Che Guevara

Dafato Team | May 26, 2022

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Ernesto Guevara (Rosario, June 14, 1928-La Higuera, October 9, 1967), known as Che Guevara or simply Che, was an Argentine physician, politician, guerrilla fighter, writer, journalist and communist revolutionary who became a Cuban citizen in 1960, a citizenship he renounced in 1965.

He was one of the ideologues and commanders of the Cuban Revolution. From the armed uprising until 1965, Guevara actively participated in the organization of the Cuban State. He held several high positions in his administration and government, especially in the economic area. He was president of the National Bank, director of the Department of Industrialization of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) and Minister of Industry. In the diplomatic area, he was in charge of several international missions.

In favor of extending the armed struggle throughout the Third World, Che Guevara promoted the installation of guerrilla "focos" in several Latin American countries. Between 1965 and 1967, he himself fought in the Congo and Bolivia. In the latter country he was captured, tortured and executed by the Bolivian Army in collaboration with the CIA on October 9, 1967.

His figure, as a symbol of global relevance, arouses great passions in public opinion both for and against him. For many of his supporters, he represents the struggle against social injustice, while his detractors consider him an authoritarian and violent character.

His photographic portrait, the work of Alberto Korda, is one of the most reproduced and iconic images in the world, commercially and non-commercially, both in its original and in variants that reproduce the outline of his face, to symbolically express idealism, nonconformism and other uses.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was the eldest of five children born to Ernesto Guevara Lynch (1900-1987) and Celia de la Serna (1906-1965), both of whom belonged to upper-class families and the so-called Argentinean aristocracy. Both belonged to families of the upper class and the so-called Argentine aristocracy. A paternal great-great-grandfather, Patricio Julián Lynch y Roo, was considered the richest man in South America. Although different biographies of the later Che Guevara and the family's own account attribute his mother to be a descendant of José de la Serna e Hinojosa, the last Spanish viceroy of Lima, this circumstance is unlikely since the viceroy José de la Serna died without leaving descendants. Celia de la Serna descended from the also Spanish Juan Manuel de la Serna y de la Quintana (of Cantabrian origin, born in Ontón), who moved to the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata at the end of the XVIII century, settling in the city of Montevideo, where he married Paula Catalina Rafaela Loaces y Arandía in 1802. According to the genealogist Narciso Binayán Carmona, he was a descendant of the Spanish conqueror, explorer and colonizer Domingo Martínez de Irala (1509-1556) and Leonor "Ivoty'i Ju" Moquiracé, a Guaraní Indian who was a member of his personal harem.

Occasionally Ernesto mentions his ancestors in his writings:

Surely I inherited the slyness in me from that Basque Guevara who arrived with Mendoza, or from any turrazo gaita who slipped into my family tree macerating sweet Guarani Indians; because I have not inherited it from my Irish and Guarani ancestors. As truculent are the one as the other, although the Guarani garnish their truculence with a lot of sympathy? This name of Ayacucho in Quechua means Valley of Death. Right here, my maternal great-great-grandfather, Viceroy De la Serna, took a great beating.

The nuclear family that he integrated with his parents and siblings was socially located in the upper middle class. His father, Ernesto Rafael Guevara Lynch, led an economically comfortable life thanks to the income he obtained from the inheritance received from his parents. When his son was born, he had just bought, together with part of his wife's inheritance, an important yerba mate plantation in Caraguatay, a rural area in the province of Misiones, in the area of Montecarlo, about 200 km north of the capital Posadas, on the Paraná River. In those times the workers of the yerba mate plantations, known as mensúes, were subjected to a regime of labor exploitation, practically slavery, as illustrated in the novel El río oscuro, by Alfredo Varela, about which the film Las aguas bajan turbias was made, set in the work of the yerba mate plantations of those years. The property was baptized with the name of La Misionera and its exploitation later led to the installation of a yerba mate mill in Rosario. The Guevaras also obtained income from the Río de la Plata shipyard, which was owned by several members of their family and was located in San Fernando, until it burned down in 1930. However, these businesses did not allow the family to prosper sufficiently, so they decided to sell the yerba mate farm in the 1940s to set up a real estate company and buy a house in Buenos Aires. In Córdoba, Ernesto Sr. and a partner set up a civil construction company, which went bankrupt in 1947. In 1948 he received another important inheritance after the death of his mother, Ana Isabel Lynch Ortiz. Some biographies incorrectly attribute to him the title of engineer and socialist ideology. He remarried and had three children. In 1987 he wrote a book with the title Mi hijo el Che.

Celia de la Serna belonged to a traditional family of large ranchers from Buenos Aires. Her father committed suicide when she was two years old and her mother died when she was fifteen, leaving her in the care of her sister Carmen and an aunt. She belonged to a generation of progressive upper-class Argentine women who promoted feminism, sexual freedom and women's autonomy, whose most faithful representative was Victoria Ocampo.

Che's parents married on December 10, 1927, when Celia was three months pregnant. The fact was condemnable for the morals of those years, but it also indicated a less than conservative attitude on the part of his parents and especially on the part of his mother, despite the fact that a few years earlier she had been about to become a nun.

In 1948 they separated, although they continued to live under the same roof. After Ernesto, they had four more children: Celia (b. 1929), Roberto (b. 1932), Ana María (1934-1990) and Juan Martín (b. 1943).

A characteristic of Ernesto's parents that had a considerable influence on his childhood and youth was their constant moving and relocations. Until leaving Argentina for good in 1953, Che's family had at least twelve addresses in Buenos Aires, Caraguataí, San Isidro, Alta Gracia and Córdoba.


Ernesto Guevara was born in the Argentine city of Rosario, in the province of Santa Fe, in 1928. His birth certificate states that his parents declared that he was born on June 14, but according to other sources, he was born on May 14, 1928, exactly one month earlier.

At that time, his parents alternated their residence in the city of Buenos Aires with the city of Caraguataí, in the province of Misiones, separated by 1800 km of waterway, where they tended yerba mate plantations of their property. It is from this place where, when Ernesto's parents decided to return to Buenos Aires so that he could be properly assisted, using the shipping lines that crossed the Paraná River. The family version tells that the birth was brought forward and they had to disembark urgently in the port of Rosario, where the mother gave birth to Ernesto at the Centenario Hospital on June 14. Always according to the family story, the child was registered the following day with the name of Ernesto Guevara and after the mother was discharged, they settled for a few days in an apartment located on the fifth floor, corner of Urquiza Street, until both were in conditions to resume the trip to Buenos Aires.

Contrary to this general version, biographer Jon Lee Anderson offers an explanation for the mother's presence in Misiones while pregnant and the urgency of the landing in Rosario, pointing out that the date indicated in the official birth certificate is false and that Ernesto Guevara was born on May 14, 1928, exactly one month earlier. The reason would have been the intention of the parents to hide the pregnancy of the mother at the time of the marriage, a circumstance that was later acknowledged by the father. According to this explanation, the Guevaras moved away from Buenos Aires during the pregnancy and then intentionally went to Rosario to prevent the true date of the birth from being known. Anderson supports his version in the data provided by Julia Constenla, Celia de la Serna's biographer, as a result of his conversations with her, and in the inconsistencies of the birth certificate. Ernesto Guevara was presented at times during his life as "sietemesino", a term that at the time was assimilated to "fruit of a premarital relationship".

Early years: between Caraguatay and Buenos Aires

Ernesto's early years were spent between his parents' homes in Caraguataí (province of Misiones) and Buenos Aires, going back and forth on the steamships of the Paraná River, depending on the needs of the yerba mate production and the weather. From the beginning Ernesto received from his parents the nickname of Ernestito, to differentiate him from his father, and later Teté, by which he would be called indistinctly by his family and childhood friends.

In Buenos Aires they settled in the typical upper class areas: first in the Palermo neighborhood (Santa Fe and Guise), then in the San Isidro district (Alem Street) and finally in the Recoleta neighborhood (Sánchez de Bustamante 2286). While living in San Isidro, at the age of two he had his first asthma attack, a disease he would suffer all his life and which would lead the family to move to Córdoba. His father would always blame his mother for Ernesto's asthma, attributing it to a bronchitis aggravated by the mother's lack of attention one cold morning while swimming at the Club Náutico San Isidro.

In Caraguatay, Ernesto's parents hired a nanny for their son: Carmen Arias, a Galician woman who would live with the family until 1937 and who gave him the nickname of Teté. From his parents' yerba mate plantation and from his stay in Misiones he would acquire a taste for mate, which he was passionate about all his life.

Due to the seriousness and persistence of Ernesto's asthma, the family looked for a place with a more suitable climate. Following the doctors' recommendations, they decided to move to the province of Córdoba, a classic destination at that time for people with respiratory conditions due to its climatic conditions and higher altitude. After spending some time in the city of Córdoba, capital of the province, the Guevara Lynch family settled in Alta Gracia.

Alta Gracia, Córdoba. Childhood and adolescence

Ernesto Guevara lived 17 years in Córdoba, from 1930 to early 1947, covering most of his childhood and all of his adolescence. He considered himself a Cordoban and spoke with the characteristic Cordovan cantito, although later in Cuba he would adopt a markedly Cuban accent. He attended elementary school in Alta Gracia and high school in the city of Córdoba. There he also had his first sexual experiences and formed a group of friends, with whom he would later share his first social concerns and his travels in Latin America. Shortly before returning to Buenos Aires, he also lived for a few months in Villa María.

The family had several homes in Alta Gracia, but the main one was Villa Nydia, in the area of Villa Carlos Pellegrini, where the Ernesto Che Guevara Museum is currently located.

Ernesto attended elementary school at San Martín and Santiago de Liniers public schools between 1937 and 1941. He completed his secondary studies between 1942 and 1946, first at the Colegio Nacional de Monserrat (four years), finishing the cycle at the Colegio Nacional Deán Funes, located in the city of Córdoba, where the family ended up moving to in 1943.

Asthma determined to a great extent the characteristics of Ernesto Guevara's childhood. The attacks were constant and of such severity that he was even prostrated for days at a time. It limited his possibilities of going to school, which he only entered in 1937 when he was eight years old, starting in second grade (skipping lower and upper first). It restricted his possibilities to play sports, an activity he was passionate about and which he still practiced even though many times his friends had to carry him home. To combat his asthma he was subject to constant diets and medical treatments. On the other hand, his illness made him an extraordinary reader, a great chess fan and generated in him a strong spirit of discipline and self-control.

Alta Gracia was a small summer village of the upper class of Córdoba, located in the first sierras 39 km southwest of the city of Córdoba, capital of the province of the same name. The sierras of Córdoba, due to their dry climate and altitude, have traditionally been one of the main tourist destinations in the country, and the place par excellence sought by people with respiratory diseases.

In his early adolescence Ernesto had a preference for adventure books, such as Emilio Salgari's Sandokan Fights and, above all, Jules Verne's extraordinary voyages, among them Five Weeks in a Balloon, Journey to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Years later, while in Cuba, he would ask for his three leather-bound volumes of Verne's complete works to be sent to him.

He later developed a taste for poetry and philosophy. Among his favorite poets were Baudelaire, especially his stark and polemic work The Flowers of Evil, Pablo Neruda, especially his love poems, and Leon de Greiff. He was passionate about existentialist philosophy, which led him to prefer the works of Sartre, Kafka and Camus, and the psychological theories of Freud.

Ernesto Guevara stood out throughout his childhood and adolescence for his rebelliousness. Extremely mischievous, with harsh arguments with his parents and teachers, disheveled to the point of being called the Chancho Guevara (a nickname he gladly adopted), performing tests of great personal risk, very bad temper, often coming to blows in discussions, making provocative and scandalous comments, usually seeking to defend the opposing position of his interlocutors.

In those years, Córdoba and Alta Gracia in particular received a remarkable number of republican refugees from the Spanish Civil War, and also Germans linked to the Nazis. The musician Manuel de Falla had settled in Alta Gracia and some of Ernesto's best friends, the González Aguilar brothers, were sons of a high Spanish Republican military chief, also a refugee there. On the other hand, some localities in Cordoba such as La Falda, La Cumbrecita and Villa General Belgrano were centers of German refugees with obvious Nazi sympathies. During World War II, Ernesto's father even organized a small group to spy on Nazi activities in Cordoba, in which Ernestito also participated.

In 1942, Ernesto Guevara began his secondary studies at the Deán Funes School, located on the corner of Perú and Independencia, in the Nueva Córdoba neighborhood (in the city of Córdoba). Córdoba, which at that time had about 350,000 inhabitants, was beginning to undergo decisive transformations due to a remarkable process of industrialization for which it was called the Argentine Detroit. He attended high school (between 1942 and 1946) at a time of great changes and political transformations in Argentina. Between 1943 and 1946 Peronism was to emerge with massive support from the working class and, conversely, massive rejection from the middle and upper classes. Students were one of the groups that most actively mobilized against the nascent Peronism, under the slogan "no to the dictatorship of the espadrilles".

