*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Cornered in the Yuro ravine in the southeast of Bolivia, Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara was finally captured on October 8, 1967. Since his execution the next day, the Argentine doctor-turned-guerilla-leader has turned into a worldwide representative for the spirit of rebellion.
Born Ernesto Guevara in the city of Rosario, Argentina, the future revolutionary displayed a deep concern for those left behind by the advance of capitalism. Combining this with his father’s liberal political ideals, it seemed only natural that Guevara would gravitate to the works of Karl Marx, though he took advantage of the family library to read authors from all over the world.
Seeking to apply his vast intellect to serve people in the best way possible, Guevara enrolled in the medical school of the University of Buenos Aires in 1948. Now in his early twenties, the young Marxist came down with a case of wanderlust, twice setting out on long motorcycle journeys that would come to define him as a man. Witnessing widespread poverty and horrifying working conditions, Guevara became convinced the fruits of capitalism were wealth for a few and despair for most.
By the time he returned to Argentina and published The Motorcycle Diaries, Guevara had made up his mind the only solution for the whole of South America was the installment of a Communist system. Moving to Guatemala in 1953 with the hopes of honing his revolutionary edge, he connected with the fringe elements of a rebel group led by Fidel and Raul Castro. At the same time, Guevara developed a deep animosity toward the government of the United States for its willingness to prop up dictators with favorable views toward Western democracy.
Convinced he could help the Castros make changes, Guevara joined the Cubans in sailing from Mexico City to their home island in order to overthrow President Fulgenico Batista in late 1956. Under intense fire as they came ashore, just one quarter of the revolutionaries survived. Hiding in the mountains, Guevara helped the men integrate with other militants and gain press attention through a “newspaper” and radio station discussing the group’s ideas. Known as a strict — even ruthless — disciplinarian, Guevara is said to have ordered the execution of dozens of traitors.
After Castro’s forces took control, Guevara acted as a de facto foreign minister for the new government in addition to guiding the financial system and labor departments. Touring allied countries and European powers, he crossed paths with philosophers and writers he had read in his father’s library in Rosario — Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemingway, in particular.
Itching for another fight, Guevara made the mistake of openly attacking the United States. Once on the Central Intelligence Agency’s radar, his location would be sought by American officials for the rest of his life. Looking for a new place to apply his knowledge for others struggling to rise out of poverty, he headed to Africa in 1965 to spread revolutionary zeal beyond the island of Cuba.
Finding it more difficult than he expected to organize resistance in the Congo and Mozambique, he moved covertly through Europe using faked documents in search of another destination. Deciding he could help freedom fighters in the remote forests of Bolivia take advantage of a weak military, he returned to South America in early November 1966 with designs on pulling off another coup. Unable to gain much in the way of support from locals and isolated from his fellow revolutionaries in Cuba, it was only a matter of time before Guevara was captured.
The CIA, his sworn enemies, infiltrated the jungle and helped Bolivian authorities in the chase. Closing the net around Guevara, a tip led Bolivian Special Forces to Yuro ravine on October 8, 1967. Unwilling to submit to interrogation by his captors, the Bolivian president ordered Guevara executed the following day. Early in the afternoon, he was dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
A controversial figure to this day, his epitaph remains an inspiration to those seeking to overcome oppression: “Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that this our battle cry may have reached some receptive ear and another hand may be extended to wield our weapons.”
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1871 – The Great Chicago Fire begins
1895 – Queen Min of Joseon, last empress of Korea, is assassinated by the Japanese — who burn the body for good measure
1932 – The Indian Air Force is formed
2005 – A 7.6 earthquake in Kashmir region (India and Pakistan) kills 79,000