Ernesto “Che” Guevara Argentine Revolutionary 1928-1967
most popular T-Shirt salesmen of all time, Ernesto “Che” Guevara spent his childhood in the relative comfort of a middle class Argentine family. He didn’t show revolutionary leanings until a motorcycle journey around South America in his early twenties revealed to him the often inescapable poverty inflicted upon the lower class by the wealthy leaders of governments and industry.
After completing a medical degree, Guevara moved to Bolivia and Guatemala where he witnessed the CIA overthrow of the freely elected and popular President Jacobo Arbenz. Guevara later traveled to Mexico where he met Fidel Castro. The pair, along with a small crew of less than 100 men, soon traveled to Cuba where they eventually overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista against all reasonable odds.
Guevara was a calculating, at times ruthless leader, who demanded complete loyalty. He battled constant asthma and constantly risked his own life for his cause, while not hesitating to execute his own soldiers at the slightest hint of treason. He believed that armed struggle was the only means to an effective revolution, and even encouraged hatred as a means to inspire defeat of your enemy. He defended his armed revolutions in front of the UN and literally wrote the book on “Guerilla Warfare.”
Before his CIA assisted assassination in Bolivia at the age of 39, “Che” had served as Secretary of the Board of Economic Planning of Cuba, and had traveled to Asia, Yugoslavia, the Congo, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia to attempt to spread socialism and export his revolution against oppressive Capitalism and Imperialism.
Augusto C. Sandino Nicaraguan Revolutionary 1895-1934
With cities and ports named after him, statues erected in his honor, and the current ruling party bearing his name, Sandino is by far the most famous revolutionary in Nicaragua’s revolution-happy history. At an early age, Sandino witnessed the dead corpse of Benjamin Zeledon being carried to his grave by the same United States Marines who had caused his death defending his homeland against an oppressive dictatorship. This image stayed with him, as he eventually led Nicaraguan forces in the fight against US imperialism and occupation, carrying an emblem showing the beheading of a US Marine, while gathering throngs of followers and demanding the withdrawal of US troops, free elections supervised by Latin American nations and Nicaraguan control over the then pending canal project.
Sandino was a quick learner and crafty guerilla fighter, constantly harassing and often defeating far superior US battalions. The former peasant farmer forced the US to engage in one of the first aerial bombing campaigns in history, and other times evaded them using straw dummies posed as soldiers, and even once faked his own funeral to trick his American pursuers.
Sandino believed his fight went beyond National pride, and symbolized a fight for his Indian and Spanish blood. He eventually sought the unification of all Latin American nations, and as he interacted with Seventh Day Adventists, Freemasons, Communists and Spiritists, he began writing manifestos proclaiming the “Last Judgment”, in which Nicaragua had been chosen to “begin the prosecution of injustice on earth.”
After years of fighting and with the help of the Great Depression, Sandino eventually secured the withdrawal of US troops, a shrinking of the National Guard and control of the Northern territory of Jinotega in exchange for a cease fire. The National After several months of peace Sandino was murdered by members of the Nicaraguan National Guard after attending a meeting at the Presidential compound.
Simón Bolívar South American Liberator 1783-1830
continent known for its revolutions, no man did more to inspire the independent, fighting spirit than Simon Bolivar. Inspired by the leaders of the recent American Revolution and influenced by liberal childhood mentors who instructed him in the “rights of man,” Bolivar sought to create independent South American republics free from Spanish colonial rule.
Bolivar drew on the military training and wealth of his aristocratic Spanish family to invade, conquer, and liberate much of the South American continent. He began his great conquest with the liberation of his native Venezuela in 1813 where he declared “war to the death” before colonial forces fought back and forced him into brief exile. He returned shortly after, leading successful revolutions in modern day Columbia, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru, from which the northern half was named Bolivia in his honor.
He spent a time as President of Gran Columbia, which encompassed all of these nations, but as dissent grew in several corners of his vast new territory the once great liberator began losing control. Whereas he once risked his life seeking individual freedom from Spanish rule, he soon became dictatorial in his efforts to impose strict unity among the newly formed republics. Dissent grew further and revolutions sprung up against him. He narrowly escaped an assassination attempt before finally resigning the presidency—famously remarking in despair: All who served the revolution have plowed the sea.”
Although he died soon after in preparation for exile he is honored and widely revered today throughout Latin America as the Great Liberator of South America. His name lives on in countless streets, public squares, statues, cities, countries and currency.