Once in high school and settled in Córdoba, Ernesto's life became more public. Contrary to what some biographies tend to say, Ernesto Guevara did not have any political or social militancy in Córdoba (nor later in Buenos Aires). He himself said so:

"I had no social concerns in my adolescence, nor did I participate in Argentina's political or student struggles."

Ernesto's parents and his entire family, of course, were openly anti-Peronist, as was the vast majority of the middle and upper classes. Ernesto, on the other hand, never seems to have held anti-Peronist positions. On the contrary, it is known that his family attributed to him favorable feelings towards Peronism, that he recommended to the maids in his house and in the houses of his friends to vote for Peronism, and that he felt respect for Perón, whom he called "el capo" (the boss). Years later, in the midst of the Cuban Revolution, he used one of Eva Perón's favorite words, "descamisados", to baptize the group of novices under his command in the guerrilla, and shortly before, upon learning of the military coup that overthrew Perón, he wrote in a letter to his mother:

I confess with all sincerity that the fall of Perón made me deeply bitter, not because of him, but because of what he meant for all America, because despite the forced claudication of recent times, Argentina was the champion of all those who think that the enemy is in the north.

With respect to the Argentine Communist Party, Ernesto Guevara explicitly and openly rejected its position, as he "harshly criticized its sectarianism" If any clear ideology was beginning to emerge in him, in the last years of his adolescence, it was his anti-imperialist position and in particular his staunch opposition to U.S. imperialism, an ideology with deep roots in the Argentine social-political culture. In this sense, he scandalized his relatives and acquaintances when he opposed Argentina's declaration of war against Nazi Germany in 1945, arguing that it was carried out under pressure from the United States and that it should remain neutral.

Simultaneously, in 1945, at the age of 17, he showed a great interest in philosophy and began to write his own philosophical dictionary, while discovering Latin American social literature, with exponents such as Jorge Icaza and Miguel Angel Asturias.

In November 1943 his best friend, Alberto Granado, and other students were arrested by the police during a student demonstration against the government. Together with Tomás Granado, Alberto's younger brother, he went daily to the jail to visit him. Perhaps unexpectedly, when a large march was organized to demand the freedom of Alberto and the other political prisoners, he not only refused to participate, but argued that "the march was a useless gesture and that they would only get "beaten to shit", and that he would only go if they gave him a revolver".

The writer Ernesto Sabato says in a brief mention in his memoir Antes del fin, that he met Ernesto Guevara in those years:

In the tranquility of a mountain afternoon, I met a young doctor who came to visit some relatives on his way to Latin America, where he would cure the sick and find his destiny. That young man, today a symbol of the best flags, is remembered by history as Che Guevara.

Sabato's account has no chronological correspondence. Sabato lived two years in Córdoba, between 1943 and 1945, in the town of El Pantanillo, in the remote Traslasierra Valley, behind the Sierras Grandes. In those years Guevara was still in high school in Córdoba Capital. On the other hand, Guevara's second second Latin American trip, immediately after graduating as a doctor, began in 1953, a decade after Sabato's account, and did not pass through Córdoba, but left by train directly to Bolivia.

At the end of 1946 Ernesto finished high school. That same year he got his first job, together with Alberto Granado, in the laboratory of the Roads Department of the Province of Córdoba. Shortly after graduating he was sent to the town of Villa María (province of Córdoba), 100 km to the south, to participate during the following months in the construction of a road.

In 1947 the Guevara-De la Serna family suffered a collapse. His father's construction company went bankrupt, and the Guevaras decided to separate and move to Buenos Aires. In May of that year, his grandmother fell ill, which led Ernesto to resign from his job and move to the Argentine capital, where he would remain after the old woman's death.

Shortly before leaving, in Villa María, he wrote the poem transcribed in the box on the right, in which he appeals to his willpower to overcome destiny.

Ernesto made great friends during his childhood and adolescence in Córdoba; two of them stood out.

Buenos Aires, medicine and travel

Ernesto Guevara remained in Buenos Aires from January 1947 until July 7, 1952, when he left on his first trip to Latin America.

The first year the family lived in the house of his maternal grandmother, recently deceased, located in Arenales and Uriburu, in the exclusive neighborhood of Recoleta, or Barrio Norte, three blocks away from the School of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires, where he would start studying in 1948 to graduate as a doctor on April 11, 1953. The following year his father sold the yerba mate farm, bought a house in Aráoz 2180, in the neighborhood of Palermo and opened a real estate agency on the corner of Paraguay and Aráoz.

During this period Ernesto dedicated himself to his career and started working as an assistant in a clinic specialized in allergies that was dedicated to asthma research, directed by Dr. Salvador Pisani. In medical school he met Berta Gilda Tita Infante, a militant communist university student from Córdoba, with whom he would maintain a strong friendship for the rest of his life.

In Buenos Aires, Guevara played rugby, a sport typical of the upper class of Buenos Aires, first at the important San Isidro Club and then, due to his limitations with asthma, at the small and defunct Yporá Rugby Club (1948) and at the Atalaya Polo Club (1949).

He then edited the first magazine dedicated to rugby in Argentina, under the name Tackle, and in which he also wrote chronicles under the pseudonym "Chang Cho", in allusion to his own nickname "Chancho".

He also continued his intense reading activities and the writing of his philosophical notebooks. In these years he showed a growing dedication to social philosophy. In his third notebook he reveals a great interest in the thought of Karl Marx. He also paid great attention to Nehru's ideas on the process of decolonization and industrialization in India, annotating and warmly recommending his book The Discovery of India.

In 1950 he fell in love with María del Carmen Chichina Ferreyra, a 16-year-old girl belonging to one of the richest and most aristocratic families in Córdoba. The relationship lasted more than two years, despite the frontal opposition of the family, who saw him as a "sickly hippie" because of his appearance, his radical and provocative ideas, and his desire to get married and spend the honeymoon in an RV trip through Latin America.Years later Chichina would say of Ernesto:

I was fascinated by his stubborn physique and his anti-solemn character; his shamelessness in his clothes made us laugh and, at the same time, a little embarrassed. We were so sophisticated that Ernesto seemed an opprobrium to us. He accepted our jokes without flinching.

While in Buenos Aires, Ernesto Guevara began to travel precariously, by hitchhike, bicycle or motorcycle, with little money, farther and farther away. Guevara's travels would mean a social and human experience, which would put him in contact with the workers and humble people of Argentina and Latin America, and would eventually lead him to join the guerrilla group that would carry out the Cuban Revolution.

Once settled in Buenos Aires, Ernesto began to travel without resources, usually to Córdoba with his friend Carlos Figueroa.

Trip to northwestern Argentina (1950)

On January 1, 1950 he made his first trip alone, on a bicycle with a Cucciolo engine, visiting his friend Alberto Granado in San Francisco del Chañar, Córdoba (Argentina), his childhood friends in Córdoba Capital, continuing then to the northwest to visit the poorest and most backward provinces of the country, Santiago del Estero, Tucumán, Salta, Jujuy, Catamarca, La Rioja, and returning through San Juan, Mendoza, San Luis. In total he traveled 4,500 kilometers.

In his travel notebook Guevara included the following reflection:

At least I do not nourish myself with the same forms as the tourists and I am surprised to see in the propaganda maps of Jujuy, for example: the Altar of the Homeland, the cathedral where the national flag was blessed, the jewel of the pulpit and the miraculous little virgin of Rio Blanco and Paypaya. No, a people, a way and an interpretation of life is not known this way, that is the luxurious cover, but its soul is reflected in the sick in the hospitals, the asylum seekers in the police station or the anxious pedestrian with whom one gets intimate, while the Rio Grande shows its turbulent grown riverbed underneath.

When he returned to Buenos Aires, the engine manufacturer offered him an advertisement, which included a photo of Ernesto Guevara on his bicycle and a letter from him saying:

It has worked perfectly during my long trip and I only noticed that towards the end it was losing compression, which is why I am sending it to you for repair.

The advertisement was published in the popular sports magazine El Gráfico on page 49 of the May 19, 1950 edition.

Voyages on the YPF oil tanker (1951)

In 1951 Guevara was hired as a paramedic on board the fleet of the Argentine state-owned oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF). On February 9 he embarked for the first time. On these voyages he traveled the Atlantic coast of South America, from the Patagonian port of Comodoro Rivadavia to the then British colony of Trinidad and Tobago, passing through Curaçao, British Guyana, Venezuela, and several ports in Brazil.

First Latin American trip (1952)

In 1952, Ernesto Guevara made with Alberto Granado the first of his two international trips to America. They left on January 4, 1952, from San Francisco, Córdoba on Granado's motorcycle, called the Poderosa II. The trip lasted seven months and after passing through Buenos Aires, Miramar and Bariloche, they entered Chile through Lake Todos los Santos. In Chile they passed through Osorno, Valdivia, Temuco and Santiago, where they abandoned the motorcycle, which had broken down for good. They went to the port of Valparaíso from where they traveled as stowaways on a cargo ship to Antofagasta. From there by land, mainly in trucks, they visited the gigantic copper mine of Chuquicamata and then headed for the Peruvian border, up the mountain range through the province of Tarata, in the Tacna region, to Lake Titicaca. In April they reached Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. They visited the Inca cities of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Pichu and then left for Abancay, capital of the Apurimac Region, where they visited the leprosarium of Huambo, near the city of Andahuaylas.

On May 1, 1952, they arrived in Lima where they established a close relationship with the doctor Hugo Pesce, a well-known leprosy specialist, disciple of José Carlos Mariátegui and leader of the Peruvian Communist Party, who would have a decisive influence on the life decisions that Guevara would adopt. Dr. Pesce took them to the Portada de Guía Hospital, a leprosarium located on the outskirts of Lima, where they treated patients with Hansen's disease and lived for a few months. From there they went to Pucallpa where they embarked to Iquitos and settled down to collaborate with the San Pablo leprosarium on the banks of the Amazon River, where doctors and patients gave them a raft called Mambo-Tango to continue their journey navigating the river downstream. By raft they reached the Colombian border town of Leticia, where they served as coaches of the town's soccer team. They flew by seaplane to Bogota, where they stayed in the facilities of the university city of the National University of Colombia and its hospital, the San Juan de Dios. At that time, Colombia was going through the time of La Violencia, where they were arrested but soon released. They traveled by bus to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, where Granado obtained a job in a leprosarium on Pesce's recommendation. Ernesto, on the other hand, had to finish his studies, so he decided to return, using a cargo plane belonging to a relative that had a stopover in Miami, where he worked as a domestic employee of a stewardess and as a dishwasher in a restaurant. On July 31, 1952 he returned to Buenos Aires.

Both Guevara and Granado kept travel diaries, known worldwide as Diarios de motocicleta (Motorcycle Diaries), on which Walter Salles' 2004 film was based. For both of them, the trip meant direct contact with the most neglected and exploited social sectors of Latin America. For Ernesto Guevara it was important to begin to define his ideas and feelings about the serious social inequalities in Latin America, the role of the United States and what the solutions could be. The influence of the physician Hugo Pesce on Ernesto was very great, both because of his Mariateguist vision of Marxism, which redefined the role of the indigenous and peasants in the social changes in Latin America, and because of his personal example of life as a physician dedicated to the health problems of the poor and marginalized. Upon publishing his first book, La guerra de guerrillas, Che Guevara sent a copy of it to Pesce, telling him that he recognized that it had caused "a great change in my attitude towards life".

A sample of these early ideas was presented on June 14, 1952, when he was 24 years old, and the staff of the leprosarium of San Pablo offered him a party. Guevara wrote down his impressions of that day under the title "St. Guevara's Day", and tells of having said the following words to his hosts:

We believe, and after this trip more firmly than before, that the division of America into uncertain and illusory nationalities is completely fictitious. We constitute a single mestizo race, which from Mexico to the Strait of Magellan presents remarkable ethnographic similarities. That is why, in an attempt to remove any burden of meager provincialism, I toast to Peru and to a United America.

Upon returning to Buenos Aires, Guevara reviewed his diary and wrote some Travel Notes where, among other things, he says:

The character who wrote these notes died when he stepped on Argentine soil again. The one who orders and polishes them, "me", is not me; at least I am not the same inner me. This aimless wandering through our "Capital America" has changed me more than I thought it would.

He finished his medical studies at the UBA (Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires). In six months he passed the 14 subjects he lacked, and on April 11, 1953 he received his medical degree, registered under file 1058, record 1116, folio 153 of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires.

Second Latin American trip (1953-1954)

In 1953 Ernesto Guevara started with his childhood friend Carlos Calica Ferrer the second of his two international trips to America. The objective was to go to Caracas where Alberto Granado was waiting for them.

They left on July 7, 1953, from Buenos Aires by train to Bolivia. They stayed several weeks in La Paz in the midst of the revolution initiated in 1952 by the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR). There they met Ricardo Rojo, who would later become part of a group of Argentine travelers that would continue to grow. Ernesto and Calica went on to Puno, Cuzco and Machu Picchu, and then to Lima, where they met Dr. Pesce again. From Lima they traveled by bus to Guayaquil, Ecuador. There they joined a group of Argentines composed of the two of them, Ricardo Rojo, Eduardo Gualo García, Oscar Valdo Valdovinos and Andro Petiso Herrero, who lived together in the same boarding house.

