Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna, better known as Che Guevara, probably was the most popular revolutionary of our time. All his lifetime, he put himself out for his ideas and ideals as a politician but as well as guerilla fighter.
Che Guevara was born on June 28th, 1928 in the Argentinian city of Rosario, where he wasn’t able to go to public school due to his severe asthma. When his condition of health bettered, however, he was looking for more and more social contacts, especially to those living in the poor neighbourhoods, although Che grew up in a wealthy family. Che Guevara, who began to notice the miserable conditions of life for the lower social classes only in his early adolescence, felt that the inequalities in his society were both alarming and fatal, a feeling to determine his further political development. Since that time, he began to feel the political discontent growing inside him, which would later on lead him to his deeds, although he had never had to suffer from the negative aspects of those social structures personally.
His grandmother’s death motivated sensitive Che Guevara to study medicine at the “Universidad Nacional de Córdoba” (National University of Córdoba). This way, he intended to fulfil his wish, that is, to help others. He achieved his doctorate much later, however, as he had planned a trip all over the Latin-American continent with a friend before, in order to get to know the social circumstances in other countries as well. During his travels, he soon noticed that social justice in the neighbouring states were as bad as in his Argentinian home country, if not worse.
On another journey after his doctorate, Che carefully watched the actions of the global company “United Fruits” in Costa Rica, as he strolled about their areas and saw the severe working and living conditions of their workers. Not only here was he deeply touched by the kind of vicious circle every member of a lower class got into. The children couldn’t afford a future-proof education, as it was too costly and time-consumptive. Instead, they had to support their parents through hard labour, so that they could buy their whole family something to eat. The lack of education then prevented them from getting a well-paid job, thus forcing the next generation to do as the previous ones.
Che Guevara knew that the step out of poverty couldn’t be taken by most families without any help from outside, so it was up to politics to offer them help, to change the situation, to lead the people all over the country into solidarity, not to let the poor and the rich drift apart any further through hate and fear. The Peruvian Hilda Gadea, whom Che Guevara had met during his journey through Guatemala, told him about Marxism and made him learn more about its doctrines and he soon found more like-minded people. Che Guevara saw how Guatemala’s president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, was brought down, which was something Che had wanted to prevent, as Guzmán supported the people, even introduced statutory minimum wages. The new president, Castillo Armas, however, arrested many of Guevara’s friends due to their political attitude and their express rejection towards his assumption of office.
In the summer of 1955, Guevara became acquainted with Fidel Castro, who was at that time living in exile in Mexico and had similar political thoughts to Che Guevara’s. He decided to bring down the Cuban president, Batista, and joined forces with other Cubans in exile. Che joined them as their military doctor. He and his fellow-fighters were once more arrested when their intentions and political attitude leaked out. However, they insisted on their plans and started the Cuban revolution in 1956, after they had all been set free.
Although Che Guevara was only acting as a doctor, he soon realised that his ideal obliged him to actively fight as well, which is why he accepted military tasks as well and soon became leader of the revolution due to his tactical and strategical talent. During his time in the Cuban Guerilla War, Che Guevara developed the ideology of the “New Man”. He wanted people to forget the aim of wealth and capital, to create something new and meaningful helping others instead of acting solely dependent on economical success.
He always stated that his idol was the guerilla fighter who put his life on stake for the sake of many people. So, the own advantages were put in the background, whereas the improvement of bad living conditions for all people were much more important. The so-called “New Man” should then be created by the whole society – and therefore all social classes – acting upon these ideals. It’s supposed to be a new human being not feeling satisfied by luxuries and money but for whom the highest aim is the creation of a better world for all. The New Man acting upon these principles doesn’t let himself get carried away by deceit and greed to precipitate others into ruin.
With his ideals, Che inspired millions of people all over the world to live in solidarity and made many of them put themselves out for social justice and fight political dictatorship. Guevara, however, lost his life in an execution as a prisoner in 1967 without any trial whatsoever. Today, we can still often see flags depicting Che Guevara, and especially adolescents often wear t-shirts with his face on them. If Che Guevara was still alive today, Cuba would certainly be better off, and maybe he could even have prevented some wars.
Che Guevara probably became too big a thorn in the flesh of the state, just like Martin Luther King or the Shakur family.
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