On October 8, 1967, Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara was taken prisoner in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands. He was executed on the following day. Guevara always stayed loyal to his principles and did as he saw fit, according to Alberto Granados, who motorcycled with Che across South America in 1952.
Argentine-born Guevara was trained as a doctor. He is said to have been very sensitive to someone else’s pain. Despite his congenital asthma, Guevara took a motorcycle trip across South America. He saw the appalling conditions in which the common people were living in every country of the continent. He witnessed a lack of public health service and education infrastructure, and hundreds of self-important officials who could not care less for the people. It stands to reason that Che could not but give up his comfortable middle class life in Argentina following the trip. He became a revolutionary.
Along with Fidel Castro and other revolutionaries, Che sailed in a 60-foot wooden yacht, the Granma, to the southeastern coast of Cuba in November 1956. It is still hard to believe that about 100 rebels could succeed in toppling the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. In 1966, Guevara traveled to Bolivia to start a social revolution. A year later he was captured and killed by the Bolivian army assisted by the CIA operatives. The retired Bolivian general Gary Prado who led a mission to capture Che in 1967, says the famous revolutionary looked like a shadow of his formed self in his final moments. “I saw a sick and hungry man dressed in rags. He wasn’t the figure of the heroic guerilla at that day. Guevara wasn’t someone to inspire terror or anything, but simply to be pitied,” Gen. Prado said.
A photo exhibit will be held in Bolivia to mark the 40th anniversary of Guevara’s death. The photos on display will feature Che who just arrived in Bolivia to start a revolution. The original monochrome photograph of Che wearing a beret, a determined gaze and beard is likely to be the centerpiece of the exhibit.
The famous picture was taken by the Cuban photographer Alberto Dias Gutierrez. It would be fair to say lots of people around the world still cherish the image of Che who has become as popular as Charlie Chaplin or Marilyn Monroe.
Guevara’s courageous and austere image seems to be ubiquitous these days – his face is on posters and T-shirts, even on refrigerator magnets. Pop stars put it on the cover of their albums. Graffiti artists paint huge Che portraits on the walls and fences all over the world. No wonder the image graces the Cuban national currency.
Che Guevara, the legendary revolutionary who played an important role in history of Latin America, was buried in the village of La Higuera, where he was executed on October 9, 1967. In 1997, his remains were finally laid to rest in Cuba in a funeral with full military honors by order of Fidel Castro. There is a giant bronze statue built atop Che Guevara’s tomb in Santa Clara. All in all, Cuba is rife with monuments and memorials dedicated to the heroic revolutionary.
Incidentally, “che” stands for a “good guy” or “friend” in Argentine Spanish. The word is commonly used by those greeting each other: “Hello, che!” or “How’re you doing, che?”
Ernesto “Che” Guevara apparently personifies a “good Argentine guy” for many people. Forty years on, Guevara’s courage, determination and integrity still inspire lots of people around the world.
Translated by Guerman Grachev