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Forty Years Past Che

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Forty years after his death, Che Guevara still inspires.


Whether his legacy inspires admiration or hatred may depend on where one stands: with the oppressed or with the privileged, as a social leftist or as a conservative. His image has come to represent revolution and radical politics around the world, particularly in Latin America, and particularly among youth.


Born into a family of both privilege and leftist ideals, Che Guevara had access to education, including medical training and deep studies of political systems. His travels as a young man throughout Latin America inspired him to act on behalf of the poor and the powerless.


His experiences led him to became a Marxist and a guerilla fighter who believed the only way to stop imperialism and the suffering of people was to pick up arms. “We cannot and may not cherish the illusion that we can obtain freedom without battle,” said Che Guevara.


He is best known for his leading role in helping Fidel Castro overthrow Fulgencia Batista, the dictator of Cuba, in 1959.  His other attempts at overthrowing governments in Latin American countries failed.


Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna was born June 14, 1928 in Rosario, Argentina. His parents, who were of Spanish and Irish descent, had four more children after Ernesto.  The family was well-to-do, with aristocratic roots but socialistic ideas.  

Guevara took on the name “Che” as a teenager after he began calling everyone “Che,” which means “pal” or “friend” in English. 

Che Guevara set out on a motorcycle trip with his friend Alberto Granado through the countries of Latin America in 1952. It was during this trip that he found his life’s desire and dedication to fight to improve the lives of the common people. In Valparaiso, Chile, he wrote in his diary : "We are looking for the bottom part of the town. We talk to many beggars. Our noses inhale attentively the misery."

In a very poor region of Peru he noted in his journal the words of another Latin American named José Marti: "I want to link my destiny to that of the poor of this world."

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.-She publishes, a health and science news site.
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