In Guayaquil, Ernesto decided to go to Guatemala to see the revolution that Colonel Jacobo Arbenz was leading there. Calica then separated from Ernesto to go to Caracas, where Alberto Granado was waiting for him, staying there for ten years. After complicated negotiations, Ernesto embarked with Gualo Garcia to Panama, where he stayed for a few months, under critical economic conditions. From there they crossed to Costa Rica, then to Nicaragua by hitchhiking. There they met Rojo and the brothers Walter and Domingo Beveraggi Allende, continuing with the latter by car to Guatemala, passing through Honduras and El Salvador. On December 24, 1953 they arrived without money in Guatemala, where they would settle.

Guatemala (1954)

Ernesto Guevara spent a little more than nine months in Guatemala. His life there was difficult, contradictory and complex, regarding his personal life, his ideas and the definition of the role he wanted to play.

In 1954 Guatemala was in a critical political situation. Ten years earlier, a student movement, part of the broad Latin American University Reform movement, had overthrown the dictator Jorge Ubico Castañeda and imposed a democratic system for the first time in Guatemalan history, electing Juan José Arévalo as president. Arévalo, an educator trained in Argentina who adhered to an ideology he called "spiritual socialism", initiated a series of political and social reforms. His successor (elected in 1951), Colonel Jacobo Arbenz, deepened such measures and in 1952 initiated a major land reform process, which seriously affected the interests of the U.S. company United Fruit, which had strong ties with President Eisenhower's administration. Maintaining that it was a communist government, the United States then began to operate to destabilize Guatemala and overthrow the Arbenz government. The coup d'état began on June 18, 1954, with the bombing of the city by military planes and the invasion from Honduras of a coup army under the command of Carlos Castillo Armas and the open support of the CIA. The struggle lasted until July 3 when Castillo Armas took the capital and began a long period of military dictatorships.

Guevara arrived six months before the coup. During that time he tried repeatedly to work as a state doctor, but the various efforts never materialized and his economic problems were very serious.

In those days Guatemala was a hotbed of exile groups and progressive and leftist militants, mainly from Latin America. Soon after his arrival he met Hilda Gadea (1925-1974), a Peruvian exile and APRA leader who collaborated with the Arbenz government and who would later become his first wife. Meanwhile, he would meet the family of the Nicaraguan exile Edelberto Torres, where he in turn met a group of Cuban exiles who participated in the capture of the Moncada Barracks, among them Antonio Ñico López.

Ñico López and Ernesto established a solid friendship. It was precisely Ñico who gave him the nickname of "Che", due to Ernesto's permanent use of that typical word of the Rio de la Plata dialect, used to summon the other.

Guevara's ideas had evolved, becoming much more politically committed, with a clear sympathy for communism. Despite this, he would remain aloof from any political organization and when shortly after, the communist Guatemalan Workers Party (PGT) told him that he had to join the party in order to work as a doctor for the State, he indignantly rejected the request.His incipient political thinking was first expressed openly in a letter sent to his aunt Beatriz on December 10, 1953, shortly before arriving in Guatemala where he says, among other things:

On the passage I had the opportunity to pass through the domains of the United Fruit, convincing me once again how terrible these octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and lamented Comrade Stalin not to rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated. In Guatemala I will perfect myself and achieve what I lack to be an authentic revolutionary. Your nephew, the one with the iron health, the empty stomach and the shining faith in the socialist future. Chau. Chancho.

In Guatemala he began to design a book entitled The Role of the Physician in Latin America in which he considered "preventive social medicine" and the physician as a central axis for a revolutionary transformation aimed at establishing a socialist society.

At the end of May 1954, Guevara left Guatemala for El Salvador to renew his visa, taking the opportunity to visit San Salvador and the Mayan ruins of Chalchuapa and Quiriguá, the latter again in Guatemala.

Upon returning to Guatemala, the government's situation was desperate and the attack was imminent. On June 16, military mercenary planes began bombing Guatemala City and two days later an army under the command of Castillo Armas entered the country from Honduras. Ernesto signed up for the health brigades and the communist youth brigades that patrolled the streets at night. His brigade bore the name of Augusto César Sandino and was led by Nicaraguan volunteer Rodolfo Romero, whom several years later Che would call upon to organize the guerrillas in Nicaragua. The communist militias unsuccessfully demanded that the government hand over weapons.

On June 27, 1954, the chiefs of the Guatemalan Army decided not to recognize the authority of Arbenz and demanded his resignation. Six days later Castillo Armas entered the capital to establish a dictatorship and repeal the social measures adopted by the democratic government.

From the fall of the Arbenz government, Che Guevara would draw fundamental conclusions that would later directly influence his actions during the Cuban Revolution. In particular, Guevara concluded that it was essential to purge the army of potential coup plotters, because at crucial moments they were unaware of the chain of command and turned against the government. A few days later in a letter to his mother he concluded:

Treason is still army patriotism, and once again the aphorism that indicates the liquidation of the army as the true principle of democracy is proven.

He would also write to his friend Tita Infante:

The newspapers of Las Americas published lies. First of all, there was no assassination or anything like it. There should have been a few shootings at the beginning but that is another matter. If those shootings had taken place, the government would have retained the possibility of striking back.

Hilda was arrested and Ernesto took refuge in the Argentine embassy where he was included among the communist refugees, and at the end of August the safe-conduct arrived for him, going immediately to look for Hilda, who had been released shortly before. However, the relationship between the two seemed to be over and in mid-September Ernesto went alone to Mexico.

Mexico (1954-1956)

Che Guevara would stay a little more than two years in Mexico. There he defined his political ideas, got married, had his first daughter and joined the 26th of July Movement led by Fidel Castro with the aim of forming a guerrilla group in Cuba to overthrow the dictator Batista and start a social revolution.

In 1954 Mexico was a sort of sanctuary for the politically persecuted from all over the world. On the other hand, Mexico had developed a solid popular culture with a Latin American identity derived from the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the first triumphant social revolution in history, represented in the famous murals of Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco; in the reformist UNAM, in a cinema with its own language with stars such as Cantinflas and María Félix, as well as in musical manifestations of its own identity such as the bolero and the ranchera.

In Mexico, Guevara worked for a while as a photographer for the Argentinean Agencia Latina, which closed shortly after, and then for the General Hospital and the Children's Hospital for a small salary as an allergist and researcher.

Before the end of 1954 Hilda Gadea also settled in Mexico, reinitiating the kind of complex relationship they had maintained in Guatemala, in which sexual relations were combined with her maternal attitude, as well as a strong cultural understanding. A few days later he met by chance in the street with Ñico López, who invited him to attend the meetings of the group of Moncadistas Cubans who met coordinated by María Antonia González in a downtown apartment located at Emparán 49.

At that time Fidel Castro was serving a ten-year prison sentence in Cuba for having led the assault on the Moncada Barracks on July 26, 1953. The event had made him a national figure. In May 1955 the dictator Fulgencio Batista sanctioned an amnesty law, releasing Fidel Castro, his brother Raul and eighteen other Moncadistas. Shortly thereafter, on June 12, they created the 26th of July Movement, an organization whose purpose was to overthrow Batista and which had an anti-imperialist-democratic ideology founded on the ideas of José Martí and mostly anti-communist.

At that time, shortly after the beginning of the Cold War and as a legacy of McCarthyism, the accusation of "communism" became widespread in Latin America as a tactic to discredit and repress democratic and social movements. Juan José Arévalo warned about this mechanism in his book AntiKomunismo en América Latina (1959).

In June 1955, Raúl Castro settled in Mexico in order to prepare for his brother's arrival, from where he would organize a guerrilla group to return to Cuba. As soon as he arrived, he met Ernesto Guevara; the two hit it off from the very first moment. Raul Castro, unlike Fidel, had belonged to the Communist Party, called in Cuba the Popular Socialist Party (PSP) and was much more radical in his attitudes and positions.

On July 7, 1955, Fidel Castro arrived in Mexico. Two weeks later he offered Ché to join the 26th of July Movement as a doctor and he immediately accepted. Almost simultaneously Hilda Gadea informed him that she was pregnant and on August 18 they got married, although it was obvious that for Guevara it was a decision forced by the circumstances. Both then moved to an apartment at 40 Nápoles Street, in Colonia Juárez. As a honeymoon in November they visited the Mayan ruins of Chiapas and the Yucatan Peninsula: Palenque, Chichen-Itza and Uxmal.

In February 1956, a group of about twenty people began training in guerrilla warfare under the command of Spanish Colonel Alberto Bayo Giroud. On February 15 his daughter Hilda Beatriz Guevara was born. Shortly afterwards he wrote the last lines of the diary he had started in Buenos Aires when he left for his second Latin American trip:

A long time has passed and many new events have been declared. I will only state the most important ones: since February 15, 1956 I am a father; Hilda Beatriz Guevara is the first born. My projects for the future are nebulous but I hope to finish a couple of research papers. This year may be important for my future. I have already left the hospitals. I will write in more detail.

The training took place at a ranch in the municipality of Chalco, some 50 km southeast of Mexico, where they were receiving a commando and guerrilla warfare training course given by Colonel Alberto Bayo Giroud. Che hid his asthma, excelled in military training and became one of the leaders of the group.

Between June 20 and 24, 1956, Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, Che Guevara and most of the 26th of July Movement group in Mexico were arrested by the Mexican police. On that occasion Ernesto's behavior was strange, since in the three times he was interrogated he openly confessed that he was a communist, that they were preparing to carry out a revolution in Cuba and that he was in favor of the revolutionary armed struggle in all Latin America. Fidel Castro would later use Che's conduct as an example of his "honesty to the letter". According to Jose Gonzalez Gonzalez, former bodyguard of the chief of the Police and Transit Department Arturo Durazo Moreno and author of the book "Lo negro del negro" (The black of the black), states that Durazo humiliated Fidel and Che when they were arrested, Durazo, who before changing to the Federal Security Directorate, would intervene in the detention and torture of Fidel Castro Ruz and Ernesto Guevara, González affirmed that Durazo "always boasted of having humiliated the two characters" Obtaining the group's freedom was extremely difficult, especially that of Ernesto Guevara, who remained in detention when Fidel Castro was released on July 24, due to the fact that his immigration papers had expired and he had confessed to being a communist. In order to obtain Che's freedom, Castro delayed his departure to Cuba and made arrangements with Mexican authorities that have remained hidden. It was at that time that Ernesto wrote a poem entitled Canto a Fidel (Song to Fidel) which is reproduced here and which shows the extent to which he had been influenced by the Cuban leader.

On November 25, 1956, from the Port of Tuxpan, 82 men, among them Ernesto Guevara, left for Cuba on a yacht named Granma.

On March 10, 1952, a coup d'état led by General Fulgencio Batista had overthrown the democratic President Carlos Prío Socarrás, of the Authentic Party, in an international framework that was going through the first moments of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Batista installed a bloody dictatorship with the argument of fighting communism. However, the scandalous level of corruption and violation of human rights led to the formation of a generalized opposition in favor of the insurrection to oust Batista from power, with the participation of opposition political parties, trade unions, the student movement, and even sectors of the business community, landowners, the armed forces and the United States government itself, which even cut off the supply of arms to Batista. The deposed president himself, Carlos Prío Socarrás, expressed this revolutionary climate by saying: "I will triumph by any means, even the most extreme".

In this context, the 26th of July Movement would act, a revolutionary evolution of the Orthodox Party, with a basically nationalist-anticommunist ideology, seeking at all times to articulate its forces with other opposition sectors, with the project of establishing a nationalist democratic government. Both former President Carlos Prío Socarrás of the Authentic Party, as well as the CIA, supported the Castro guerrilla economically in its first years. Meanwhile, Fidel Castro - who had been a prominent youth leader of the other major party, the Orthodox Party, and who had become famous for the attempt to take the Moncada Barracks in 1952 - openly proclaimed to hold an anti-communist position. For its part, despite maintaining close relations with Fidel Castro and the guerrillas in Sierra Maestra, the Popular Socialist Party (communist) criticized the guerrilla experience, attributing to it a purely adventurist coup intention. Finally, several political forces at that time had armed organizations in addition to the 26th of July Movement, such as the Revolutionary Directorate of the 13th of March, the Popular Socialist Party and the Second National Front of the Escambray.

The U.S. press and public opinion gave great coverage and showed great sympathy for Fidel Castro and his guerrillas in Sierra Maestra, legitimizing the armed movement and providing a diffusion of the motives and actions of the guerrillas that the 26th of July Movement could never have achieved under the conditions of censorship and repression that dominated in Cuba.

