The story of Ernesto Guevara, a child who was born to a well-to-do Argentine family who went on to become a medical doctor sounds like a success story. Ernesto Guevara probably isn’t a name many people recognize, add the word “Che” to the name—Ernesto “Che” Guevara—and many people recognize the name of a famed revolutionary of the 1960’s. Even now, forty-four years after his death, his name and image remain popular. To some Che Guevara is idolized as a man of the people, a freedom fighter for the downtrodden, who gave his life in the struggle to free peoples of the world to live in a “better” society; for others he was a ruthless killer who was willing to die to be a martyr for his cause. This paper will look at the life of Che Guevara and what made him the cult figure in death he could not be in life.
Ernesto Guevara—the Beginning
Ernesto Guevara was born in 1928, the eldest of five children of a wealthy middle-class Argentine family. Ernesto’s mother schooled him at home until age nine when he entered public schools. The political climate in Argentina at the time was fairly volatile but “Guevara was not remembered to have any overt political leanings as a high school student” (Petersen, 2005, Early Years section, para. 2).
After graduation from high school Ernesto took a job working in a laboratory conducting studies of soil samples in the town of Villa Maria; his family moved to Buenos Aires the following year. Shortly after the move his grandmother died and he decided to become a doctor (Petersen, 2005, Early Years section, para. 3.)
He began his medical studies at the Buenos Aires University. Up to this point in his life he could be categorized as a fairly typical middle-class young man, but change was not far away.
Ernesto Guevara—the Beginnings of Change
An article in National Geographic magazine October 14, 2004 states that by his second year of school Ernesto had become “tired of school and itching to see the world” (Lovgren, para. 1). In January 1952 Ernesto left on an eight month trip with his friend Alberto Granada that would take them through seven countries in South America with Ernesto continuing on to Miami, Florida before returning to Buenos Aires to complete his medical degree. During this time period United States business organizations were heavily invested in Latin America. This time period originated the term “Banana Republic;” it meant a country that was exploited by Unites States business organizations and whose government was propped up by the United States to allow the exploitation to continue.
Ernesto kept a diary and recorded that during the trip they observed what he described as the abuse, and careless attitude for workers health and safety by officials of the Anaconda mining company, the Kennecott mining company, and the United Fruit Company which were all American conglomerates. His eyes were opened to the abject poverty most lived in while a few elite lived at the top of the social structure. A...