“THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WIKIPEDIA.COM FOR THE CHE GUEVARRA ARTICLE BELOW, SOME PARTS OF HIS BIOGRAPHY BELOW WERE DELETED”— SSSIP.*
Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtʃe ɣeˈβaɾa]; June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967), commonly known as el Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, poet, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture.
June 14, 1928
Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina
|Died||October 9, 1967 (aged 39) (execution)
La Higuera, Vallegrande, Bolivia
|Resting place||Che Guevara Mausoleum
Santa Clara, Cuba
|Alma mater||University of Buenos Aires|
|Occupation||Physician, author, guerrilla, government official|
|Organization||26th of July Movement, United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution, National Liberation Army (Bolivia)|
|Spouse(s)||Hilda Gadea (1955–1959)
Aleida March (1959–1967, his death)
Aleida (b. 1960)
Camilo (b. 1962)
Celia (b. 1963)
Ernesto (b. 1965)
|Parent(s)||Ernesto Guevara Lynch
Celia de la Serna y Llosa
As a young medical student, Guevara traveled throughout South America and was radicalized by the poverty, hunger, and disease he witnessed. His burgeoning desire to help overturn what he saw as the capitalist exploitation of Latin America by the United States prompted his involvement in Guatemala‘s social reforms under President Jacobo Árbenz, whose eventual CIA-assisted overthrow at the behest of the United Fruit Company solidified Guevara’s political ideology. Later, in Mexico City, he met Raúl andFidel Castro, joined their 26th of July Movement, and sailed to Cuba aboard the yacht, Granma, with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-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 victorious 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 land reform as minister of industries, helping spearhead a successful nationwide literacy campaign, 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 also allowed him to play a central role in training the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and bringing the Sovietnuclear-armed ballistic missiles to Cuba 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 continental motorcycle journey. His experiences and studying of Marxism–Leninism led him to posit that the Third World‘s underdevelopment anddependence was an intrinsic result of imperialism, neocolonialism, and monopoly capitalism, with the only remedy being proletarian internationalism and world revolution. Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to foment revolution abroad, first unsuccessfully in Congo-Kinshasa and later in Bolivia, where he was captured by CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and summarily 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. 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, he has evolved into a quintessential icon of various leftist-inspired movements. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while an Alberto Korda photograph of him, titled Guerrillero Heroico (shown), was cited by the Maryland Institute College of Art as “the most famous photograph in the world”.
Ernesto Guevara was born to Ernesto Guevara Lynch and his wife, Celia de la Serna y Llosa, on June 14, 1928 in Rosario, Argentina, the eldest of five children in an Argentine family of Basque and Irish descent. In accordance with Spanish naming customs, his legal name (Ernesto Guevara) will sometimes appear with “de la Serna” and/or “Lynch” accompanying it. Referring 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 Republicansfrom the Spanish Civil War, often hosted many veterans from the conflict in the Guevara home.
Despite suffering crippling bouts of acute asthma that were to afflict him throughout his life, he excelled as an athlete, enjoying swimming, football, golf, and shooting; while also becoming an “untiring” cyclist. He was an avid rugby union player, and played at fly-half forClub Universitario de Buenos Aires. 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.
Intellectual and literary interests
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.
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” while adding that “Che is fairly intellectual for a Latino.”
Marxist ideological influence
“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.”— Che Guevara, Notes for the Study of the Ideology of the Cuban, October 1960
When enacting and advocating Cuban policy, Guevara cited the political philosopher Karl Marx as his ideological inspiration. In defending his political stance, Guevara confidently remarked that “There are truths so evident, so much a part of people’s knowledge, that it is now useless to discuss them. One ought to be Marxist with the same naturalness with which one is ‘Newtonian‘ in physics, or ‘Pasteurian‘ in biology.” According to Guevara, the “practical revolutionaries” of the Cuban Revolution had the goal of “simply fulfill(ing) laws foreseen by Marx, the scientist.” Using Marx’s predictions and system of dialectical materialism, Guevara professed that “The laws of Marxism are present in the events of the Cuban Revolution, independently of what its leaders profess or fully know of those laws from a theoretical point of view.”
