Walk down any high street in this country and chances are at some point you’ll see somebody wearing a Che Guevara t shirt. Most of whom have absolutely no idea who he was and what he stood for. Still, it’s a nice image, and he was handsome…
Che Guevara was born in Argentina in 1928; initially he trained to be a doctor but became politically conscious and abandoned his vocation in order to travel across South America on the back of a motorbike. It was in Mexico in 1955 that Che met a young Fidel Castro who with his brother Raul had been exiled from his Cuban homeland and was preparing for an uprising there by training a crack squad of rebels in the Mexican countryside. This was Che’s calling. It’s what he’d been waiting his whole life for. It was his destiny.
In this latest edition of his BAFTA nominated series of lectures, writer and broadcaster Mark Steel travels to South America and turns his attentions to the life and revolutionary times of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a man who started out on a motorcycle holiday, only to end up being made Foreign Minister of Cuba. Which of course is nice work if you can get it.
Despite numerous efforts to depict Che as a ruthless rebel over the years, there was something about him that’s meant he’s survived as the epitome of cool rebellion - even today, to align yourself with Che is to identify with idealism and passion. Join Mark as he charts the course of Che’s life – from the mystery surrounding the faking of both his birth and death certificates, the childhood asthma where he was made to sleep with a stray cat, the drunken shenanigans of his youth, right through to the Cuban revolution and his subsequent appointment as Cuba’s Foreign Minister, the ill fated attempted revolution in the Congo and his ultimately tragic journey to Bolivia.
First broadcast: Tuesday 7 Oct 2003 on BBC Four