Che Guevara Photo: The Iconic Image Explained

By | March 5, 2020

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Guerrillero Heroico. (Wikipedia Commons)

Taken on March 5, 1960 in Havana, Cuba by photographer Alberto Korda, this famous photo of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara is one of the most unavoidable photos in pop culture and human history. Titled Guerillero Heroico, you've undoubtedly seen Che Guevara's photo on mugs, t-shirts, purses, posters, magnets, and perhaps even painted on the sides of buildings. But just who is this Che Guevara character, and why is his face all over the place?

Che Guevara was an Argentine Communist revolutionary who was most notable for helping Fidel Castro take Cuba from the brutal dictator Fulgencio Batista and restructure the nation into a socialist republic. Che's legacy is a complicated one, and your opinion of whether or not he was a good person probably depends on what country you live in. In America, for example, there are two Ches: The idealist leader who fought for human rights and stands as a symbol of progressive social revolution, and the mass-murdering psychopath whose cruelty barely overshadowed his half-baked notions of foreign policy and the economy. It's all very sticky.

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Che as Minister of Industry in 1963. (Wikipedia Commons)

So what's the truth? Which Che Guevara is real? Let's start this with what we know as fact. Che was born as Ernesto Guevara in Rosario, Argentina on June 14, 1928. He was an exceptionally bright boy and didn't let his asthma stop him from being active in sports. Both of his parents were politically and socially minded, encouraging him to read philosophy, poetry, and mathematics. He earned a medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires, but he took lengthy breaks from his studies to ride his motorcycle across rural South America, where he saw poverty and starvation like he had never imagined. In his most famous book, The Motorcycle Diaries, he credits this experience for influencing his views on the world and his place in it.