French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that Che Guevara was “the most complete human being of our time.”

Che was a Marxist revolutionary, physician, government official, diplomat and writer, who was a leading force in the Cuban Revolution and became an international symbol of rebellion and a cultural icon after his death. This website is dedicated to his life and work.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara was born in Argentina in 1928 to a progressive, educated, middle-class family. His childhood consisted of poetry, reading and sports – despite suffering from acute asthma.

In 1948, he entered the University of Buenos Aires to study medicine. Three years later, he embarked with his friend, Alberto Granado, on an 8,000 kilometre motorcycle trek throughout South America, where Che came face-to-face with untold poverty and social injustice. He wrote about his experiences, which would later culminate in the publishing of The Motorcycle Diaries, which later become a New York Times best-seller and adapted in a 2004 film.

By the early 1950s, Che developed a supportive interest in the progressive government of Guatemala, where newly-elected President Jacobo Arbenz planned to introduce a land reform program where all large holdings would be redistributed to landless peasants. Yet after Arbenz was overthrown by a right-wing, CIA-backed coup, Che was convinced that real democratic reform was impossible under global capitalism and imperialism, and that a socialist revolution was the only answer to the problems of poverty and exploitation.


Che Guevara in the Cuban Revolution

While in Guatemala City, Che came into contact with a group of Cuban exiles connected to Fidel Castro. This is where he acquired his famous nickname “Che,” due to his frequent uttering of the interjection che, a casual speech filler used in Argentina.

In 1955, Che married Hilda Gadea, a Peruvian economist. Later that year, he met Raul Castro, who introduced him to his older brother, Fidel. On the night they first met, Fidel offered Che a place in his 26th of July Movement with the aim of overthrowing Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Che accepted, and the Castro brothers along with Che and 82 others, set out for Cuba on the Granma in November 1956.

Through his bravery and tactical skills, Che quickly become Castro’s second in command, and was well-respected by those who fought under his military leadership. After just over three years of fighting, the victorious rebels entered Havana in January 1959 as Batista fled for the Dominican Republic.

In June of that year, Guevara traveled to over a dozen countries to establish trade and political relations for the new revolutionary government. Upon returning to Cuba, Che was responsible for several reforms, including the introduction of land redistribution and a successful literacy program.

He later held the positions of Finance Minister and President of the National Bank, where he oversaw the nationalization of banks and several large businesses and undertook further steps towards universal health care and education and affordable housing.

After traveling throughout the world again in 1964 and 1965 as a representative of the Cuban government, Che became more critical of the Soviet Union, although he supported the Vietnamese struggle for independence against U.S. imperialism in the hopes that it would inspire millions throughout the world to “create many Vietnams.”


Che Guevara as International Revolutionary

Che became somewhat restless while in Cuba, and embarked to Africa in 1965 in the hopes of fomenting revolution there. He entered the Congo and fought alongside revolutionaries aiming to overthrow the corrupt dictatorship of the U.S.-backed Mobutu Sese Seko. Disheartened after months of military losses and inactivity, Che was forced to leave the Congo and return to Cuba.

In 1966, Che decided to depart for Bolivia to help create a revolutionary foco, a point of armed resistance against imperialism throughout the continent. Before he left Cuba, he spent time with his wife and children, knowing that it might possibly be the last time they saw each other. He then shaved his beard and much of his hair, also dying it grey, to enter the country disguised as a businessman.

After landing in La Paz, Che travelled to the south east of the country to form his guerilla army. During the first few months of fighting, Che led his rebels to several important victories against the U.S.-backed Bolivian Army. But by August 1967, the tide had turned. Che couldn’t garner much support from the Bolivian Left, or more importantly, from the peasantry.

On the morning of October 8, 1967, Che was captured by the Bolivian Army and was interrogated for several hours. The next morning, he was executed by Mario Teran. Ironically, almost forty years later in 2006, Teran was treated for free under a false name for cataracts by Cuban physicians in a joint Cuba-Venezuela health care program, which restored his sight.


Che Guevara’s Legacy

As for Che, word about his death reached Cuba, and three days of public mourning were proclaimed by the government. Rallies in support of Che took place throughout Latin and South America, central and north Africa, and India.

To this day, Che’s iconic image and message live on in art, film, politics, music and culture, spanning generations and cultures all over the globe.  He is seen as the ideological father of the so-called “Pink Tide” throughout Central and South America, where socialist and social democratic parties have won countless elections over the last decade and a half, implementing many of the policies that Che stood for and benefiting hundreds of millions of working class and low income peoples.

In a world where billions live on less than a couple of dollars a day, where millions die every year from malnutrition, and where poverty and exploitation are the norm for the vast majority, the values Che lived and died for continue to inspire countless people throughout the globe to fight for a better world.


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