The “New Man”, Bay of Pigs, and missile crisis
“Man truly achieves his full human condition when he produces without being compelled by the physical necessity of selling himself as a commodity.”— Che Guevara, Man and Socialism in Cuba
At this stage, Guevara acquired the additional position of Finance Minister, as well as President of the National Bank. These appointments, combined with his existing position as Minister of Industries, placed Guevara at the zenith of his power, as the “virtual czar” of the Cuban economy. As a consequence of his position at the head of the central bank, it was now Guevara’s duty to sign the Cuban currency, which per custom would bear his signature. Instead of using his full name, he 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.”
In an effort to eliminate social inequalities, Guevara and Cuba’s new leadership had moved to swiftly transform the political and economic base of the country through nationalizing factories, banks, and businesses, while attempting to ensure affordable housing, healthcare, and employment for all Cubans. However, in order for a genuine transformation of consciousness to take root, Guevara believed that such structural changes would have to be accompanied by a conversion in people’s social relations and values. Believing that the attitudes in Cuba towards race, women, individualism, and manual labor were the product of the island’s outdated past, Guevara urged all individuals to view each other as equals and take on the values of what he termed “el Hombre Nuevo” (the New Man). Guevara hoped his “new man” would ultimately be “selfless and cooperative, obedient and hard working, gender-blind, incorruptible, non-materialistic, and anti-imperialist.”To accomplish this, Guevara emphasized the tenets of Marxism-Leninism, and wanted to use the state to emphasize qualities such as egalitarianism and self-sacrifice, at the same time as “unity, equality, and freedom” became the new maxims.Guevara’s first desired economic goal of the new man, which coincided with his aversion for wealth condensation and economic inequality, was to see a nationwide elimination of material incentives in favor of moral ones. He negatively 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 of 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. To promote this concept of a “new man”, the government also created a series of party-dominated institutions and mechanisms on all levels of society, which included organizations such as labor groups, youth leagues, women’s groups, community centers, and houses of culture to promote state-sponsored art, music, and literature. In congruence with this, all educational, mass media, and artistic community based facilities were nationalized and utilized to instill the government’s official socialist ideology. In describing this new method of “development”, Guevara stated:
“There is a great difference between free-enterprise development and revolutionary development. In one of them, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a fortunate few, the friends of the government, the best wheeler-dealers. In the other, wealth is the people’s patrimony.”
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 emblematic of Guevara’s new program of moral incentives, where each worker was now required to meet a quota and produce a certain quantity of goods. As a replacement for the pay increases abolished by Guevara, workers who exceeded their quota now 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:
“This is not a matter of how many pounds of meat one might be able to eat, or how many times a year someone can go to the beach, or how many ornaments from abroad one might be able to buy with his current salary. What really matters is that the individual feels more complete, with much more internal richness and much more responsibility.”
In the face of a loss of commercial connections with Western states, Guevara tried to replace them with closer commercial relationships with Eastern Bloc states, visiting a number of Marxist states and signing trade agreements with them. At the end of 1960 he visitedCzechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Hungary and East Germany and signed, for instance, a trade agreement in East Berlin on December 17, 1960. Such agreements helped Cuba’s economy to a certain degree but also had the disadvantage of a growing economic dependency on the Eastern Bloc. It was also in East Germany where Guevara met Tamara Bunke (later known as “Tania”), who was assigned as his interpreter, and who would years later join him, and be killed with him in Bolivia.
Whatever the merits or demerits of Guevara’s economic principles, his programs were unsuccessful. Guevara’s program of “moral incentives” for workers caused a rapid drop in productivity and a rapid rise in absenteeism.Decades later, the director of Radio MartíErnesto Betancourt, an early ally turned Castro-critic and Che’s former deputy, would accuse Guevara of being “ignorant of the most elementary economic principles.” In reference to the collective failings of Guevara’s vision, reporter I.F. Stone who interviewed Guevara 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 Cuba during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Guevara 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 Río and drew forces commanded by Guevara to that region. However, historians give him a share of credit for the victory as he was director of instruction for Cuba’s armed forces at the time. 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 that 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 States in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Che Guevara sent a note of “gratitude” to United States 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 United States 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 likeOppenheimer 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 Soviet nuclear-armed ballistic missiles that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. A few weeks after the crisis, during an interview with the British communist newspaper the Daily Worker, Guevara was still fuming over the perceived Soviet betrayal and told correspondent Sam Russell that, if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have fired them off. While expounding on the incident later, Guevara reiterated that the cause of socialist liberation against global “imperialist aggression” would ultimately have been worth the possibility of “millions of atomic war victims”. The missile crisis further convinced Guevara that the world’s two superpowers (the United States and theSoviet Union) used Cuba as a pawn in their own global strategies. Afterward, he denounced the Soviets almost as frequently as he denounced the Americans.