The disaster of the arrival in Cuba

On November 25, 1956, a group of 82 guerrillas of the 26th of July Movement who had trained in Mexico embarked in the port of the municipality of Tuxpan (Veracruz) on their way to Cuba on the Granma yacht. Led by Fidel Castro, the group also included Raúl Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos, Juan Almeida and Che Guevara, among others.

The voyage lasted seven days, two days longer than planned, due to which the group that was to support their arrival in Cuba had already withdrawn. Before dawn on December 2, the yacht ran aground on the southwest coast, near the beach of Las Coloradas, in the Gulf of Guacanayabo, so the rebels had to leave most of the ammunition, food and medicines on the ship.

Three days later, while still trying to organize, the group was ambushed by the army in Alegría de Pío. Most of the group died in combat, were executed or arrested. The rest dispersed and only rejoined in Sierra Maestra on December 21. Guevara was superficially wounded in the neck and fell into a kind of stupor from which he was pulled out by Juan Almeida Bosque, to reorganize a group of eight men in a desperate situation due to hunger, thirst and persecution by the army.

The exact number of survivors is unknown. Although the official story speaks of twelve, it is known that at least 20 guerrillas of the 82 who arrived on the Granma gathered in Sierra Maestra. The image of the twelve men seems to have been taken from an episode of Cuban independence in 1868, in Yara, eastern Cuba, when the troop commanded by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes confronted a colonialist detachment and were defeated. The oral tradition tells that when Céspedes was left alone with a handful of patriots, a discouraged man insinuated him the surrender, replying: "We still have twelve men left; they are enough to make the independence of Cuba".

On that occasion Che Guevara was severely reprimanded by Fidel Castro due to the loss of the weapons, which had been hidden by order of the former in a peasant's house, later raided by the army. As a symbol of degradation Castro took the pistol from Che. Years later he would recall that Fidel's "bitter recrimination" remained "engraved in my mind for the rest of the campaign and to this day".

The debacle of the disembarkation was front page news and in the list of dead given by the government the two Castro brothers and Ernesto Guevara appeared, deeply affecting their family. However, on the last day of the year they received a handwritten note from him, stamped by the Cuban post office, which read:

Dear old people: I am perfectly fine, I spent only 2 and I have five left. I am still working on the same, the news are sporadic and will continue to be so, but trust that God is Argentine. A big hug to all, Teté.

Sierra Maestra

Sierra Maestra is an elongated mountain range located on the coast at the southeastern tip of the island of Cuba, just over 800 km from its capital, Havana, located at the other end. Its highest point is the Turquino peak (1974 masl), located approximately in the center. It is 250 km long and 60 km wide. At the eastern end of the chain, the last foothills connect with the city of Santiago de Cuba, while in the central part it connects to the north with the city of Bayamo. In the 1950s, the region was completely covered by dense and humid tropical rainforest. It was a marginal zone, inhabited by some 60,000 peasants, called guajiros in Cuba, dedicated to survival agriculture on precariously held land, and also by bandits, smugglers, fugitives and landowners who imposed their power at gunpoint. Today the area contains several national parks.

Once the guerrilla group was established in Sierra Maestra, the 26th of July Movement was organized throughout the country in order to support the guerrillas in the highlands, while in the cities of the plains they sought to establish alliances with other opposition parties, trade unions, the student movement and the U.S. embassy itself. The existence of two sectors in the 26th of July Movement, called El Llano and La Sierra, and the tensions that would appear between them would be very important in the future. Among the most important leaders acting in El Llano were Frank País, Vilma Espín, Celia Sánchez, Faustino Pérez, Carlos Franqui, Haydée Santamaría, Armando Hart, René Ramos Latour (Daniel), mostly anti-communist democrats.

In Sierra Maestra, Che Guevara acted as a medic and combatant. Despite suffering from severe asthma attacks in a country with one of the highest asthma rates in the world due to its climate, he quickly stood out for his fearless courage, tactical vision and ability to command.

Guevara also imposed his personality by being strict in the face of acts of indiscipline, treason and criminality; not only in his own troops, but also with respect to enemy soldiers and peasants living in the area. This facet became evident on February 17, 1957, when they discovered that one of the guerrillas, Eutimio Guerra, was a traitor who had given the enemy the situation of the group, which allowed the army to bomb their position in the Caracas peak and then ambush them in the Altos de Espinosa, putting them on the verge of definitive defeat. Fidel Castro then decided that he would be shot for treason, but without indicating who would execute him. In the face of the general indecision, it was Che Guevara who executed him by shooting him in the head, demonstrating a coldness and hardness in the face of wartime crimes that would make him famous; on the contrary, Guevara seems to have acted with tolerance towards the mistakes of his own men and the enemy prisoners. On several occasions he intervened with Fidel Castro to prevent executions, as well as medically attended to wounded soldiers, strictly forbidding the torture or shooting of prisoners.

During the first months of 1957 the small guerrilla group maintained itself precariously with little support from the rural population in the area, with little military discipline, harboring infiltrators, harassed by a network of peasant spies (chivatos) and by government troops. A series of small combats followed, such as the attack on the detachment of La Paz (2 soldiers killed), Arroyo del Infierno (three soldiers killed), the aerial bombardment of Caracas hill (no casualties), the ambush of Altos de Espinosa (one guerrilla killed).

At the end of February, an interview with Fidel Castro conducted by Herbert Matthews in Sierra Maestra appeared in the New York Times, the most widely read newspaper in the United States. The impact was enormous and began to generate great sympathy for the guerrillas in national and international public opinion. At that time, in order to strengthen relations with the peasants living in the Sierra, the Guajiros, the guerrilla group began to offer the medical services of Che Guevara, who began to be known in the region.

On April 28, Fidel Castro achieved another powerful coup: he gave a press conference for the U.S. radio and television network CBS, at the top of Turquino Peak, Cuba's highest mountain.

By the end of May the guerrilla army had grown to 128 well-armed and trained combatants and on May 28 it produced its first action of a certain magnitude, the attack on the El Uvero barracks, where 6 guerrillas and 14 soldiers died and there were a great number of wounded on both sides. After the combat Castro made the decision to leave Che Guevara in charge of the wounded so as not to delay the main group in view of the imminent persecution by the government troops. Guevara then attended to all the wounded, from both sides, and reached a gentlemen's agreement with the barracks doctor to leave the most seriously wounded under the condition that they would be respected when they were detained, a pact that was fulfilled by the Cuban army.

Che and four men (Joel Iglesias, Alejandro Oñate (Cantinflas), "Vilo" Acuña and a guide) then had to take charge of hiding, protecting and healing the seven wounded guerrillas for fifty days. During this period, Guevara not only cared for and kept everyone protected, but also imposed discipline on the group, recruited new guerrillas, obtained the decisive support of one of the farmers of a large estate in the area and established a supply and communication system with the city of Santiago. When he rejoined the rest, on July 17, Che had a small autonomous army of 26 fighters. By then the rebels had already managed to liberate a small territory west of Turquino Peak and 200 disciplined and confident men. That day Fidel Castro decided to form a second column with 75 men, which he would later call the Fourth Column to generate the sensation of a larger number of troops. Simultaneously he promoted Che Guevara to the rank of captain and five days later appointed him commander of the formation. Up to that moment only Fidel Castro had the rank of commander. From now on he was to be addressed as "Comandante Che Guevara".

The Second Column (later called "Fourth" to confuse the enemy) was originally composed of four platoons under the command of Juan Almeida, Ramiro Valdés, Ciro Redondo and Lalo Sardiñas. Later, Camilo Cienfuegos, with whom he would establish a close friendship, would be integrated, replacing Lalo Sardiñas as his second in command.

Guevara would distinguish himself by integrating his troops with guajiros and blacks, who were then the most marginalized sector of the country, at a time when racism and racial segregation was still a powerful force, even among the members of the 26th of July Movement, and he baptized the novices that integrated the column as "descamisados", the famous word that Eva Perón used to address the Argentine workers, also despised with the term "little black heads". One of these, Enrique Acevedo, a fifteen year old teenager whom Guevara named head of the Disciplinary Commission of the column wrote his impressions in a diary:

Everyone treats him with great respect. He is harsh, dry, sometimes ironic with some. His manners are gentle. When he gives an order, you can see that he really commands. It is carried out immediately.

He managed, after some victorious battles and skirmishes (Bueycito, El Hombrito), to take control of the Hombrito area and establish a permanent base. There he built a hospital, a bakery, an armory, a shoe shop and a saddlery to create a supporting industrial infrastructure. He also launched the newspaper El Cubano Libre. One of the functions of Ché's column was to detect and execute spies and infiltrators, as well as to impose order in the region, executing bandits who took advantage of the situation to murder and rape women, often claiming the identity of the guerrillas themselves. The strict discipline in the column commanded by Guevara made several guerrillas request his transfer to the other column, but at the same time his fair and egalitarian behavior, and the training he gave to his men, from literacy to complex political literature, ended up forming a strongly supportive group.

The government troops were led by Ángel Sánchez Mosquera who implemented a dirty war policy in the region. On November 29, 1957 they attacked causing two deaths, among them that of Ciro Redondo. Che was wounded (in one foot) as well as Cantinflas and five other combatants and the base of El Hombrito was completely destroyed. The column then moved to the place called La Mesa, where they rebuilt the base with all its infrastructure and also started up a radio station, Radio Rebelde, which began broadcasting on February 24, 1958 and is still on the air.

By the beginning of 1958, Fidel Castro had become the most requested man by the international press and dozens of journalists from all over the world went to Sierra Maestra to interview him. For his part, Che Guevara became the central character of the press that defended Batista. Evelio Lafferte, a lieutenant of the Cuban army taken prisoner and who later became a member of Che's column recalled:

The propaganda against him (it was said that he was a hired killer, a pathological criminal..., a mercenary, that he provided services to international communism... that they used terrorist methods that socialized women and took away their children...). They said that the soldiers who were taken prisoner were tied to a tree and their bellies were cut open with a bayonet.

In February, the army took out 23 militants of the 26th of July Movement and shot them in the first foothills of the mountains, to pretend that they had won a victory against the Castro guerrillas. The event was a scandal that further discredited the Batista government. On February 16, the guerrilla army attacked the Pino del Agua barracks with several casualties on both sides. Shortly after, the Argentine journalist Jorge Masetti, of Peronist tendency, who would later become one of the founders of the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina and the organizer in Salta (Argentina) in 1963 of Che Guevara's first guerrilla attempt outside Cuba, arrived.

Ché would come into conflict with the leaders of the 26th of July Movement who acted in the plains. They considered him an extremist Marxist with too much influence over Fidel Castro, and he considered them "rightists" with a timid conception of the struggle and willing to please the United States.

On February 27, 1958, Fidel Castro decided to expand the guerrilla operations by creating three new columns under the command of Juan Almeida, Raul Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos, whom he appointed as commanders. Almeida was to operate in the eastern zone of Sierra Maestra, Raul Castro was to open a Second Front and set up in the Sierra Cristal, north of Santiago. In April, Camilo Cienfuegos was appointed military chief of the area between the cities of Bayamo, Manzanillo and Las Tunas, while Castro established his headquarters in La Plata.

On May 3, a meeting was held in Altos de Mompié of the 26th of July Movement, which turned out to be key and in which it was drastically reorganized to impose the hegemony of Fidel Castro and the group of the highlands over the members of the plains. Che Guevara, who played a fundamental role in the meeting, wrote in 1964 an article referring to the event:

The most important thing is that two conceptions that were in conflict during the whole previous stage of the war were analyzed and judged. The guerrilla conception would emerge triumphant, consolidating Fidel's prestige and authority.... A single leadership capacity was already emerging, that of the Sierra, and concretely, a single leader, a commander in chief, Fidel Castro.

By then Batista's army, under the command of General Eulogio Cantillo, was preparing a broad offensive on the rebels. Fidel Castro then ordered Che Guevara to leave the Fourth Column and take charge of the Military School in Minas del Frio, where the rookies were being trained. He received the order with some annoyance, but he feverishly began to organize the rearguard, even building an airstrip near La Plata. In those days Camilo Cienfuegos wrote to him:

Che. Soul brother: I received your note, I see that Fidel has put you in charge of the Military School, I am very happy because in that way we will be able to count on first class soldiers in the future, when they told me that you were coming to "give us the gift of your presence", I was not very pleased, you have played a very important role in this conflict; if we need you in this insurrectional stage, Cuba needs you even more when the war ends, so the Giant is right to take care of you. I would very much like to always be by your side, you were my boss for a long time and you will always be my boss. Thanks to you I have the opportunity to be more useful now, I will do my best not to make you look bad. Your eternal greaves. Camilo.

While in Minas del Frio Ernesto Guevara had a sentimental relationship and began to live with Zoila Rodriguez Garcia, a guajira who lived in Sierra Maestra and who, like all her family, actively collaborated with the guerrillas. In a later testimony, Zoila tells the story of their relationship:

A very great and beautiful love arose in me, I committed myself to him, not only as a fighter, but also as a woman. One day he asked me to bring him a book from his backpack; it had golden letters, I asked him if it was gold. She was amused by the question, laughed and answered: "This book is about communism". I was embarrassed to ask him what "communism" meant, because I had never heard that word before.

