Che Guevara was a prominent communist figure in the Cuban Revolution (1956–59) who went on to become a guerrilla leader in South America. Executed by the Bolivian army in 1967, he has since been regarded as a martyred hero by generations of leftists worldwide. Guevara’s image remains a prevalent icon of leftist radicalism and anti-imperialism.
Revolutionary leader. Born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna on June 14, 1928, in Rosario, Argentina. After completing his medical studies at the University of Buenos Aires, Guevara became political active first in his native Argentina and then in neighboring Bolivia and Guatemala. In 1954, he met Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro and his brother Raul while in Mexico.
Guevara became part of Fidel Castro’s efforts to overthrow the Batista government in Cuba. He served as a military advisor to Castro and led guerrilla troops in battles against Batista forces. When Castro took power in 1959, Guevara became in charge of La Cabaña Fortress prison. It is estimated that between 156 and 550 people were executed on Guevara’s extra-judicial orders during this time.
Later, he became president of the Cuban national bank and helped to shift the country’s trade relations from the United States to the Soviet Union. Three years later, he was appointed minister of industry. Guevara left this post in 1965 to export the ideas of Cuba’s revolution to other parts of the world. In 1966, he began to try to incite the people of Bolivia to rebel against their government, but had little success. With only a small guerrilla force to support his efforts, Guevara was captured and killed in La Higuera by the Bolivian army on October 9, 1967.
Since his death, Guevara has become a legendary political figure. His name is often equated with rebellion, revolution, and socialism. Others, however, still remember that he could be ruthless and ordered prisoners executed without trial in Cuba. Guevara’s life continues to be a subject of great public interest and been explored and portrayed in numerous books and films, including The Motorcycle Diaries (2004).