Capture and execution
“There was no person more feared by the company (CIA) than Che Guevara because he had the capacity and charisma necessary to direct the struggle against the political repression of the traditional hierarchies in power in the countries of Latin America.”
Félix Rodríguez, a Cuban exile turned CIA Special Activities Division operative, advised Bolivian troops during the hunt for Guevara in Bolivia. In addition the 2007 documentary My Enemy’s Enemy, directed by Kevin Macdonald, alleges that Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, a.k.a. “The Butcher of Lyon”, advised and possibly helped the CIA orchestrate Guevara’s eventual capture.
On October 7, 1967, an informant apprised the Bolivian Special Forces of the location of Guevara’s guerrilla encampment in the Yuro ravine. On the morning of October 8, they encircled the area with two battalions numbering 1,800 soldiers and advanced into the ravine triggering a battle where 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 as the Bolivian Rangers approached, a twice-wounded Guevara, his gun rendered useless, threw up his arms in surrender and shouted to the soldiers: “Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more to you alive than dead.”
Guevara was tied up and taken to a dilapidated mud schoolhouse in the nearby village of La Higuera on the evening of October 8. For the next half day, Guevara refused to be interrogated by Bolivian officers and would only speak quietly to Bolivian soldiers. One of those Bolivian soldiers, a helicopter pilot named 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, and that Guevara then smiled and thanked him. Later on the night of October 8, Guevara—despite having his hands tied—kicked a Bolivian army officer, named Captain Espinosa, against a wall after the officer entered the schoolhouse and tried to snatch Guevara’s pipe from his mouth as a souvenir while he was still smoking it. In another instance of defiance, Guevara spat in the face of Bolivian Rear Admiral Ugarteche who attempted to question Guevara a few hours before his execution.
The following morning on October 9, Guevara asked to see the school teacher of the village, a 22-year-old woman named 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 pointed out to Cortez 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”, and declaring “that’s what we are fighting against.”
Later that morning on October 9, Bolivian President René Barrientos ordered that Guevara be killed. The order was relayed to the unit holding Guevara by Félix Rodríguez despite the United States government’s desire that Guevara be taken to Panama for further interrogation.The executioner who volunteered to kill Guevara was Mario Terán, an alcoholic 31-year-old sergeant in the Bolivian army who had personally requested to shoot Guevara because three of his friends from B Company, all with the same first name of “Mario”, had been killed in an earlier firefight with Guevara’s band of guerrillas. To make the bullet wounds appear consistent with the story that the Bolivian government planned to release to the public, Félix Rodríguez ordered Terán not to shoot Guevara in the head, but to aim carefully to make it appear that Guevara had been killed in action during a clash with the Bolivian army. Gary Prado, the Bolivian captain in command of the army company that captured Guevara, said that the reasons Barrientos ordered the immediate execution of Guevara were so there would be no possibility for Guevara to escape from prison, and also so there would be no drama in regard to a public trial where adverse publicity might happen.
About 30 minutes before Guevara was executed, Félix Rodríguez attempted to question him about the whereabouts of other guerrilla fighters who were currently at large, but Guevara continued to remain silent. Rodríguez, assisted by a few Bolivian soldiers, helped Guevara to his feet and took him outside the hut to parade him before other Bolivian soldiers where he posed with Guevara for a photo opportunity where one soldier took a photograph of Rodríguez and other soldiers standing alongside Guevara. After taking him back inside, Rodríguez then privately told Guevara that he was going to be executed. Guevara then responded by asking Rodríguez if he was an American originally raised in Mexico or Puerto Rico, having noted that Rodríguez did not speak Bolivian Spanish. Rodríguez truthfully replied that he was originally from Cuba but that he had emigrated to the United States and was currently a member of the CIA. Guevara’s only reply was a loud “ha!” and he refused to speak any more to Rodríguez, who left the hut.