On May 6, the offensive began. The army had 10,000 men, two thirds of whom were conscripts. The plan was to wear down the guerrillas, who then numbered 280 men and some women, with massive bombardments of napalm and explosives to surround them in an ever-tightening circle.

During the first weeks of the offensive, the government forces were on the verge of defeating the guerrillas, who suffered heavy losses and disorganization in their ranks, while the spirit of defeat and desertions increased. For his part, Guevara organized a new column with the recruits from the school of Minas del Frio, which was given the number Eight and the name of Ciro Redondo in homage to the lieutenant who had fallen in combat the previous year. When Raúl Castro -who was in Sierra Cristal-, kidnapped 49 Americans on his own initiative on June 26, Ché criticized his behavior as "dangerous extremism".

However, the government troops were unable to corner the guerrillas, who were constantly slipping away, and by July the rebels began to regain the initiative. On July 20 they won their first major victory at Jigüe and on the same day most of the opposition forces signed the Pact of Caracas, recognizing Fidel Castro as commander in chief.

On July 28 the column commanded by Ché besieged the government troops in Las Vegas, who fled abandoning the position. On July 30, René Ramos Latour, Che Guevara's main adversary in the 26th of July Movement, died in combat, although he wrote in his diary:

Deep ideological divergences separated me from René Ramos and we were political enemies, but he knew how to die fulfilling his duty, in the front line and whoever dies this way is because he feels an inner impulse that I denied him and that at this hour I rectify.

On August 7, 1958 the army began its mass retreat from Sierra Maestra. Batista's weakness became evident and Fidel Castro then decided to expand the war to the rest of Cuba. Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos were to march north to divide the island in two and prepare the attack on the strategic city of Santa Clara, key to the road to Havana, while Fidel and Raul Castro would remain in the East to control the region and finally attack Santiago de Cuba.

The Battle of Santa Clara

On August 31, 1958 the columns of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos left on foot towards western Cuba. It took them six weeks to reach the mountainous area of the Escambray, in the former province of Las Villas, integrated by the current provinces of Villa Clara, Sancti Spíritus and Cienfuegos, in the center of the island, after crossing some 600 km of swampy areas, harassed by government airplanes and platoons.

Guevara would set up his camp in Caballete de Casas, an inaccessible plateau located at 630 meters above sea level, in the current municipality of Sancti Spíritus, where he created a military school following the model used in the Sierra Maestra to train new volunteers, as well as a hydroelectric plant, a hospital, several workshops and factories and a newspaper: El Miliciano. Other guerrilla forces were active in the area, such as the Second National Front of the Escambray led by the Spaniard Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, the Revolutionary Directory led by Faure Chomón and Rolando Cubela, and the Popular Socialist Party (communist). Also active were the local guerrilla and political forces of the 26th of July Movement whose main leader was Enrique Oltuski. In general, these forces had quarrels among themselves and full unification was never possible. At that time, Che would also meet Aleida March, an active militant of the 26th of July Movement with anti-communist ideas, who would become his second wife in 1959 and with whom he would have four children.

On November 3, 1958, Batista held elections in an attempt to attenuate the generalized opposition and produce an electoral solution that would isolate the guerrilla groups. These and the opposition groups sabotaged the elections, which registered a very low turnout, completely delegitimizing the elected candidate, Andrés Rivero Agüero, who never became president.

In Las Villas, Che Guevara finished shaping Column Eight by placing in key positions the men he trusted the most, most of them coming from the most humble sectors. Among them stood out the men of his escort Juan Alberto Castellanos, Hermes Peña, Carlos Coello (Tuma), Leonardo Tamayo (Urbano) and Harry Villegas (Pombo). Also under his command were soldiers who would make up his most intimate group, such as Joel Iglesias, Roberto Rodríguez (el Vaquerito), Juan Vitalio Acuna (Vilo), Orlando Pantoja (Olo), Eliseo Reyes, Manuel Hernández Osorio, Jesús Suárez Gayol (el Rubio), Orlando Borrego. Many of these men would make up the famous Suicide Squad under the command of "El Vaquerito", made up of volunteers and in charge of the most difficult missions.

At the end of November the government troops attacked the position of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. The fighting lasted a week, at the end of which Batista's army retreated in disorder and with heavy losses of men and equipment. Guevara and Cienfuegos then counterattacked, following a strategy of isolating the government garrisons from each other, dynamiting roads and railroad bridges. In the following days the regiments capitulated one by one: Fomento, Guayos, Cabaiguán (where Ché fractured his elbow and was splinted and his arm put in a sling), Placetas, Sancti Spíritus.

Then, Cienfuegos' column went to take Yaguajay, in an important battle that lasted from December 21 to 31, while Guevara took Remedios and the port of Caibarién on December 26 and the following day the Camajuaní barracks, where the government troops fled without fighting.

This cleared the way to attack Santa Clara, Cuba's fourth city and the last government stronghold before Havana. Batista fortified Santa Clara sending 2000 soldiers and an armored train, under the command of the most capable officer at his disposal, Colonel Joaquin Casillas. In total the government forces amounted to 3500 soldiers to face 350 guerrillas. On December 28 the attack began. The battle was bloody and extended for three days throughout the city. One of the most outstanding men of Column Eight, Roberto el Vaquerito Rodríguez, died there. Guevara had established that the priority of the battle was the armored train, which was finally taken on December 29 in the afternoon.

The seizure of the armored train was the triggering event for the fall of Batista. Once the news was known, the dictator made the decision to flee Cuba, which he did a few hours later, at three o'clock in the morning of January 1, 1959, with his family members and several officials, among them the elected president Andrés Rivero Agüero and his brother who was the mayor of Havana.

Meanwhile, the triumphant rebel forces throughout the island -including Guevara's troops- proceeded to arrest members of the Batista dictatorship and to shoot those considered war criminals in summary trials; in Santa Clara, Ché Guevara gave the order to shoot the chief of police, Cornelio Rojas, among other detainees. Colonel Joaquín Casillas, who had been condemned in 1948 for the murder of trade unionist Jesús Menéndez and later released, was arrested and was also killed. The official version indicates that Casillas was killed while trying to escape, but it is highly probable that he was shot by order of Che Guevara.

Following orders from Fidel Castro, the columns of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos then headed to Havana to occupy the Columbia and La Cabaña barracks, which they did on January 2 and 3, 1959, respectively.

The government

Once in power, the opposition formed a new government. The president was Manuel Urrutia Lleó and the prime minister was José Miró Cardona. The ministers were Regino Boti (Economy), Rufo López Fresquet (Treasury), Roberto Agramonte (Foreign Affairs), Armando Hart (Education), Enrique Oltuski (Communications), Luis Orlando Rodríguez (Interior), Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado (Revolutionary Laws) and Faustino Pérez (Recovery of Illegally Acquired Property). Fidel Castro remained as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. It was a moderate and pronouncedly anti-communist government. Commander Ernesto Guevara was initially appointed head of the San Carlos de La Cabaña Fortress, but later held several key positions, including director of the Department of Industrialization of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA), Minister of Industry and president of the National Bank, in addition to representing Cuba internationally on several occasions, including those that led to the signing of trade and military agreements with the Soviet Union.

Ernesto Guevara was also part of the group composed of Antonio Núñez Jiménez, Pedro Miret, Alfredo Guevara, Vilma Espin, Oscar Pino Santos and Segundo Ceballos, which operated from the beginning of the revolution in the utmost secrecy, behind the back of the government, excluding Fidel Castro. This group met every night at Guevara's house in Tarará, a seaside resort near Havana. The group functioned under the supervision of Fidel Castro and its purpose was to elaborate and define key laws, such as the agrarian reform and the creation of INRA, acting as a true parallel government.

One of the first decisions of the new government were the revolutionary trials as part of the process known as the Purifying Commission against people considered war criminals or closely associated with the Batista regime, and later on new opponents such as the commander of the Second National Front of the Escambray, Jesús Carreras Zayas, accused of supporting a rebellion in 1960. Between January and April 1959, around one thousand were denounced and tried by means of summary trials of which 550 were shot.Ernesto Guevara in his condition of chief of La Cabaña during the first months of the revolution, was in charge of the trials and execution against the detainees in the fortress. Guevara's personal opinion on the executions was publicly exposed before the United Nations on December 11, 1964:

We have to say here what is a known truth, which we have always expressed before the world: shootings, yes, we have shot; we shoot and we will continue to shoot as long as necessary. Our struggle is a struggle to the death. We know what would be the result of a lost battle and the worms must also know what is the result of the lost battle in Cuba today.

To this end, Guevara established a judicial system with courts of first instance and a court of appeal under his presidency, which conducted their proceedings in public hearings, with prosecutors, defense lawyers and witnesses.The legitimacy of the revolutionary trials and the executions by the Cuban government are the subject of intense debates that oppose head-on those who sympathize with the Cuban Revolution from those who oppose it.

On February 7, 1959 the government sanctioned a new Constitution that included an article specially drafted for Che Guevara, granting citizenship to any foreigner who had fought Batista for two years or more and held the position of commander for one year. A few days later President Urrutia declared Ernesto Guevara a Cuban citizen by birth.

In the months following the seizure of power, the more moderate sectors of the government were being displaced by the more radical sectors, among which Che Guevara was one of its most prominent figures. From his experience in the fall of the government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Che Guevara was convinced that the United States would not allow the economic and social reforms proposed by the revolution, and that in case it could not neutralize them through the conservative officials in the government, it would promote increasingly aggressive measures, even going as far as invasion if necessary. For that reason Guevara was in favor not only of purging the army and the government of conservative elements, but also of radicalizing the revolution to install a socialist system, preparing for an open confrontation with the United States, seeking the support of the Soviet Union and opening new guerrilla pockets in Latin America to carry out a revolution of continental scope. In this sense, his influence on the path that the Cuban Revolution finally followed was remarkable.

An example of Che Guevara's influence on the Cuban Revolution has been brought to light by the son of Anastas Mikoyan, Soviet Deputy Prime Minister who accompanied his father on his visit to Cuba in 1960, when he relates the following dialogue between Fidel Castro and Ernesto Guevara:

They (by Castro and Guevara) said they could only survive with Soviet aid and would have to hide this from the capitalists in Cuba.... Fidel said, "We will have to endure these conditions in Cuba for five to ten years." Then Che interrupted him, "If you don't do it in two or three years you are finished."

Before holding a formal position, Guevara actively participated in the drafting of the agrarian reform law and the creation of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA), promoting the most radical version of this law, which absolutely prohibited the latifundia and left without effect the constitutional requirement of prior compensation. Ernesto Guevara thought that there was an inseparable link between the agrarian reform and the guerrilla and said the following:

The guerrilla is, fundamentally and above all, an agrarian revolutionary. He interprets the desires of the great peasant masses to be owners of the land, owners of the means of production, of their animals, of everything for which they have fought for years, of what constitutes their lives and will also constitute their cemetery.... This Movement did not invent Agrarian Reform. It will carry it out. It will carry it out in its entirety until there is no peasant left without land, no land left unworked.

Simultaneously, journalists Jorge Masetti and Carlos María Gutiérrez proposed to Che Guevara to create a news agency independent from the big international agencies, taking as a model the Agencia Latina de Noticias that Juan Perón had created and in which Guevara himself had worked in Mexico. The project was approved and Cuba created the Prensa Latina agency, still in existence, whose first director was Masetti himself and in which intellectuals such as Gabriel García Márquez or Rodolfo Walsh, among others, would work.

On May 7, 1959, the agrarian reform law and the creation of INRA were approved. Shortly afterwards, on May 22, Che Guevara married Aleida March and on June 12 he left on the first of his international diplomatic trips, with the aim of opening new markets for sugar, a fundamental product of the Cuban economy, by then almost exclusively dependent on the U.S. market. Among the destinations of his trip, he visited countries and leaders that were promoting experiences of profound social changes, which would later constitute what came to be called the Third World movement, among them Egypt, where he met with General Gamal Abdel Nasser; Indonesia, where he met with Sukarno; India, where he met Jawaharlal Nehru and Yugoslavia, with Josip Broz Tito. Among other important results of the trip, Cuba established commercial relations with the Soviet Union, which finally committed to buy half a million tons of sugar. At that time, Cuba's quota in the U.S. market was almost 3 million tons.

During that trip he wrote to his mother an interesting introspective reflection:

Something that has really developed in me is the sense of the massive as opposed to the personal; I am the same loner I was, seeking my way without personal help, but now I possess a sense of my historical duty. I have no home or wife or children or parents or brothers or sisters, my friends are my friends as long as they think as I do politically and yet I am content, I feel something in life, not only a powerful inner strength, which I always felt, but also the power to inject it into others and the absolutely fatalistic sense of my mission that strips me of fear.

