A half-century after his death, Ernesto “Che” Guevara will be remembered in ceremonies next week in Cuba and in Bolivia, whose CIA-trained troops sent shockwaves around the world when they executed the Cold War revolutionary icon in 1967.
In Cuba — where schoolchildren still begin their day with a raised fist salute and chant “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che” — President Raul Castro will lead a ceremony at his mausoleum in the central town of Santa Clara.
The 86-year-old Castro’s memories will be deeply personal as he fought alongside Che in the Cuban revolution led by his brother Fidel that in 1959 overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista.
In Bolivia, the army will participate at a public commemoration of his death for the first time.
Here is a timeline of his life.
– Argentina, travels in Latin America –
Guevara is born on June 14, 1928, in Rosario, Argentina. In 1945 his family moves to the capital Buenos Aires where “Che” — a nickname linked to his Argentinian origins — enrolls to study medicine at university.
In 1950 he starts his formative journeys of exploration across Latin America, including a nine-month motorbike trek undertaken in 1951 that he wrote up as “The Motorcycle Diaries.”
Despite taking time off for his travels, he completes his medical studies in 1953.
– The Cuban revolution –
In July 1955 Guevara meets Fidel Castro in Mexico, where the young Cuban is preparing an insurgency. In December the following year he heads to Cuba with Castro and 80 other revolutionaries. After several victorious battles against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, Guevara is promoted to commander.
He enters Havana — before Castro — in January 1959, signaling the end of Batista’s regime.
“Che” is appointed president of the Cuban central bank and then minister of industry.
– The African adventure –
In 1964, by now with an international reputation, Guevara undertakes a trip of three months to various countries, including China and some in Africa.
In April the following year he arrives in the Congo, today the Democratic Republic of Congo, in an attempt to start up a revolutionary war in Africa, which fails dismally.
– A last stand in Bolivia –
“Che” quietly returns to Cuba in 1966 and works on a plan to spread the revolution into Latin America, starting with Bolivia.
By 1967 he is clandestinely leading a guerrilla group in Bolivia. On October 8 he is wounded in a clash with the Bolivian army and captured.
The following day he is executed in the southeastern village of La Higuera. He is 39 years old.
His remains, found in an unmarked mass grave in July 1997, would be returned to Cuba 30 years after his death and buried with military honors.