A little later, Guevara was asked by one of the Bolivian soldiers guarding him if he was thinking about his own immortality. “No,” he replied, “I’m thinking about the immortality of the revolution.” A few minutes later, Sergeant Terán entered the hut and immediately ordered the other soldiers out. Alone with Terán, Che Guevara then stood up and spoke to his executioner: “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot. Do it.” Terán responded by pointing his M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle at Guevara, but hesitated upon which Guevara angrily spat at Terán which were his last words: “Shoot me, you coward! You are only going to kill a man!”Terán then opened fire, hitting Guevara in the arms and legs. For a few seconds, 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. Che Guevara was pronounced dead at 1:10 pm local time according to Rodríguez.In all, Guevara was shot nine times by Terán. This included five times in his legs, once in the right shoulder and arm, once in the chest, and finally in the throat.
Months earlier, during his last public declaration to the Tricontinental Conference, Guevara wrote his own epitaph, stating “Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that this our battle cry may have reached some receptive ear and another hand may be extended to wield our weapons.”
Post-execution and memorial
After his execution, Guevara’s body was lashed to the landing skids of a helicopter and flown to nearby Vallegrande, where photographs were taken of him lying on a concrete slab in the laundry room of the Nuestra Señora de Malta. Several witnesses were called to confirm his identity, key amongst them the British journalist Richard Gott, the only witness to have met Guevara when he was alive. Put on display, as hundreds of local residents filed past the body, Guevara’s corpse was considered by many to represent a “Christ-like” visage, with some even surreptitiously clipping locks of his hair as divine relics. Such comparisons were further extended when English art critic John Berger, two weeks later upon seeing the post-mortem photographs, 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. There were also four correspondents present when Guevara’s body arrived in Vallegrande, including Björn Kumm of the Swedish Aftonbladet, who described the scene in a November 11, 1967 exclusive for The New Republic.
A declassified memorandum dated October 11, 1967 to United States President Lyndon B. Johnson from his National Security AdvisorWalt 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 that he continued to wear many years later—often showing them to reporters during the ensuing years. 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 publicly acknowledged that Guevara was dead and proclaimed three days of public mourning throughout Cuba. On October 18 Castro addressed a crowd of one million mourners in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución and spoke about Guevara’s character as a revolutionary. Fidel Castro closed his impassioned eulogy thus:
“If we wish to express what we want the men of future generations to be, we must say: Let them be like Che! If we wish to say how we want our children to be educated, we must say without hesitation: We want them to be educated in Che’s spirit! If we want the model of a man, who does not belong to our times but to the future, I say from the depths of my heart that such a model, without a single stain on his conduct, without a single stain on his action, is Che!”
Also removed when Guevara was captured were his 30,000-word, hand-written diary, a collection of his personal poetry, and a short story he had 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 the guerrilla group had learned Quechua, unaware that the local language was actually a Tupí–Guaraní language.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.
French intellectual Régis Debray, who was captured in April 1967 while with Guevara in Bolivia, gave an interview from prison in August 1968, in which 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. Debray described Guevara as “optimistic about the future of Latin America” despite the futile situation, 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”.
To a certain extent, this belief by Guevara of a metaphorical resurrection came true. While pictures of the dead Guevara were being circulated and the circumstances of his death were being debated, Che’s legend began to spread. Demonstrations in protest against his “assassination” occurred throughout the world, and articles, tributes, and poems were written about his life and death. Rallies in support of Guevara were held from “Mexico to Santiago, Algiers to Angola, and Cairo to Calcutta.” The population of Budapestand Prague lit candles to honor Guevara’s passing; and the picture of a smiling Che appeared in London and Paris. When a few months later riots broke out in Berlin, France, and Chicago, and the unrest spread to the American college campuses, young men and women wore Che Guevara T-shirts and carried his pictures during their protest marches. In the view of military historian Erik Durschmied: “In those heady months of 1968, Che Guevara was not dead. He was very much alive.”
