Hero Or Rebel: Happy 87th Birthday Che Guevara

Sunday June 14th would have seen the 87th birthday of Che Guevara. Starting his travels as a young medical student, Ernesto “Che” Guevara became a Marxist revolutionary and guerrilla leader and a major figure of the Cuban Revolution.

Born on June 14, 1928, Guevara is considered by some to be a hero and others to be a rebel. However, the “Guerrillero Heroico” photo of him by Alberto Korda (top left) is one of the most recognized and iconic images ever captured, especially in the form of the artwork by Jim Fitzpatrick included top right. The enigmatic image is used by many activists these days in the fight for democracy in many areas of the world.

His travels as a medical student saw Guevara traveling widely throughout South America where he was horrified by the hunger, poverty and disease that he witnessed along the way. Che was so angered by what he termed the capitalist exploitation of Latin America by the United States that he became involved in creating social reforms in Guatemala.

Che Guevara then met Raúl and Fidel Castro in Mexico and joined their 26th of July movement, sailing to Cuba with the intention of overthrowing the US-backed Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista.

After the Cuban Revolution, Guevara involved himself in reviewing the appeals and firing squads for convicted war criminals, instituted agrarian land reform and headed up a successful nationwide literacy campaign.

He then traveled the world as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism and trained militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba.

Che Guevara was executed at the age of 39 on October 9, 1967 at La Higuera, Vallegrande, Bolivia.

Besides his many revolutionary actions throughout his life, Che Guevara traveled widely and was a profilic writer, creating a manual on guerrilla warfare as well as his best-selling memoir of his continental motorcycle journey as a youth.

The book, The Motorcycle Diaries, was eventually made into a film in 2004 starring Gael Garcia Bernal.

For anyone wishing to follow in the footsteps of Che Guevara and to celebrate what would have been his 87th birthday on June 14, 2015, a company has put together a map showing every location visited by Guevara, a small version of which is pictured on the right.

The Tico Times reports that an exhibit has been set up to celebrate what would have been Guevara’s 87th birthday at the mausoleum where he was buried in Cuba. The exhibition, “Never So Alive” is part of a program to celebrate the anniversary of Che Guevara’s birth and can be visited at Ernesto Che Guevara Memorial in Santa Clara, 270 km east of Havana.

For a taste of Guevara’s travels, the official trailer of The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) is included below.

[Images: “Guerrillero Heroico” photo and derivative artwork both in the public domain, map of South America courtesy GoAndes.com]