Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara is infamous for his work as a revolutionary, and as one of Fidel Castro’s comrades during the Cuban Revolution. With Fidel’s death on November 25 at 90, let’s take a look at the life of one of the allies who allowed him to come into power.
1. He was radicalized by poverty and disease he saw as a medical student, and is a doctor.
Che Guevara entered the University of Buenos Aires in 1948 to study medicine, and his experiences viewing poverty, disease and hunger in Latin America drove him to become a revolutionary. He took two long motorcycle journeys. The first in 1950 was 2800 miles solo through northern Argentina. In 1951, he completed nearly 5000 miles across South America with his friend, Alberto Granado.
During these trips, he witnessed the plight of workers throughout the continent. He stayed at a leper colony in Peru, witnessed horrific mining conditions in Chile, and said 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”. He received his medical degree in 1953.
2. He turned his notes from the journey into a book
Che published the notes he took during his life-changing journeys into a book called The Motorcycle Diaries. The book was turned into a film in 2004.
3. He met Fidel and Raul Castro in Mexico in 1955.
Che moved to Mexico to work at the Hospital Infantil de Mexico. During this time, his friend Ñico López, a Cuban exile, introduced him to brothers Fidel and Raul Castro. On the night of their first meeting, Che heard Fidel’s plans for overthrowing the Batista dictatorship in Cuba, and signed on to help. While he was planning to be the combat medic, he wound up fighting for the group, and became renowned for his guerrilla warfare tactics.
4. He was a Marxist
After overthrowing Batista, Fidel quickly established communist rule over Cuba as the new prime minister. It was in line with Che’s thinking, as he identified as a Marxist: “The merit of Marx is that he suddenly produces a qualitative change in the history of social thought. He interprets history, understands its dynamic, predicts the future, but in addition to predicting it (which would satisfy his scientific obligation), he expresses a revolutionary concept: the world must not only be interpreted, it must be transformed. Man ceases to be the slave and tool of his environment and converts himself into the architect of his own destiny,” he wrote in Notes for the Study of the Ideology of the Cuban, in 1960.
5. He was killed by the Bolivian government
Bolivian Special Forces captured Che in 1967, at the guerrilla camp he had set up in the Yuro Ravine. Che was injured in a shootout, tied up and taken to an abandoned schoolhouse. He was interrogated for hours and eventually ordered by the Bolivian president to be executed; he was shot nine times by a soldier.
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