The discovery of Che’s remains metonymically activated a series of interlinked associations—rebel, martyr, rogue figure from a picaresque adventure, savior, renegade, extremist—in which there was no fixed divide among them. The current court of opinion places Che on a continuum that teeters between viewing him as a misguided rebel, a coruscatingly brilliant guerrilla philosopher, a poet-warrior jousting at windmills, a brazen warrior who threw down the gauntlet to the bourgeoisie, the object of fervent paeans to his sainthood, or a mass murderer clothed in the guise of an avenging angel whose every action is imbricated in violence—the archetypal Fanatical Terrorist.— Dr. Peter McLaren, author of Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the Pedagogy of Revolution
Guevara’s life and legacy remain contentious. The perceived contradictions of his ethos at various points in his life have created a complex character of duality, one who was “able to wield the pen and submachine gun with equal skill,” while prophesying that “the most important revolutionary ambition was to see man liberated from his alienation.” As undogmatic as he was committed, his vision of liberation was at once romantic, poetic, compassionate, and ruthless.Guevara’s paradoxical standing is further complicated by his array of seemingly diametrically opposed qualities. A secular humanist and sympathetic practitioner of medicine who did not hesitate to shoot his enemies, a celebrated internationalist leader who advocated violence to enforce a utopian philosophy of the collective good, anidealistic intellectual who loved literature but refused to allow dissent, an anti-imperialist Marxist insurgent who was radically willing to forge a poverty-less new world on the apocalyptic ashes of the old one, and finally, an outspoken anti-capitalist whose image has been expropriated and commoditized; Che’s history continues to be rewritten and re-imagined. Sociologist Michael Löwy contends that the many facets of Guevara’s life (i.e. doctor and economist, revolutionary and banker, military theoretician and ambassador, deep thinker and political agitator) illuminated the rise of the “Che myth”, allowing him to be invariably crystallized in his many metanarrative roles as a “Red Robin Hood, Don Quixote of communism, new Garibaldi, Marxist Saint Just, Cid Campeador of the Wretched of the Earth, Sir Galahad of the beggars … and Bolshevik devil who haunts the dreams of the rich, (while) kindling braziers of subversion all over the world.”
Various notable individuals have lauded 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 have expressed their admiration include authors Graham Greene, who remarked that Guevara “represented the idea of gallantry, chivalry, and adventure”, and Susan Sontag, who supposed 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”,whileBlack Power leader Stokely Carmichael eulogized that “Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us.” Praise has been reflected throughout the political spectrum, with the 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 usbourgeois romantics insofar as he went and did what revolutionaries were meant to do—fought and died for his beliefs.” British historian Hugh Thomas opines that Guevara 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.”
Conversely, Jacobo Machover, an exiled opposition author, dismisses the hero worship of Guevara and portrays him as a callous executioner. Exiled former Cuban prisoners have expressed similar opinions, among them Armando Valladares, who has declared Guevara “a man full of hatred” who executed dozens without trial, and Carlos Alberto Montaner, who has claimed that Guevara possessed “a Robespierre mentality”, wherein cruelty against the revolution’s enemies was a virtue. Alvaro Vargas Llosa of The Independent Institute has hypothesized that Guevara’s contemporary followers “delude themselves by clinging to a myth”, describing Guevara as a “Marxist Puritan” who employed his rigid power to suppress dissent, while also operating as a “cold-blooded killing machine”. Llosa 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”. Moreover, detractors have attempted to demonstrate that Che-inspired revolutions in much of Latin America had the practical result of reinforcing brutal militarism and internecine conflict for many years. Hoover Institution research fellow William Ratliff regards Guevara as a creation of his historical environment, referring to him as a “fearless” and “head-strong Messiah-like figure”, who was the product of a martyr-enamored Latin culture which “inclined people to seek out and follow paternalistic miracle workers.” Ratliff has speculated that the economic conditions in the region suited Guevara’s commitment to “bring justice to the downtrodden by crushing centuries-old tyrannies”; describing Latin America as being plagued by what Moisés Naím referred to as the “legendary malignancies” of inequality, poverty, dysfunctional politics and malfunctioning institutions.
Meanwhile, Guevara remains a national hero in Cuba, where his image adorns the 3 peso banknote and school children begin each morning by pledging “We will be like Che.” In his homeland of Argentina, where high schools bear his name, numerous Che museums dot the country, which in 2008 unveiled a 12-foot (3.7 m) bronze statue of him in the city of his birth, Rosario.Additionally, Guevara has been sanctified by some Bolivian campesinos as “Saint Ernesto“, who pray to him for assistance.In stark contrast, Guevara remains a hated figure amongst many in the Cuban exile and Cuban-American community of the United States, who view him with animosity as “the butcher of La Cabaña“. Despite this polarized status, a high-contrast monochrome graphic of Che’s face, created in 1968 by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, became a universallymerchandized and objectified image, found on an endless array of items, including T-shirts, hats, posters, tattoos, and bikinis, ironically contributing to the consumer culture Guevara despised. Yet, he still remains a transcendent figure both in specifically political contexts and as a wide-ranging popular icon of youthful rebellion.