Love him or hate him, Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Che Guevara) is one of the most popular revolutionary figures of modern times. His image is seen on posters, T-shirts, murals, postcards, flags, backpacks…anything you can imagine really. But how much do people really know about him, apart from the fact that he looked good in a beret?
Did you know…
- Che is not his first name, or a name at all. Che is a slang term from Argentina that loosely translates as ‘dude’.
- Although many people associate him with Cuba, he was from Argentina. (Hence the nickname ‘che’).
- He studied medicine and graduated as a doctor.
- He had severe asthma.
- His face is on the 3 Peso banknote in Cuba- the Cuban Peso: CUP, not the tourist money which is the Convertible Peso or CUC.
- While many consider him a hero, others condemn his acts as brutal (he ordered hundreds of executions during his time as Comandante in Cuba). Some also blame his influence for sparking revolutions that lead to the reinforcement of military tyranny in parts of Latin America.
- In 1967 he was executed by the Bolivian army, (in a local schoolhouse) while attempting to incite a people’s revolution.
- Some Catholics in the area where he was executed consider him a saint; Saint Ernesto. His sainthood is unofficial and not recognized by the Vatican.
- A lock of Che’s hair was taken by one of the CIA agents (Cuban born) upon his death. It was sold some 40 years later for $100 000 US.
- His hands were cut off (for identification purposes) so that Castro could not claim that it was not Guevara’s body.
- Nelson Mandela referred to him as: “An inspiration for every human being who loves freedom”.
- The most iconic image of Che Guevara was taken by photographer Alberto Korda. It was hung in his house where an Italian journalist saw it and asked if he could have it. Korda agreed and the rest is history. Now the portrait is a part of pop culture. Neither Che nor the photographer benefitted from the photo.
- He probably would not have approved of his face being used to sell t-shirts. He despised consumerism and capitalism and probably rolls over in his grave every time his picture is printed onto a hat.
- The movie ‘the Motorcycle Diaries‘ is based on his trip through South America with Alberto Granado in the 1950’s. In reality the motorbike broke down very early on into the journey and he took other forms of transportation for the rest of the trek.
- He spent nine months in the Congo, in Central Africa where he attempted to spark a revolution. He considered the mission to be a huge failure.
- His trip through South America was planned spontaneously and made a huge impact on him. This is part of the reason why people still admire him. For some, his sense of adventure and freedom is what makes him an icon. For others it was his willingness to fight to the death for a cause he believed in; a cause that started as a desire to improve human rights for oppressed peoples and fight inequality.
If you know any other interesting facts about el Che, please share! What kind of impression do you have of him? Is he a hero or a villain?
‘One man’s terrorist, is another man’s freedom fighter’ as the quote goes (from ‘Harry’s Game’, a novel by Gerald Seymour).
My background makes it hard for me to give my blessing to some of what he did. What somebody stands for is one thing, but what they actually commit to, is quite different.
Exactly. Whether he is a good or bad guy depends very much on perspective. I find it funny that so many people wear him on T-shirts and have posters of him without really knowing much about him. It’s quite ironic that he became such a pop culture icon.