50.
  91. Kellner 1989, p. 58.
  92. Kellner 1989, p. 55.
  93. Kellner 1989, p. 61.
  94. Crompton 2009, p. 71.
  95. Kellner 1989, p. 60.
  96. Dumur 1964 shows Che Guevara speaking French.
  97. Kellner 1989, p. 62.
  98. PBS: Che Guevara, Popular but Ineffective
  99. Kellner 1989, p. 63.
  100. Kellner 1989, p. 74.
  101. The Spirit of Che Guevara by I.F. Stone, New Statesman, October 20, 1967
  102. Anderson 1997, p. 507.
  103. Anderson 1997, p. 509.
  104. "Economics Cannot be Separated from Politics" speech by Che Guevara to the ministerial meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES), in Punta del Este, Uruguay on August 8, 1961
  105. Kellner 1989, p. 78.
  106. Anderson 1997, p. 492.
  107. Anderson 1997, p. 530.
  108. Anderson 1997, p. 545.
  109. Kellner 1989, p. 73.
  110. "Colonialism is Doomed" speech to the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City by Cuban representative Che Guevara on December 11, 1964
  111. Bazooka Fired at U.N. as Cuban Speaks by Homer Bigart, The New York Times, December 12, 1964 - page 1
  112. Guillermo Novo Biography by Spartacus Educational Encyclopedia
  113. Snow 2007.
  114. Hart 2004, pg 271.
  115. Anderson 1997, p. 618.
  117. St. Patrick's Day 2005: Che Lives by Peter McDermott, The Irish Echo, March 16-22 2005 edition
  118. "Socialism and Man in Cuba" A letter to Carlos Quijano, editor of Marcha, a weekly published in Montevideo, Uruguay; published as "From Algiers, for Marcha: The Cuban Revolution Today" by Che Guevara on March 12, 1965
  119. Guevara 1969, p. 350.
  120. Guevara 1969, pp. 352–59.
  122. Message to the Tricontinental A letter sent by Che Guevara from his jungle camp in Bolivia, to the Tricontinental Solidarity Organisation in Havana, Cuba, in the Spring of 1967
  123. Guevara 1965.
  124. Ben Bella 1997.
  125. Anderson 1997, p. 624.
  126. Anderson 1997, p. 629.
  127. Gálvez 1999, p 62.
  128. Gott 2004 p. 219.
  129. Kellner 1989, p. 86.
  130. DR Congo's Rebel-Turned-Brain Surgeon by Mark Doyle, BBC World Affairs', December 13, 2005
  131. BBC News January 17, 2001.
  132. "The intercept operators knew that Dar-es-Salaam was serving as a communications center for the fighters, receiving messages from Castro in Cuba and relaying them on to the guerrillas deep in the bush (Bamford 2002, p. 181).
  133. Ireland's Own 2000.
  134. Kellner 1989, p. 87.
  135. Guevara 2000, p. 1.
  136. Castañeda 1998, p. 316.
  137. Mittleman 1981, p. 38.
  138. Jacobson, Sid and Ernie Colón. Che: A Graphic Biography. Hill and Wang, 2009. 96-97.
  139. Jacobson, Sid and Ernie Colón. Che: A Graphic Biography. Hill and Wang, 2009. 98.
  140. Selvage 1985.
  141. Anderson 1997, p. 693.
  142. Kellner 1989, p. 97.
  143. U.S. Army 1967 and Ryan 1998, pp. 82–102, inter alia. "U.S. military personnel in Bolivia never exceeded 53 advisers, including a sixteen-man Mobile Training Team (MTT) from the 8th Special Forces Group based at Fort Gulick, Panama Canal Zone" (Selvage 1985).
  144. " Bidding for Che", Time Magazine, Dec 15 1967
  145. Guevara 1972.
  146. Castañeda 1998, pp. 107–112; 131–132.
  147. Wright 2000, p. 86.
  148. Shadow Warrior: The CIA Hero of 100 Unknown Battles, Felix Rodriguez and John Weisman, Simon & Schuster, October 1989
  149. Anderson 1997, p.733.
  150. " The Man Who Buried Che" by Juan O. Tamayo, Miami Herald, September 19, 1997
  151. Grant 2007. René Barrientos has never revealed his motives for ordering the summary execution of Guevara.
  152. Almudevar, Lola. " Bolivia marks capture, execution of 'Che' Guevara 40 years ago." San Francisco Chronicle. Tuesday October 9, 2007. Retrieved on November 7, 2009.
  153. Time magazine 1970.
  154. Anderson 1997, p. 739.
  155. Anderson 1997, pp. 739.
  156. Almudevar 2007 and Gott 2005.
  157. Casey 2009, p. 179.
  158. Casey 2009, p. 183.
  159. Lacey 2007a.
  160. Watch blog image of Guevara's GMT Master
  161. Felix Rodríguez entry from Spartacus Schoolnet Encyclopedia
  162. Kornbluh 1997.
  163. Anderson 1997, pp. 740.
  164. Anderson 1997, pp. 741.
  165. Cuba salutes 'Che' Guevara: Revolutionary Icon Finally Laid to Rest CNN, October 17, 1997 CNN VIDEO
  166. " Bidding for Che", Time Magazine, Dec 15 1967
  167. Guevara 1967b.
  168. Ryan 1998, p. 45
  169. Ryan 1998, p. 104
  170. Ryan 1998, p. 148
  171. Ramírez 1997.
  172. Bolivia unveils original Che Guevara diary by Eduardo Garcia, Reuters, July 7, 2008
  173. Slain Che Guevara Soldiers Found? video report by National Geographic, August 21, 2009
  174. Guevara 2005
  175. Che's Second Coming? by David Rieff, November 20, 2005, New York Times
  176. Moynihan 2006.
  177. Sinclair 1968 / 2006, p. 80.
  178. Sinclair 1968 / 2006, p. 127.
  179. McLaren 2000, p. 3.
  180. Sinclair 1968 / 2006, p. 67.
  181. Ernesto Che Guevara R.I.P. by Murray Rothbard, Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought, Volume 3, Number 3 (Spring-Autumn 1967)
  182. Just a Pretty Face? by Sean O'Hagan, The Observer, July 11, 2004
  183. People's Weekly 2004.
  184. Argentina pays belated homage to "Che" Guevara by Helen Popper, Reuters, June 14, 2008
  185. Statue for Che's '80th birthday' by Daniel Schweimler, BBC News, June 15, 2008
  186. On a tourist trail in Bolivia's hills, Che's fame lives on By Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2004
  187. Schipani 2007.
  188. Behind Che Guevara’s mask, the cold executioner Times Online, September 16, 2007
  189. Vargas Llosa 2005.
  190. Kellner 1989, p. 106.
  191. D'Rivera 2005.
  192. BBC News May 26, 2001
  193. see also Che Guevara
  194. Lacey 2007b.
  195. BBC News 2007.
  196. O'Hagan 2004.


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