The situation quickly became polarized. Immediately after the fall of Batista, military and terrorist activities began to be organized against the new government, as well as the preparation of troops to invade Cuba. Since 1959, the dictator Trujillo in the Dominican Republic supported a guerrilla army called the Legión Anticomunista del Caribe (Anti-Communist Legion of the Caribbean) with the plan to invade Cuba.

In the United States, the CIA began to organize sabotage and encourage the organization of anti-Castro guerrilla groups based on former Batista officials, such as La Rosa Blanca, and the growing number of Cuban exiles opposed to the increasingly radical and pro-communist measures of the Cuban Revolution.

In September 1959 Che Guevara was appointed to organize the Department of Industrialization of INRA, which would become the Ministry of Industry the following year. Shortly thereafter, on November 26, 1959, in view of the resignation and flight of most of the specialists, he was appointed president of the National Bank. Curiously, he signed the banknotes issued during his administration only with his nickname "Che". On February 20, 1960, the Central Planning Board (JUCEPLAN) was created, whose main promoter was Guevara and which established centralized planning in Cuba.

From his economic positions, Che Guevara promoted the nationalization of national and foreign companies and key sectors of the economy, centralized planning and voluntary work. Guevara also sought to develop heavy industry through the iron and steel industry, in order to break the economic specialization and dependence on sugar. He counted on the support of a group of young people who were trained as specialists with him, since Column 8 was in Escambray, among whom Orlando Borrego, his vice minister, who would occupy high economic positions in the future, stood out. He also supported the suppression of university autonomy, one of the main banners of the Latin American movement of the University Reform.

On July 28, 1960, before the First Congress of Latin American Youths, held in Havana, Ché put forward a concept that he would later develop extensively: the idea of the "new socialist man", which he conceived as a new human type that would develop along with socialism, and in which the feeling of solidarity and commitment to society would prevail over personal self-interest and selfishness. Volunteer work was for him a fundamental expression of the new man. He personally dedicated every Saturday to volunteer work, in the production lines of factories, the harvest, as a worker in construction sites, and promoted this attitude among other officials, who did not always welcome his austerity and his proposal to set an example with personal behavior.

One of the characteristics for which Che Guevara stood out in public service was a strict austerity and lack of privileges for himself and his family, which he insisted on extreme. For example, when he was appointed president of the National Bank, he renounced the 2,000 pesos that corresponded to him for the position, keeping only his salary as commander, which was 250 pesos. When his parents visited him in Cuba in 1959, he put a car at their disposal but informed them that they had to pay for gasoline. He did not take his wife on international trips and forbade military personnel under his orders to go to cabarets, brothels and any party that did not strictly obey the needs of the mission.

On November 7, 1960, Che Guevara began a two-month trip to the communist countries: Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union, China, Korea and Democratic Germany. In the Soviet Union he was invited to share with Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and the rest of the Supreme Soviet the main tribune in the parade celebrating the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which was an exceptional event.

The ambassador of the Soviet Union in Cuba remembers it this way:

He was a highly organized character; he had in that sense nothing Latin American about him, he was rather German. Punctual, exact, he was amazing for all those who have known Latin America.

The trip was very successful and both the Soviet Union and China committed to buy most of the Cuban harvest. In China he met Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. In Democratic Germany he would meet Tamara Bunke, a German-Argentinean, who soon after would move to Cuba and who would later join Che's guerrillas in Bolivia, under the name of Tania. But above all, the main result of the trip was to consolidate the alliance between Cuba and the Soviet Union. A U.S. State Department intelligence report evaluates the result of Guevara's trip as follows:

By the time the visit ended, Cuba had financial trade agreements, as well as cultural ties, with all the countries of the bloc, diplomatic relations with all but East Germany, and scientific and technical assistance agreements with all but Albania.

On January 3, 1961, in one of the last measures of his administration before handing over power to John F. Kennedy, President Eisenhower cut diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. Open confrontation was imminent.

On April 17, 1961 the Bay of Pigs invasion took place from Nicaragua, where they were fired and harangued by the dictator Luis Somoza Debayle, by an army of 1500 mostly Cuban men, trained in Guatemala, using ships of the United Fruit Company, with the open support of the CIA. The next day it was evident that the Cuban army had controlled the situation. The CIA then asked President Kennedy, who had assumed the presidency less than three months earlier, for open U.S. intervention with the Air Force, but he refused. For this reason the anti-Castro Cuban community in the United States publicly maintained that President Kennedy was a traitor.

Four months later, Kennedy proposed an Alliance for Progress at the OAS meeting in Punta del Este, an unprecedented massive aid plan for the development of Latin American countries. It is obvious that it was the Cuban Revolution and the support shown by the population that prompted the United States to promote a plan whose declared objective was to reduce poverty and inequalities in the subcontinent. Cuba, represented on the occasion by Che Guevara, did not oppose the U.S. plan in principle, but argued that it was first necessary for the United States to allow free trade in Latin American products, eliminate protectionist subsidies for its products, and promote the industrialization of Latin America.

On the occasion of this trip, Guevara met with the democratic presidents of Argentina, Arturo Frondizi, and Brazil, Jânio Quadros. Both presidents were overthrown shortly after in military coups supported by the United States and in both cases, the meeting with Che was one of the arguments used by the military coup leaders.

The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion caused the dismissal of CIA Director Allen Dulles and his replacement by John McCone. In November 1961 the CIA established a gigantic program called Operation Mongoose, directed by Edward Lansdale, with the aim of organizing acts of sabotage, terrorism, selective assassinations of Cuban leaders, military attacks and infiltrations that would destabilize the Cuban government and lead to its collapse by October 1962.The isolation offensive against Cuba advanced in January 1962 when the American countries took the decision to exclude it from the OAS.

In response, in late June 1962, the Soviet Union and Cuba made the decision to install atomic missiles in Cuba, which they believed was the only way to deter the United States from invading Cuba.

Besides being for the Soviet-US relations another step forward in the Cold War (in August 1961 the Berlin Wall had been built, in February 1962 there had been the novel exchange of prisoners as a consequence of the U-2 spy plane case, and the US involvement in the Vietnam conflict continued). Che Guevara had an active participation in the elaboration of the treaty between the Republic of Cuba and the Soviet Union, traveling there at the end of August to close it. The fact would lead to the so-called Cuban missile crisis that put the world on the brink of nuclear war and would end with a difficult agreement between Kennedy and Khrushchev, both pressured by the warmongering sectors of their respective countries, by which the United States undertook not to invade Cuba and to withdraw the missiles it had installed in Turkey aimed at the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union to withdraw the Cuban missiles.

On December 4, 1962 the British socialist newspaper Daily Worker published an interview with Ernesto Guevara conducted by Sam Russell. There he crudely expressed his annoyance at the agreement between Kennedy and Khrushchev stating:

If the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and aimed them at the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression. But we don't have them, so we will fight with what we have.

Che Guevara always had a strongly internationalist way of thinking. Not only was he in favor of opening up new guerrilla experiences in other parts of the world, but he also thought that only by generalizing the armed struggle in Latin America, Asia and Africa would it be possible to defeat imperialism. Guevara openly disagreed with the strategy of peaceful coexistence proposed by the Soviet Union and he saw himself fighting in other revolutions.

From the very moment the Cuban Revolution took power, Che began to organize and promote guerrilla experiences in Latin America, especially in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Argentina. All of them failed, but in some cases they laid the foundations for future guerrilla movements, such as the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua and the Tupamaros in Uruguay.

This position led to a strong confrontation between Che Guevara and the communist parties of Latin America, which in general did not approve of the strategy of generalized armed struggle that he proposed.

In reality, Che Guevara wanted to start the armed struggle in his native country. In 1963, after extensive training in Cuba, he sent a guerrilla group to Argentina. It was led by Jorge Masetti, the Peronist journalist who had directed the Prensa Latina news agency and who had to resign due to his confrontation with the Cuban Communist Party (PSP). The group was based in the province of Salta, under the name of Ejército Guerrillero del Pueblo (EGP), with support in Bolivia, Córdoba and Buenos Aires. Masetti held the rank of second commander, reserving the rank of first commander for Guevara. After sending a letter to the democratic president Arturo Illia announcing his decision to start the armed struggle, the group suffered different complications that led to a complete collapse in 1964. Some of its members died in combat, such as the Cuban Hermes Peña, one of Guevara's inner circle; others were arrested and Masetti disappeared in the jungle without a trace.

In that context, sometime between March 17 and April 17, 1964, Che Guevara met with Juan Domingo Perón in the house where the latter lived in his exile in Madrid. The meeting was kept in the utmost secrecy and has been made known thanks to journalist Rogelio García Lupo.Che gave Perón funds to support his return to Argentina, an attempt that was prevented by the Brazilian government that same year.Perón would have committed himself to support guerrilla initiatives against Latin American dictatorships, which he actually did until 1973.

The guerrilla failure in Argentina led him to evaluate the possibility of participating in places other than his country and even other continents. In that sense, Africa began to appear as a suitable possibility.

Che Guevara used to say to the future guerrilla fighters who were training in Cuba to open new revolutionary focusses a phrase that not only had a strong impact on those who received it, but also defined the attitude he had assumed towards life:

Pretend that you are dead and that what you live from now on is borrowed.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

At the end of 1964 Che Guevara had decided to leave the government to lead the sending of Cuban troops to other countries in order to support the revolutionary movements underway. Africa and especially the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Patrice Lumumba had been assassinated in 1961 with the participation of the CIA, and where a rebel guerrilla supported from Tanzania was acting, seemed to him an appropriate cause for intervention. The Democratic Republic of Congo, located in the center of Africa and with borders with nine countries, appeared to Che as a gigantic "focus" from which the revolution could radiate throughout the continent.

At the beginning of 1965 he wrote a famous letter to Fidel Castro renouncing all his positions and Cuban nationality and announcing his departure to "new battlefields". It is in that letter that appears, in the signature, the phrase "hasta la victoria siempre" (until victory always), widely spread since then. The letter was read by Castro during the First Congress of the Cuban Communist Party and broadcast on television in October of that same year, causing a huge sensation, both inside and outside Cuba (see letter on Wikisource). By then Che Guevara had disappeared from public life and his whereabouts were unknown.

On April 19 he arrived under the false identity of Ramón Benítez to the city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, then presided over by the anti-colonialist leader Julius Nyerere, from where Cuban support to the Congolese rebels would be organized. Cuba had decided to support the struggle of the National Liberation Committee (CNL) of the Congo. The previous year, the CNL had managed to establish for a few months, a "liberated zone" under the name of the People's Republic of Congo, with capital in Stanleyville (today Kisangani) and at that time maintained a government in exile led by Cristophe Gbenye and struggled to maintain control over a large area in the eastern region of the country, on the border with Tanzania and Burundi, on Lake Tanganyika. Che Guevara maintained direct contact with Laurent-Désiré Kabila, then a second-ranking military leader.

Che went to fight in the Congo without prior notice to any of the rebel leaders, an act that was not well received by them, due to the international implications. On the other hand, Guevara would settle in the combat zone, while the Congolese military leaders hardly went to the battle front and remained most of the time in the city of Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania.

Cuban participation in the Congolese rebellion was a disastrous experience. The notebooks written by Guevara begin with the following sentence:

This is the story of a failure.

The lack of knowledge of the Swahili language and customs, the multiple internal and external factions of the revolutionary groups, the disorganization and lack of discipline of the troops, and finally the cessation of Tanzanian support, led to one defeat after another. Thus, Che, commanded by 120 Cubans, among them some of his inner circle - such as Carlos Coello (Tuma) and Harry Villegas (Pombo) - was forced to order an emergency retreat when the Congolese Liberation Army decided to abandon the fight and the white mercenary troops supporting the government had occupied most of the "liberated zone" and were about to take the base and make them prisoners. During the campaign, which lasted nine months, six Cuban guerrillas died and, finally after the Congolese abandoned the fight, Guevara had to withdraw in a situation he described as shameful on November 20, 1965.He himself sent a message to Nyerere complaining about the cessation of Tanzanian support which read:

Cuba offered aid subject to Tanzania's approval, Tanzania accepted and the aid became effective. It was without conditions or time limits. We understand Tanzania's difficulties today, but we do not agree with its approach. Cuba does not back out of its commitments nor can it accept a shameful escape leaving its disgraced brother at the mercy of mercenaries.

In one of his last entries in the Congo notebooks he says:

There was not a single trait of greatness in that retreat.

Three days after Guevara left the Congo, Joseph Mobutu seized power in a coup d'état, installing a dictatorship that would last thirty years. In 1996, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the guerrilla leader advised by Che in the Congo, would lead an armed rebellion that would lead him to overthrow Mobutu.

Between Africa and Bolivia

After the withdrawal from the Congo, Che hid for several weeks in the Cuban embassy in Tanzania where he took the opportunity to write his memoir of the failed experience, which would later be published in 1999 as Pasajes de la guerra revolucionaria: Congo (Passages of the Revolutionary War: Congo).

He later moved to Prague where he stayed for five months in a Cuban secret service safe house. This is one of the least known periods of his life in which he analyzed his next steps that would lead him to initiate guerrilla action in Bolivia.

