The face of Che Guevara is pasted on millions of t-shirts, a symbol of anti-establishment, revolution, and change. Who is the man behind this symbol of anti-imperialism?
Che Guevara was born on June 14, 1928. Managing to distinguish himself as an athlete whilst handicapped by his asthma, he grew up in a middle class family in Argentina. His family and friends held leftist views, and it is here that he was said to have developed his political views. As he became an adolescent, he became an activist, joining a group that opposed Juan Peron, an Argentine lieutenant general and politician.
Guevara was a top student, and came out of high school with honours. He studied medicine at the University of Buenos Aires until 1951, when he decided to travel around south America. His journey to South America opened his eyes to the awful conditions and plight of the peasants and working class. During the nine month journey, Guevara witnessed extreme poverty, and begun to blame capitalism for the situation. Intent on providing care for the needy, Guevara returned to university in 1952, and received his degree a year later.
Guevara’s political views became more and more radical as time progressed. His thirst for change led him to stop studying medicine, as he decided that a more proactive approach to change was needed in order to help the people of South America. He travelled to Guatemala in time to witness the CIA backed overthrow of the leftist government. Witnessing this deepened his resentment towards capitalism and his leftist beliefs.
Soon, Guevara married, and settled in Mexico. It was here that he met Fidel Castro, a Cuban revolutionary that would overthrow the Batista government. It was this meeting that helped Guevara to begin to gain authority. Arriving first as a medical helper, he soon became primary adviser to Castro. When they landed in Cuba in 1956, Guevara was one of the few to survive the assault. He would become a key part in dismantling the already deteriorating Batista regime.
Before long, Fidel Castro took control of Cuba. Guevara was to be in charge of La Cabaña prison, where he put many of Batista’s supporters and collaborators on trial. He condemned hundreds to execution, supported by the Cuban people. Guevara played a very important role in putting in place the new communist government in Cuba, and was appointed president of the national bank and minister of industry. He also acted as an ambassador for Cuba, and encouraged Castro and the Soviet Union to join forces. His talent as an adviser and political strategist was hugely important to the development of communism in Cuba, and he was a key player during the Bay of Pigs invasion.
With the crumbling of the Cuban economy by 1965, Guevara begun to travel more in order to export his revolutionary ideas. He trained troops in Congo in support of a revolution, but failed and returned to Cuba. It was on a trip to Bolivia that he was captured and killed, a Martyr of the revolution.
The achievements of Che Guevara were numerous, and his status as a symbol of the revolution is no surprise. Whilst opinions on Guevara vary, it is undeniable that he did many great things. Guevara remains to this day, motivation and inspiration to activism, revolution, and challenging the establishment.