Hispanic Heritage

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Notable Hispanics: Ernesto "Che" Guevara

Argentina-born Ernesto "Che" Guevara wore many hats, including those of Marxist revolutionary, physician and guerilla leader, over the course of his remarkable and influential life.

Now often referred to as simply "Che," Guevara would intersperse his collegiate pursuits, which included studying medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, with two lengthy journeys through Latin America. It was during these journeys when Guevara witnessed crippling poverty, poor working conditions, hunger and disease, sights that would shape his political ideology, an ideology that can be described as both radical and anti-imperialist.

Over the course of his life, Guevara involved himself in social reform and political uprisings. His first such involvement occurred in 1953, when Guevara traveled to Guatemala in support of Jacobo Arbenz, who was leader of a progressive regime that espoused social revolution. Arbenz's regime was ultimately overthrown by a coup that had the backing of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, and that U.S. involvement led Guevara to believe that the country would always oppose his views.

After leaving Guatemala, Guevara met Cuban political exiles Raul and Fidel Castro in Mexico, where the brothers were making plans to overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, who had the support of the United States. This would prove a fateful meeting, though the group's initial efforts would ultimately prove disastrous. Though many of their supporters were wiped out, Guevara and Raul and Fidel Castro would survive and inspire a guerilla arm that gradually gained strength, eventually defeating Batista and establishing a Marxist government in Cuba.

Guevara became an influential leader in Cuba and a trusted ally of the Castro brothers, helping to define the country's policies.

But the revolutionary did not stay in Cuba very long, instead leaving the country to help organize guerilla efforts in the Republic of the Congo and later Bolivia. It was in the latter country, as he attempted to lead a guerilla group in the region of Santa Cruz, where Guevara would lose his life after his group was attacked by the Bolivian Special Forces. Many of the fighters under Guevara's leadership were killed during the attack, and Guevara himself was wounded and captured. He was later executed on the order of Bolivian President Rene Barrientos.