Some of his biographers consider it highly probable that he had studied and written a lot, but until 2006 there was no certainty that the alleged Prague notebooks exist, however, from this period date the annotations and comments to the official Soviet manual on Political Economy, with a great variety of criticisms and reformulations of the so-called scientific socialism. These texts were considered heresy and still remain largely unpublished.

After analyzing several options, Che Guevara, with the support of Fidel Castro, decided to establish a guerrilla focus in Bolivia, a country that, being in the heart of South America, and bordering Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Paraguay, allowed the guerrilla war to be easily extended to the entire subcontinent, especially to his native country.

On July 21, 1966, Ché secretly returned to Cuba. There he met with Fidel Castro, his wife, Orlando Borrego and the group of guerrillas that would accompany him to Bolivia. On November 2, without revealing his identity, he saw his children for the last time, with the exception of Hildita, the eldest, because she could recognize him.

Shortly afterwards, between September and October 1966, Che Guevara met again with Perón in Madrid, to ask for the support of Peronism for his guerrilla project in Bolivia. Perón promised not to prevent those Peronists who wanted to accompany Guevara from doing so, but he did not accept to involve the Peronist movement as such in a guerrilla action in Bolivia, although he did commit the support of Peronism when Ché's guerrilla moved its action to Argentine territory.


In 1966 Bolivia was ruled by a military dictatorship led by General René Barrientos, who had overthrown President Víctor Paz Estenssoro and put an end to the 1952 Revolution, of nationalist-popular tendency, promoted by the MNR.

On November 7, 1966, the day he began his Diary of Bolivia, Ernesto Guevara settled in a mountainous and jungle area located near the Ñancahuazú River, in the southeast of the country, where the last foothills of the Andes Mountains meet the Gran Chaco region.

The stable guerrilla group was composed of 16 Cubans, among them many of the men of his inner circle, 26 Bolivians, and 2 Argentines. 47 fighters in all, of whom Tania was the only woman, although Loyola Guzmán also played an important role in the support group, and was arrested and tortured. They took the name of the Bolivian National Liberation Army (ELN) with support sections in Argentina, Chile and Peru.

On March 11, 1967 two deserters were arrested, alerting the government, which, that same day, requested the cooperation of the United States and organized an intelligence system coordinated with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Paraguay.

On March 23, armed confrontations began: the ELN overran a military unit and killed seven soldiers. Shortly afterwards they left the camp to escape the siege that the Bolivian army began to form. On April 3, Guevara divided his forces, putting Juan Acuña Núñez ("Vilo" or "Joaquín") in command of the second column. Both groups were lost and would not meet again.

In successive skirmishes his men were killed: Jesús Suárez Gayol, Jorge Vázquez Viaña (Loro), who was considered missing, and Eliseo Reyes, who accompanied him from Sierra Maestra.

On April 20, the ELN suffered a major blow when two members of the support network, Régis Debray and Ciro Bustos, were captured as they attempted to leave the area. Both were tortured and ended up providing key information. The actions of Debray and Bustos, under torture, as well as, on the other hand, the inaction of Mario Monje, secretary general of the Communist Party of Bolivia, who should have offered logistical support, have been much discussed.

At that time he wrote his Message to the Peoples of the World, which was read at the meeting of the Tricontinental (Asia, Africa and Latin America), and which contains his most radical and forceful statements, proposing an open world war against the United States, in clear contradiction with the "peaceful coexistence" that the Soviet Union and the Latin American communist parties maintained at that time within the conceptual framework of the Cold War. Guevara headed that document with one of his most remembered phrases:

Create two, three... many Vietnam, is the slogan.

The text of the document refers to the limited wars that were generated in all continents since the end of World War II, pointing out the extreme cruelty that the United States was applying in Vietnam and how, although the Vietnamese people were fighting alone, the U.S. superpower was "bogged down". Guevara then concludes that imperialism uses war as blackmail and that the response of the peoples should be not to fear war. Che goes on to say in the document that, under the slogan "we will not allow another Cuba", the United States was affirming that it was ready for a bloody generalized intervention in order to prevent it. He then analyzes the interventions in each continent, to conclude that in Latin America a rebellion was maturing, which would acquire a continental character. Guevara then warned that the liberation would not be allowed by the United States peacefully, and that there should be no illusions, since it would be a long war, in which "the repression would be looking for easy victims", massacring the peasant population or bombing cities. Since the peoples were pushed to fight, there was no choice but to prepare for it. He argues that the oligarchies would use "all the capacity of repression, all the capacity of brutality and demagogy", and that the first task would be to survive and prepare spiritually to "resist more violent repressions". He then proposes to resort to hatred as a "fighting factor" to withstand these aggressions and to be able to "galvanize the national spirit", maintaining that "a people without hatred cannot triumph over a brutal enemy". He then warns that later on, the war will have to be taken to the aggressor countries as well, and that this would surely make them more bestial but would also undermine their morale. And he ends by arguing that all the popular struggles of the world should unite: "All our action is a war cry against imperialism and a cry for the unity of the peoples against the great enemy of the human race: the United States of America".

In June and July 1967, the ELN lost seven more men: Casildo Condori, Antonio Sánchez Díaz, Carlos Coello (Tuma), Julio Velazco, Serapio Aquino, Raúl Quispaya and Martínez Tamayo (Papi).

On August 1, 1967, the CIA sent two agents to join the hunt for Che Guevara: Cuban-Americans Gustavo Villoldo and Felix Ismael Rodriguez. On August 31, 1967, the army ambushed the second column at Vado del Yeso, as they were crossing the river, resulting in the death of all but one: Vilo Acuña, Tamara Bunke, Apolinar Aquino, Walter Arencibia, Moises Guevara, Gustavo Machin, Freddy Maymura, Israel Reyes and Restituto Cabrera. Their bodies were first exposed as trophies, and then buried clandestinely. After making a great detour and taking Samaipata for a few hours, the first column was isolated and the exit to the Rio Grande was blocked, which forced them to climb the mountain in the direction of La Higuera. On September 26 they entered the small hamlet of La Higuera and, on the way out, the vanguard was ambushed, killing three of them (Coco Peredo, Mario Gutiérrez and Manuel Hernández).

The 17 survivors escaped by climbing even higher, and on October 7 they began to descend towards the river. That night Ernesto Guevara made the last entry in his diary:

OCTOBER 7. The 11 months of our guerrilla inauguration were completed without complications, bucolically; until 12.30 p.m. when an old woman, herding her goats, entered the canyon where we had camped and had to be taken prisoner. The woman did not give any reliable news about the soldiers, replying to everything that she did not know, that she had not been there for some time. She only gave information about the roads; from the results of the old woman's report it is clear that we are approximately one league from Higueras and another from Jagüey and about 2 from Pucará. At 17.30, Inti, Aniceto and Pablito went to the house of the old woman who has a prostrate daughter and a half dwarf; she was given 50 pesos with the order that she was not to speak a word, but with little hope that she would comply in spite of her promises. We left the 17 with a very small moon and the march was very tiring and leaving a lot of trail through the canyon where we were, which has no houses nearby, but potato fields irrigated by irrigation ditches from the same stream. At 2 o'clock we stopped to rest, since it was useless to continue advancing. El Chino becomes a real burden when we have to walk at night.The Army gave a rare information about the presence of 250 men in Serrano to prevent the passage of the encircled in number of 37 giving the zone of our refuge between the Acero and Oro rivers.The news seems amusing. h-2,000 ms.

On October 8 they were surprised in the Quebrada del Churo, Che Guevara ordered to divide the group in two, sending the sick ahead and keeping the rest to face the government troops. Harry Villegas (Pombo), one of the five survivors, recounts this critical moment:

I think he could have escaped. But he had a group of sick people with him who could not move at the same speed as he did. When the army begins the pursuit, he decides to stop and tells the sick people to follow. In the meantime, the siege is closing in. However, the sick managed to get out. In other words, the enemy was slower than the sick. Those who came in direct pursuit, Ché put up with them. When he went to continue, the siege was closed and then the direct confrontation took place. But if he had gone out with the sick, he would have been saved.

After three hours of combat, Guevara was slightly wounded in one leg and captured with Simeón Cuba (Willy), while three of his men lost their lives: Rene Martínez Tamayo, Orlando Pantoja (Olo) and Aniceto Reinaga. Alberto Fernández Montes de Oca was badly wounded and died the following day. Also the following day Juan Pablo Chang (El Chino) was captured. Four other guerrillas were pursued and died in the Combate de Cajones, four days later: Octavio de la Concepción de la Pedraja (Moro), Francisco Huanca (Pablo), Lucio Garvan (Eustaquio) and Jaime Arana (Chapaco).

The six guerrillas in front, Harry Villegas (Pombo), Dariel Alarcón (Benigno), Leonardo Tamayo (Urbano), Inti Peredo, David Adriazola (Darío) and Julio Méndez Korne (Ñato) managed to escape. The army pursued them and shot down Ñato, but the remaining five finally managed to leave Bolivia for Chile.

In the combat of Quebrada del Churo, Guevara was shot in his left leg, taken prisoner together with Simeón Cuba Sanabria (Willy) and transferred to La Higuera where they were confined in the school, in separate classrooms. The corpses of the dead guerrillas were also placed there and Juan Pablo Chang was also imprisoned the following day. Among the belongings confiscated by the military was the diary that Che kept in Bolivia.

On the morning of October 9, the Bolivian government announced that Ernesto Guevara had died in combat the day before. Simultaneously, Colonel Joaquín Zenteno Anaya and CIA agent Félix Rodríguez arrived. Shortly after noon, President Barrientos gave the order to execute Che Guevara. There are doubts and contradictory versions about the degree of support that the decision had from the United States, but what is certain is that, as it is recorded in Félix Rodríguez's own secret report, the CIA was present in the place. It was Rodriguez who received the order to shoot Guevara and who transmitted it to the Bolivian officers, just as it was also he who told Che Guevara that he would be shot.before the shooting, Rodriguez interrogated him and took him out of the classroom to take several photographs, the last ones in which he appears alive. Rodriguez himself relates that moment in this way:

I left the room, it was full of soldiers outside. I went to Sergeant Terán who I knew was being the executor of all that. I told him: "Sergeant, there are instructions from your government to eliminate the prisoner". I put my hand at the level of my chin: "Don't pull him from here up, pull him from here down because this man is supposed to have died of wounds in combat". "Yes, my captain, yes, my captain," he said. It was about one o'clock in the afternoon in Bolivia. I then withdrew to the advanced place where I had photographed the newspaper and at about ten past one o'clock I heard a small burst.

I sent Terán to carry out the order. I told him that he should shoot him below the neck because he had to look as if he had been killed in combat. Terán asked for a rifle and entered the room with a couple of soldiers (...) and I wrote down in my notebook: time 13:10 on October 9, 1967.

Shortly before, Simeón Cuba and Juan Pablo Chang had suffered the same fate. In 1977, Paris Match magazine interviewed Mario Terán who told the following account of Che Guevara's last moments:

I hesitated 40 minutes before executing the order. I went to see Colonel Perez in the hope that he had cancelled it. But the colonel was furious. So I went. That was the worst moment of my life. When I arrived, Che was sitting on a bench. When he saw me he said: "You have come to kill me". I felt self-conscious and lowered my head without answering. Then he asked me, "What did the others say?". I answered that they had said nothing and he replied, "They were brave!". I did not dare to shoot. At that moment I saw Che big, very big, huge. His eyes shone intensely. I felt that he was on top of me and when he stared at me, I felt dizzy. I thought that with a quick movement Che could take the gun away from me. "Be calm -he told me- and aim well! You are going to kill a man!". Then I took a step back, towards the doorway, closed my eyes and fired the first burst. Che, with his legs shattered, fell to the ground, contorted and began to spurt a lot of blood. I regained my courage and fired the second shot, which hit him in the arm, shoulder and heart. He was already dead.

Curiously, it would be Cuban doctors who in 2007 would restore Terán's sight, as part of one of the campaigns of solidarity with the Bolivian government of Evo Morales; the news was announced by the official newspaper Granma on the anniversary of Guevara's death, which read;

Mario Terán will try with his crime to destroy a dream and an idea, Che wins another combat. And he continues his campaign.

Terán's son asked the newspaper in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra to publish a note thanking the Cuban doctors for their work.

His remains

On the afternoon of October 9, 1967, the body of Che Guevara was taken by helicopter to Vallegrande and placed in the laundry room of the Nuestro Señor de Malta hospital, where it remained on public display during that day and all the following day, with a large amount of formaldehyde introduced to prevent decomposition.

Hundreds of people (soldiers, settlers, onlookers, journalists) came to see the body. There are many photos of those moments, in which Che appears with his eyes open. The nuns of the hospital and the women of the village cut locks of his hair to preserve them as talismans, and the soldiers and officials kept things that Che was carrying when he died. Since it was already decided that Che Guevara's body would be made to disappear, like those of the rest of the guerrillas, on the night of October 10, the hands were cut off the corpse to preserve them as proof of death.

