Ernesto Guevara was an Argentine revolutionary leader and theorist. He is better known by the nickname of "El Ché". He was born in Rosario, Argentina, the oldest son of upper-middle-class parents with leftist political leanings. He interrupted his medical studies at the Universidad de Buenos Aires at 24 to undertake a motorcycle and hitch-hiking tour of South America. He travelled throughout Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela and wrote a journal of his trip that is nowadays considered a classic in Latin American travel literature. After his tour, Guevara returned to Argentina and completed the requirements for his degree in medicine.
Once he finished his studies, he went back to cross the continent northward. The conditions of the lower classes he observed in several countries reinforced his basically left-wing views. Eventually, his odyssey took him to Guatemala. Here he became an interested witness to the revolutionary program of President Jacobo Arbenz. Arbenz attempted to do deep social reforms in Guatemala in order to create radical changes in an inequalitarian and stagned society. As part of his reforms, Arbenz considered the expropriation of the uncultivated lands of the United Fruit Company to be re-distributed to poor peasants. However, Arbenz's efforts faced the opposition of several members of the Army, the United Fruit Company, the landowning class, and the United States Department of State. In June of 1954, a group of rebels, sponsored by the CIA, and led by the Guatemalan colonel Carlos Castillo invaded the country from neighbouring Honduras with the goal of putting an end to Arbenz's reforms. Guevara, who was a strong sympathizer of Arbenz regime offered his services to the government volunteering to create milicias to strike back Castillo's forces. However, the defense Arbenz's followers organized was too weak, and Guevara sought political refuge in the Argentine Embassy and soon managed to cross the border into Mexico.
The military coup against Arbenz was a threshold in Guevara's life tha convinced him that the Latin American peoples had no other choice different from the revolutionary armed struggle to end with their poverty and political opression. Once in Mexico he joined a group of exiled revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. Clandestine military training followed. Guevara participated in the Castro group's seaborne landing on the coast of Oriente Province, Cuba, in December 1956. During Castro's struggle against Fulgencio Batista's government Guevara served as a doctor and military commander with the rank of major.
After Castro's triumph in 1959, Guevara occupied important positions in Cuba.He represented Cuba in diplomatic and commercial missions abroad. He was the head of the Industrial Department of the Instituto Nacional para la Reforma Agraria (1959), the head of the Cuban National Bank (1959-1961), and the Minister of Industry (1961-1965). He supported an industrialization of Cuba, conflicting with the Soviet view that urged Cuba to specialize in sugar exports. His views made him sympathize more with Chinese communism than with the Soviet version. He also managed to have a little "revenge" against United Fruit, when the revolutionary government seized the company's properties.
In 1960 he published his famous study Guerrilla Warfare in which he theorized on the revolutionary struggle based on his own experiences.
In 1965 he travelled to Congo to support local revolutionaries, and in 1966 he travelled to Bolivia, with some Peruvian and Cuban men, to spark the revolution in that country. His campaign was a disaster. His group was detected by the Bolivian Army in March, 1967. On October 8, 1967 a government ranger unit wounded and captuerd Guevara who was executed in La Higuera the day after by a Bolivian officer, giving death to one of the most legendary and influential Latin Americans of the century.
Bibliography: Helen DELPAR, Encyclopedia of Latin America (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974); GAMBINI, Hugo, El Ché Guevara (Buenos Aires: 1968)
© united fruit historical society, 2001
information contained in this website is absolutely free. However, we
request users to quote this website as their source when using material
©united fruit historical society, 2001-2006