Born in 1928 in Rosario, Argentina, Guevara studied medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, later working as a doctor before traveling rough through Central and South America.
His revolutionary principles were formed during his visit to Guatemala in 1954, when he witnessed the brutal overthrow of the socialist government of President Jacobo Arbenz in an American-backed military coup. Shocked by the events, Guevara decided to join the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro in Mexico, in 1956.
After Castro seized power in Cuba in 1959, Guevara served in various high-ranking posts in the new government, also writing a number of articles and books on the theory and practice of guerrilla warfare.
As a minister in Castro's government, Che travelled the world, but quickly became disillusioned with the Soviet Union, accusing Moscow of selling out its people's revolution. The comment had serious consequences for Guevara, as Soviet authorities made their displeasure known to Cuba, effectively banning him from representing the Cuban revolution abroad.
As a result, Guevara left Cuba in 1965, with the intention of spreading the ideals and ideas of the Cuban revolution. However, after spending time in Congo and Czechoslovakia, Guevara was captured in a Bolivian jungle by the country's forces whilst trying to launch a popular insurrection there.
While Castro has always claimed that "They would never have taken him alive if his gun hadn't been damaged," other reports suggest that Che's reaction upon being surrounded by armed men was a lot more human, and that he simply put his hands up and said, "Don't shoot, I'm Che." Whatever the truth, Guevara was executed the next day, October 9, 1967, at noon. He was 39.
Forty years on, Guevara has become the closest thing to a saint among atheist revolutionaries. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Bolivia's Evo Morales, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua have all expressed their admiration of Che.
In Cuba, about 10,000 people attended a ceremony at his mausoleum in Santa Clara, a town where he once fought a battle during Cuba's revolution. Fidel Castro was too ill to attend the event.