There are different versions about the final destination of the corpse. General Juan José Torres declared that the body had been cremated, while General Alfredo Ovando affirmed the opposite. There is consensus among the Bolivian military present at the site that the cremation order was real but that it could not be executed due to lack of adequate means, and also to avoid an eventual negative reaction from the population, due to the fact that cremation was illegal in Bolivia.There was also some consensus that Che's corpse had been buried in the early morning of October 11 by Lieutenant Colonel Selich, in a different grave from the other six guerrillas.

Search and discovery of the body

Since the same year of his death, the Cuban government began to investigate to find the remains of Che Guevara and his comrades, without any result. In 1995, Dr. Jorge Gonzalez Perez, then director of the Institute of Legal Medicine of Cuba, traveled to Bolivia, starting the process that would find them in 1997.

Between December 1995 and March 1996, the remains of four of Guevara's companions who had died in the combat of October 14, 1967 in Cajones were found. These were: Jaime Arana Campero, Octavio de la Concepción de la Pedraja, Lucio Edilverto Garvan Hidalgo and Francisco Huanca Flores. The investigation was aimed at recovering all the fallen guerrillas. Of the 36 corpses, 23 were buried in Valle Grande and 13 in other areas.

On June 28, 1997, thanks to the declarations of retired General Mario Vargas Salinas and international pressure that led the Bolivian government of Gonzalo Sanchez to authorize the start of investigations, a team of Cuban scientists found seven bodies buried clandestinely in a single mass grave in Valle Grande, and identified among them, with the support of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, which was the first group to arrive on November 29, 1995, the body of Ernesto Guevara and those of six of his men, Alberto Fernández Montes de Oca (Pacho), René Martínez Tamayo (Arturo), Orlando Pantoja Tamayo (Olo), Aniceto Reinaga (Aniceto), Simeón Cuba (Willy) and Juan Pablo Chang (El Chino). ...

The corpse, according to the team's report, lacked hands, had a high formaldehyde content, and was wearing clothes and elements compatible with those he was supposed to have had at the time of burial (it was found covered with a jacket that in one of the pockets had a pouch with pipe tobacco stings). The anthropologist Héctor Soto carried out the physical examination that through the definition of the frontal features identified Guevara.some analysts affirm that the body is not that of Che, since there are contradictions that they consider insurmountable between the report and the autopsy that was practiced to the corpse in 1967.

On July 12, 1997 the remains were taken to Cuba, where they were received by a multitude to be buried in Santa Clara in the Mausoleum of Che Guevara where the remains of most of the guerrillas who accompanied him on his expedition are currently buried.

At present, in La Higuera (Bolivia), the figure of Che is still remembered by its inhabitants with reverence, to the extent of having been sanctified, becoming part of the creeds of that Andean region, with the name of "San Ernesto de La Higuera" (Saint Ernesto of La Higuera). The pool of the Señor de Malta hospital in Vallegrande, where the lifeless body of Che was exposed, has become a place of worship where he is venerated with flowers and other offerings, and in the houses of the region you can see pictures of Che with flowers and candles, making requests and prayers.

The 60-kilometer road between La Higuera and Vallegrande is known as "La Ruta del Che" and has become a tourist and pilgrimage destination. The historical events that took place in Bolivia, gave Che over the years the tone of a legendary character surrounded by mysticism. The peasants of La Higuera have claimed to have witnessed miraculous events by entrusting themselves to Che's spirit, while Félix Rodríguez, the CIA agent in charge of the operation that captured Che, began to suffer asthma attacks after his death was executed (an illness that Che suffered from). The Argentine journalist Julia Constela said about the figure of the lifeless Che: "His image of involuntary Christ surpasses what could have been his wishes". ...

Che Guevara developed a series of ideas and concepts that have become known as "Guevarism". His thought took anti-imperialism, Marxism and communism as basic elements, but with reflections on how to carry out a revolution and create a socialist society that gave him his own identity.

Guevara gave a fundamental role to the armed struggle. From his own experience he developed a whole theory on guerrilla warfare. For him, when "objective conditions" for a revolution existed in a country, a small guerrilla "foco" could create the "subjective conditions" and unleash a general uprising of the population. These postulates were taken and interpreted by the philosopher Régis Debray, giving rise to foquismo, which is often erroneously attributed to Guevara.

For Che there was a close link between the guerrilla, the peasants and agrarian reform. This position differentiated his thinking from European or Soviet socialism, more related to the importance of the industrial working class, and brought him closer to Maoist ideas. His book La guerra de guerrillas (Guerrilla Warfare) is a manual where the tactics and strategies used in the Cuban guerrilla are exposed.

He gave a fundamental role to individual ethics, both of the guerrilla fighter during the revolution and of the citizen in socialist society. He developed this aspect under the concept of the "new socialist man", whom he saw as an individual strongly moved by a personal ethic that drives him to solidarity and the common good without the need of material incentives to do so, giving a central value to voluntary work, which he saw as the fundamental activity to form the "new man".

Ernesto Guevara married twice and had six children.

His first marriage was to Hilda Gadea (Peru, 1925 - Havana, 1974) on August 18, 1955, in the church of San Francisco Javier, Tepotzotlán. Mexico. Gadea was a Peruvian economist and APRA leader whom Guevara met in Guatemala. Together they had a daughter, Hilda Beatriz Guevara Gadea (February 15, 1956 - 1995). Hilda Beatriz had a son (Che's grandson) Canek Sánchez Guevara, an anarchist philosopher.Ernesto Guevara divorced Hilda Gadea in 1959. After the Cuban Revolution, Hilda settled in Cuba where she held high positions. She wrote a book about her ex-husband with the title Che Guevara: los años decisivos (Mexico: Aguilar Editor, 1972).

His second marriage was to Aleida March Torres (b. 1936) on June 9, 1959, in Havana. March was a Cuban militant of the 26th of July Movement in the province of Las Villas whom Guevara met in 1958 when he was developing his final offensive on the Batista regime, shortly before the battle of Santa Clara. Together they had four children:

Aleida March presides over the Che Guevara Study Center, located in the house they shared in Havana.

According to Jorge Castañeda, Ernesto Guevara also had a son from an extramarital affair with Lidia Rosa López:

Although he was not recognized, Ernesto Guevara would have chosen his name.

Broad sectors, in different countries of the world, have expressed their adherence to the actions, personality and ideals of Che Guevara.

Personalities of the most diverse ideologies and characteristics have expressed their sympathy for Che Guevara, such as Jean Paul Sartre, Juan Domingo Perón, soccer players Diego Maradona and Thierry Henry, boxer Mike Tyson, Chinese dissident leader Leung Kwok-hung, musician Carlos Santana, actor Pierre Richard, writer Gabriel García Márquez, Chechen leader Shamil Basáyev, the musical group Rage Against the Machine and Sandinista leader Edén Pastora, among many others.

Also interesting is the comparison between Che Guevara and Evo Morales made by Indiana Reque Terán, daughter of Colonel Luis Reque Terán, one of the Bolivian military men who led the fight against Guevara's guerrillas in Ñancahuazú and ended in his assassination:

The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, continues the ideals of Che Guevara, but he does it in a peaceful and democratic way, which is why he deserves everyone's support.

In 2006 the newly elected president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, ordered a huge portrait of Che Guevara to be placed in the presidential palace. In 2007 Che Guevara was chosen by the Argentine public as one of the five most outstanding Argentines in history, together with Juan Manuel Fangio, José de San Martín, René Favaloro and Alberto Olmedo, in the television program El gen argentino.

There are sectors that oppose the actions and figure of Ernesto Guevara, especially in the Cuban exile community, groups of the extreme right, anti-communists, demoliberals, etc. Among the reprehensible acts attributed to Guevara are the executions of hundreds of opponents among Batista's military and torturers, mainly when he commanded the La Cabaña Fortress, as well as peasants in the regions controlled or visited by his guerrilla forces. Paco Ignacio Taibo II in his book "Ernesto Guevara, also known as Che" affirms that Guevara was in favor of summary trials but that the versions that place him as the responsible for most of the executions that took place in Havana are unreal. ...

They also point out that Guevara founded the Cuban system of labor camps when he established the first of them in Guanahacabibes to re-educate directors of state enterprises considered guilty of violations of "revolutionary ethics".Jorge Castañeda Gutman, in his biography of Che Guevara, has pointed out that, after Guevara's departure from Cuba, "these camps were used to send dissidents, homosexuals and, more than two decades after Guevara's death, AIDS patients".

Opponents of Che Guevara also point out his communist ideas, which they consider totalitarian, and the influence he had on Cuba's adherence to communism and, during the Cold War, its entry into the communist bloc led by the Soviet Union.

In 2005, after guitarist Carlos Santana wore a Che T-shirt to the Oscars ceremony, Cuban Paquito D'Rivera wrote an open letter censuring Santana for supporting what he called the "Butcher of La Cabaña". In his letter D'Rivera refers to the period in which Che Guevara was in charge of La Cabaña supervising the "revolutionary trials" and the execution of condemned dissidents, among them his own cousin, who claims that he was imprisoned in La Cabaña because of his Christianity and who claims to have witnessed the execution of a large number of people for the mere fact of having Christian beliefs.

His detractors also argue that his adherents have made a great propaganda to present him as a formidable warrior, but that in reality he was a poor strategist. Fundamentally, they argue that, on the basis of results, Guevara failed in the direction of the Cuban economy, as he "oversaw the near collapse of sugar production, the failure of industrialization and the introduction of rationing - all in what, they argue, would have been one of the four most successful Latin American nations since before the Batista dictatorship.

U.S. journalist Paul Berman, in an article entitled "The Che Cult. Don't applaud 'Motorcycle Diaries'" (2004), criticized the film Motorcycle Diaries and argued that "this modern cult of Che" obscures the "tremendous social conflict" currently taking place in Cuba. For example, the article mentions the imprisonment of dissidents, such as the poet and journalist Raúl Rivero, who was finally released as a result of international pressure in support of a solidarity campaign led by the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, which had the support of former Soviet bloc dissidents and other personalities such as Václav Havel, Lech Wałęsa, Árpád Göncz or Elena Bonner among others. Berman claims that in the United States, where The Motorcycle Diaries received standing ovations at the Sundance Film Festival, the adoration of Che has caused Americans to overlook the plight of Cuban dissidents.

The figure of Ernesto Guevara has also been criticized from radical sectors, mainly anarchists and civil libertarians, considering him an authoritarian person, whose goal was the creation of a Stalinist and bureaucratic state regime.

The figure of Ernesto Guevara has been the subject of a large number of artistic works, both in Argentina and Cuba, as well as in the rest of the world. Undoubtedly the best known is the song Hasta siempre comandante, composed by Carlos Puebla, which has become a classic of Latin American song. Today his figure remains a symbol of those who seek freedom, social justice and those who resist oppression.


Several films have been totally or partially dedicated to the figure of Che Guevara, including Diarios de motocicleta (2004) by Walter Salles and Evita (1996), by Alan Parker, and the recent El argentino and Guerrilla by director Steven Soderbergh.


Hundreds of songs and musical works have been inspired by Che Guevara, in the most diverse rhythms, styles and languages. Among the most famous are:

There are also some tribute albums, such as El Che vive! from 1997, performed by several artists.


Among the most outstanding are:


Among the variety of artistic expressions dedicated to Che Guevara, the famous photograph entitled "Heroic Guerrilla" taken by Alberto Korda and the equally famous profile inspired by that photo, taken by Jim Fitzpatrick, stand out. Likewise, other examples can also be mentioned such as:

His legal name was Ernesto Guevara. This is what appears in the birth certificate, a legal document that establishes the name of the persons. As an additional fact, he also appears with the name Ernesto Guevara in his university documents (see) and (see), in his medical degree (see) and in his high school certificate (see). The reason is that Argentine naming regulations at the time stated that children carried only the father's surname, unless both parents expressly requested to include both surnames. In the Argentine upper class, double surnames are relatively common, but this was not the case with Ernesto.

The name Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, used in some biographies, is not his legal name. The misunderstanding usually comes from the fact that in most Latin American countries (but not in Argentina) the legal name is formed with the surname of the father and the mother.on some occasions, Ernesto Guevara voluntarily used his mother's surname. In those cases he identified himself as Ernesto Guevara Serna, as was the case of the advertisement for Micron (see), and his employment as a photographer for Prensa Latina.

Finally, his Argentine Federal Police record is registered under the name of Ernesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna, alias "Che".

Nicknames, pseudonyms and alternative names

There is a large amount of Ernesto Guevara's writings, poetry and unpublished materials, most of them in the possession of his widow, Aleida March, president of the Che Guevara Study Center. March has been periodically releasing and publishing some of these documents, as she did in 1999 with the Diary of the Congo. The last publication in 2012 was a collection of texts written by Guevara between his youth and his stay in Bolivia under the title Apuntes filosóficos.


  1. Che Guevara
  2. Che Guevara

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