Introduction

Dictionary of Irish Latin American Biography



Ernesto [Che] Guevara
(1928-1967)
(Library of Congress "Yanker Poster Collection", www.loc.gov)
 

Guevara, Ernesto [Che] (1928-1967), physician and revolutionary, was born on 14 June 1928 in the city of Rosario, Argentina, the eldest son of Ernesto Guevara Lynch (1900-1987) and Celia de la Serna (1906-1967). Ernesto Guevara Lynch's mother was Ana Lynch (1861-1947), born in San Francisco, California, where her father Francisco de Paula E. Lynch (1817-1886) was the consul of Buenos Aires. The Lynchs were an influential family with branches in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Among their members were soldiers, politicians and intellectuals, like the Chilean rear admiral Patricio Lynch Zaldívar (1824-1886), and the Argentine distinguished writers Benito Lynch (1882-1951) and Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999).

Ernesto (jun.) suffered from respiratory conditions, so the family moved in 1932 to Altagracia, in the central province of Córdoba, which offered a mild and dry weather. Ernesto Guevara's brothers and sisters Roberto, Celia, Ana María, and Juan Martín were born in Córdoba. Ernesto was sent to Córdoba city to study at Dean Funes national school. In 1947 Ernesto Guevara entered the school of medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, and graduated in 1953. During this period he traveled throughout Latin America, including Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.

The year of his graduation Ernesto Guevara went to Guatemala and got acquainted with Antonio Ñico López Fernández and other revolutionaries who worked for the president Jacobo Arbenz. A CIA-military coup toppled Arbenz, and Guevara settled in Mexico in 1954. In July 1955 he enrolled in Fidel Castro's Granma expedition, which left Tuxpan on 25 November 1956 and landed a week later in Cuba. The rebels were defeated, but on 17 January 1957 overpowered the regular army in Uvero (a battle that Guevara considered the maturity of the revolution). In June 1957 Guevara was appointed chief of the rebels' fourth regiment, which arrived the following year at Camagüey. By yearend they occupied the city of Santa Clara and finally entered in Havana on 2 January 1959. Guevara was awarded the Cuban citizenship, and that year was appointed president of the national bank. In 1955 Ernesto Guevara married Hilda Gadea and they had a daughter, Hilda Beatriz. He married again in 1959, his second wife being Aleida Marsh, and they had four children, Ernesto, Camilo, Celia, and Aleida. In 1961 Ernesto Guevara became minister of industries.

Between 1960 and 1965 Ernesto Guevara traveled in commercial missions to countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America to increase Cuban international trade, foster ideological dialogue, and support a military alliance against the threat of the United States. He also represented Cuba in international conferences and bodies. Guevara resigned to his official appointments, left Cuba on 3 October 1965 and arrived in Bolivia with an Uruguayan passport and under the name of Adolfo Mena González. He joined the local guerrilla in November and after an encounter in Quebrada del Yuro he was seriously injured. On 9 October 1965 Ernesto Guevara was executed in Higuera together with other six rebels. His body was discovered in 1997 and the remains were buried in Cuba.

On the belief that successful revolutions were only possible with the material support of well-organized armies, Guevara developed the primacy of military struggle and the guerilla foci, by which cumulative attacks over relatively small targets would develop the people's revolutionary awareness. Privately, he was critical to the Soviet Union and claimed that the world's northern hemisphere, including the US and the USSR, exploited the southern hemisphere. He was enthusiastic about the Vietnamese revolution and urged his comrades in South America to create "many Vietnams". Among Guevara's published works are The Bolivian Diary, Guerrilla Warfare, The African Dream: The Diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo, and The Motorcycle Diaries.

In Ireland and other places of the Irish Diaspora, Ernesto Guevara's life and thinking is sometimes linked with his Irish ancestry. However, Guevara's family and cultural connections with Ireland were far and remote. Two centuries and six generations of an ethnically mixed family separated Guevara from his ancestor Patrick Lynch, born in 1715 in Lydican Castle, Co. Galway, and member of a merchant family prominent in Jamaica and elsewhere in the West Indies. Patrick Lynch left Ireland in the 1740s and after traveling throughout the Americas settled in Buenos Aires in 1749 and established a successful merchant business. There is no evidence that Ernesto Guevara identified with Irish culture, though his father observed that Ernesto was descended from "Irish rebels" (interview by I. Lavretsky, 1969). However, Guevara was conscious of his roots, in particular the mixed cultures of his family. In an early diary with notes about his 1950 trip to the Argentine northern provinces, he recorded that 'the well-shaked mix of Irish and Galician [blood] flowing through my veins' had an influence in his determination to cross a desert in Santiago del Estero (Guevara Lynch 1988: 331). Nevertheless, Ernesto was proud of his Argentine origin and his Cuban nationality, and regarded himself as Latin American. One other possible source of misinformation was an interview on 13 March 1965 by the journalist Arthur Quinlan. Guevara was on his way back to Havana from Prague, and the Cuban Airlines aircraft developed mechanical trouble and landed at Shannon airport. According to Quinlan, Guevara spoke in English and talked of his Irish connections through the name Lynch. He went with friends to Limerick and stayed in the Hanratty's Hotel on Glentworth Street. Most likely, this was the closest connection that Che Guevara had with Ireland.

Edmundo Murray

From Jim Byrne, Philip Coleman and Jason King (eds.), Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics and History
(Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, forthcoming 2006).

 

Revised January 2007


References

- Anderson, Jon Lee, Che Guevara: a Revolutionary Life (New York: Grove Press, 1997).

- Castañeda, Jorge G., Compañero: Vida y muerte de Che Guevara (Mexico: Grijalbo, 1997).

- Coghlan, Eduardo A., Los Irlandeses en la Argentina: Su Actuación y Descendencia (Buenos Aires, 1987).

- Guevara Lynch, Ernesto, Mi hijo el Che (La Habana: Editorial Arte y Literatura, 1988).


Copyright © ABC-CLIO, 2005

Online published: 1 November 2005
Edited: 07 May 2009

Citation:
Murray, Edmundo, '
Guevara, Ernesto [Che] (1928-1967)' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" November-December 2005 (www.irlandeses.org).


 

The Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2005

 Copyright Information