Guevara, Che, byname of ERNESTO GUEVARA DE LA SERNA (b. June 14, 1928, Rosario, Arg: d. October 1967, Bolivia), theoretician and tactician of guerilla warfare, prominent Communist figure in the Cuban Revolution (1956-59), and later guerrilla leader in South America.
Guevara was the eldest of five children in a middle-class family of Spanish-Irish descent and leftist leanings.
Though suffering from asthma, he excelled as an athlete and a scholar, completing his medical studies in 1953. He spent many of his holidays travelling in Latin America, and his observations of the great poverty of the masses convinced him that the only solution lay in violent revolution.
He came to look upon Latin America not as collection of separate nations but as a cultural and economic entity, the liberation of which would require an intercontinental strategy.
In 1953 Guevara went to Guatemala, where Jacobo Arbenz headed a progressive regime that was attempting to bring about a social revolution. (Around this time Guevara acquired his nickname, from a verbal mannerism of Argentines who punctuate their speech with the interjection che)
The overthrow of the Arbenz regime in 1954 in a coup supported by the U.S Central Intelligence Agency persuaded Guevara that the United States would alwavs oppose progressive leftist governments. This conviction became the corner stone of his plans to bring about Socialism by means of a worldwide revolution.
He left Guatemala for Mexico, where he met the Cuban brothers, Fidel and Raul Castro, political exiles who were preparing an tempt to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. Guevara joined Castro’s force, which landed in the Cuban province of Oriente late in November 1956.
Immediately they were detected by Batista’s army, they were almost wiped out: the few survivors, including the wounded Guevara, reached the Sierra Maestra, where they became the nucleus of a guerrilla army.
The rebels slowly gained in strength, seizing weapons from Batista’s forces and winning support and new recruits.
Guevara became one of Castro’s most trusted aides and recorded the two years spent in over throwing Batista’s government in Pasajes la guerra revolucionaria (1963; Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War, 1968).
After Castro’s victorious troops entered Havana on Jan. 2, 1959, and established a Marxit government, Guevara became a Cuban citizen, as prominent in the new government as he had been in the revolutionary army, representing Cuba on many commercial missions.
He also became well known in the West for his opposition to all forms of imperialism and neocolonialism and for his attacks on U.S. foreign policy. He served as chief of the Industrial Department of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform, president of the National Bank of Cuba, and minister of industry,
During the early 1960s, he defined Cuba’s policies and his own views in many speeches and writings, notably “El socialismo y el hombre en Cuba” (1965; “Man and Socialism in Cuba,” 1967)-an examination of Cuba’s new brand of Communism-Guerrilla Warfare, 1961).
After April 1965 Guevara dropped out of public life. His movements and whereabouts for the next two years remained secret; it was later learned that he had spent some time in the Congo with other Cuban guerrilla fighters, helping to organize the Patrice Lumumba Battalion, which fought in the civil war there.
In the autumn of 1966, Guevara went to Bolivia, incognito, to create and lead a guerrilla group in the region of Santa Cruz.
On Oct 8, 1967, the group was almost annihilated by special detachment of the Bolivian Army. Guevara was captured after being wounded and shot soon afterward. © Culled from Pages 545-546 The New Encyclopedia Britannica Volume 5.