Socialist revolutionary and guerilla leader Che Guevara, aged 39, is killed by the Bolivian army. The U.S.-military-backed Bolivian forces captured Guevara on 8 October while battling his band of guerillas in Bolivia and assassinated him the following day. His hands were cut off as proof of death and his body was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1997, Guevara’s remains were found and sent back to Cuba, where they were reburied in a ceremony attended by President Fidel Castro and thousands of Cubans.
Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna was born to a well-off family in Argentina in 1928. While studying medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, he took time off to travel around South America on a motorcycle; during this time, he witnessed the poverty and oppression of the lower classes. He received a medical degree in 1953 and continued his travels around Latin America, becoming involved with left-wing organisations. In the mid 1950s, Guevara met up with Fidel Castro and his group of exiled revolutionaries in Mexico. Guevara played a key role in Castro’s seizure of power from Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and later served as Castro’s right-hand man and minister of industry. Guevara strongly opposed U.S. domination in Latin America and advocated peasant-based revolutions to combat social injustice in Third World countries. He became president of the Cuban national bank and helped to shift the country’s trade relations from the United States to the Soviet Union. Castro later described him as “an artist of revolutionary warfare.”
Guevara resigned—some say he was dismissed—from his Cuban government post in April 1965, possibly over differences with Castro about the nation’s economic and foreign policies. Guevara then disappeared from Cuba, traveled to Africa and eventually resurfaced in Bolivia, where he was killed. Following his death, Guevara achieved hero status among people around the world as a symbol of anti-imperialism and revolution. A 1960 photo taken by Alberto Korda of Guevara in a beret became iconic and has since appeared on countless posters and T-shirts. However, not everyone considers Guevara a hero: He is accused, among other things, of ordering the deaths of hundreds of people in Cuban prisons during the revolution.
Jim Fitzpatrick is an Irish artist famous for Irish Celtic art. Perhaps his most famous piece is his iconic two-tone portrait of Che Guevara created in 1968 and based on the photo by Alberto Korda. As a lifelong communist and supporter of the Cuban Revolution until his death, Alberto Korda claimed no payment for his picture. The modified version of the portrait by Jim Fitzpatrick was also reproduced on a range of different media, though Korda never asked for royalties. Korda reasoned that Che’s image represented his revolutionary ideals, and thus the more his picture spread the greater the chance Che’s ideals would spread as well. Korda’s refusal to seek royalties for the vast circulation of his photograph helped it become the ultimate symbol of Marxist revolution and anti-imperialist struggle.
In 2011, Jim Fitzpatrick announced his intention to copyright the iconic red and black Che Guevara graphic, which he initially released copyright-free for intended use among revolutionary groups in Europe and elsewhere. He blamed “crass commercial” use of the image for his decision and handed over the copyright and all rights, in perpetuity, to the family of Guevara in Cuba.
Jim Fitzpatrick met Che Guevara in the Royal Marine Hotel bar in Kilkee, Co Clare, in the summer of 1961. Fitzpatrick was 16 years old at the time, and had travelled down to the seaside village to work in the hotel while on holidays from Gormanstown College, Co Meath.
“When it was announced he had been murdered in 1967, the next day his father was quoted in the Evening Press — I have the paper — as saying, ‘The blood of the Irish revolutionary ran in my sons’ veins’.”
Featured Image | Jim Fitzpatrick’s iconic two-tone portrait of Che Guevara created in 1968 and based on the photo by Alberto Korda