Ernesto Che Guevara was one of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution. When speaking, he often used the interjection “Che,” as is common among many Argentineans. As a result, his brothers in arms began calling him “Che.” The nickname stuck. Ernesto Guevara de La Serna was born in Rosario, Argentina on June 14, 1928, into an upper class family. He fell ill with chronic asthma at a very young age, a condition that would inspire him to become an allergist. In 1952 Guevara traveled with his friend Alberto Granado along the Pacific coast of Latin America. They visited regions that were dominated by major landowners and dictatorships. Guevara was shocked by the poverty he saw throughout the continent. In 1954 he moved to Mexico City, where he met Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuban exiles who opposed the dictator Fulgencio Batista.
On December 2, 1956, he landed in Cuba with a guerrilla group led by Castro. Guevara was initially enrolled as the mission’s medical doctor. However, his charisma and unexpected military skills soon made him a leader among the Cuban rebels. They began to refer to him as the “Commander.” After a long series of battles amid the Sierra Maestra mountains, on January 1, 1959 the rebels took control of Havana, the capital of Cuba, and soon installed a Marxist-inspired government. Guevara’s experiences in the Sierra Maestra would provide the practical basis of his treatise on military strategy, “Guerrilla Warfare.” The victory in Cuba turned him into a politician. In Havana he was put in charge of agricultural reform, and subsequently appointed Minister of Industry. But most importantly, he was the ambassador of the Cuban revolution: a position that made Guevara responsible for establishing international relations on Cuba’s behalf and took him on many official visits.
On April 1, 1964, Guevara left Cuba. The following year he took part in a failed uprising in Congo. After returning to Havana, now a focus point for revolutionaries all over the Third World, he organized another mission to Bolivia, where he intended to lend his support to a peasant revolution. On October 8, 1967, he was wounded and taken prisoner by the Bolivian army.
Guevara was killed the following afternoon. He was 39. His premature death and unfailing devotion to revolution turned him into an icon of mass youth protest.