Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna Lynch, famously known as Che Guevara was a Marxist revolutionary, diplomat, and military theorist, and leading figure in the Cuban revolution. He was born on 14 June 1928 to a middle-class family in Rosario, Argentina.
Guevara is associated with a theory of communist revolution and a military strategy of guerrilla welfare known as Guevarism. He is a prevalent icon of anti-imperialism and is regarded as a martyred hero by many generations of socialists worldwide. You might know Guevara as an integral part of the Cuban revolution, but there are many other little-known facts about him. So here are 10 interesting facts about Che Guevara that you might not know.
1. A Qualified Doctor
Although Guevara didn’t fit into the white-coat setting, he successfully graduated as a physician from the University of Buenos Aires in 1953 with a focus on Leprosy. He later traveled to Mexico City, did an internship at Mexico City’s General Hospital, and also delivered lectures at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Later in 1955, Guevara joined Fidel and Raul Castro’s Cuban Revolution initially as the force’s doctor.
Guevara got his famous nickname ‘Che’ in 1953 and it is a filler word that means buddy, pal, or mate. If he’d been French, he would have been known as ‘Copain Guevara’. Also, he was called ‘Chancho’ which means pig in school due to his poor personal hygiene and reluctance to shower. He also had the nickname ‘Fuser’ in rugby due to his aggressive style of play.
3. Asthma Patient
From an early age, Che was suffering from acute Asthma which afflicted him all his life. However, asthma could not hold him as he excelled in sports like rugby, football, swimming, and golf. He was an avid rugby player and when his father tried to convince him to quit the sport because of asthma, he said he would play rugby even if it kills him showing his love for the game. He also played for San Isidro Youth Club.
4. Not A Cuban
In contrast to what many people believe, Guevara was not Cuban although he is mostly known for his contribution to the Cuban revolution. He was born in Argentina and his parents had Spanish and Irish backgrounds. His father believes Guevara to have drawn rebellious elements from both sides of the family tree and is quoted saying “the first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels”.
5. Cuban Literacy Campaign
After the Cuban Revolution, the Literacy Campaign started in Cuba in which Guevara had a major role. He believed that the lack of education facilities was the main reason behind the low literacy rate. So, Guevara asked the Cuban government to construct schools, train new educators and teach predominantly illiterate guajiro (peasants) to read and write. By the end of the campaign, the literacy rate of Cuba reached 96 percent which was around 60-70 percent before.
6. Poetry Lover
One of Guevara’s passions was poetry. He was home-schooled due to asthma and his curiosity for knowledge was fueled by thousands of books his family-owned. He was even carrying a weathered green book on his deathbed which consisted of his favorite poems he had handwritten. Some of his favorite authors were William Faulkner, Karl Marx, Jules Verne, John Keats, Franz Kafka, Pablo Neruda, and Cesar Vallejo.
7. Revolutionary Banker
After the Cuban revolution, Guevara was given important positions in the field of finance and economy. He became the President of the National Bank of Cuba and was appointed as the finance minister in 1959. During his service, he tried to minimize imports (especially with the US) and improve the country’s economy. He is a national hero in Cuba and has his image on the three-peso banknote.
8. Revolution in Other Countries
Although Guevara is famous for his role in the Cuban revolution, he also assisted the armed revolution in two more countries i.e Congo and Bolivia. He was determined to spread his ideas all around the world. However, due to cultural differences, his ideas didn’t work everywhere.
9. Motorbike Trips
When he was a medical student, Guevara went across South America on his motorbike. This was an eye-opener for Che as he saw intense poverty and exploitation of farmers and workers. Deep cracks in the political and economic systems of most South American countries made Guevara determined to fight for change. His account of his second journey ‘The motorcycle diaries’ became a New York bestseller and a 2004 film.
10. Father of Five
Guevara had 5 children, one with his first wife Hilda Gadea, and four with his second wife Aleida March. He divorced Hilda Gadea in 1959 and married Aleida in the same year. His firstborn Hildita Guevara died of Cancer in 1995 while the other four, Aleida, Camilo, Celia, and Ernesto are still alive.
11. His Death
Guevara’s death was a mystery for a while. The Bolivian army executed him on October 9, 1967, at the age of 39. He was captured by Bolivian troops while trying to foment revolution and executed the day after. His hands were cut and sent to Argentina for identification which eventually reached Cuba.
The rest of the body was unknown until 28 years later, Bolivian General Mario Vargas told that Che’s body was buried near the airstrip in Vallegrande. After a year-long search, in July 1997, his remains were found particularly due to the lack of his hands and teeth. The remains were then sent back to Cuba and given full military burials in Santa Clara by Fidel Castro and thousands of Cubans.