Ernesto Guevara.

Essay by fallunderHigh School, 12th gradeA, June 2003

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Ernesto Guevara, the preeminent Latin-American revolutionary of the late twentieth century, was the symbol of radical egalitarianism and the war against social injustice. Gunned down in the jungles of southeastern Bolivia in 1967, his death is surrounded by questions that remain unanswered. Jorge G. Castañeda probes Che's life with a storyteller's pen and an historian's judgment, delving into the mystery and myth surrounding Che's life, careers, and ideals. Castañeda has access to archives open to few researchers, and he has reached a range of insiders who worked with, and fought beside, Che during the time of his revolutionary activity in Mexico, Cuba, Africa, and South America. Also at Castañeda 's unique disposal is a previously unknown manuscript written by Che Guevara himself, describing his experiences in the Congo during the "missing year" in his life.

From his inclusion of such unique material as Che's teenage love letters to his detailed review of archives in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, Castañeda provides the most balanced and thorough account of Che's personal and political endeavors, but biography at its best.

He places each stage of Che's career in its social, cultural, and political context, and he tackles thorny questions that are crucial to understanding the entire Socialist venture: Did the Soviets help or betray Che in the Congo and Bolivia? Did Fidel Castro wish him well or hope for his demise? And, perhaps most compelling of all, how did a blue-blooded, asthmatic doctor from Argentina transcend ideology and politics to become the icon known as Che?

This work by Castañeda is particularly interesting as it outlines and explains Che Guevara's late political/philosophical development. He wasn't a Communist prodigy nurtured for grand social revolution at all. Understanding Guevara's early years, as well as his communist metamorphosis in Guatemala, is essential, if one...