Over the course of February we shared daily photos of Che Guevara, iconic revolutionary leader and hero. These came from a Soviet archive and many of them are quite unusual.
Here we have compiled all of these into a single post, made a couple of additions, and have 32 photos of Che in total.
Each photo has a description and some are accompanied by contextual history and quotes.
There is a little bit of everything from family photos, to the Cuban Revolution, to trips to the USSR, and on. They span from 1943 to 1967.
Che at age 15, 1943
Che trying to climb the Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City, 1956
“Let me tell you one quality that sums him up, one that I most appreciated, among the many I observed in him … Che suffered from asthma. Near Mexico City, there’s a volcano, Popocatepetl, and every weekend Che would try to climb Popocatepetl. He’d get his equipment in order — the mountain is tall, over 5,000 metres, almost 18,000 feet, with snow year-round — and he’d start the ascent. He’d make a tremendous effort, but he’d never make it to the top. The asthma prevented him. The next week he’d try again to climb Popo, as he called it, but he wouldn’t make it. He never made it to the top, he never reached the peak of Popocatepetl. But he kept trying to climb the mountain, and he’d have spent his entire life trying to climb Popocatepetl. He made a heroic effort, although he never managed to reach that summit. So there you see his strength of character. That gives you some idea of his spiritual strength, his constancy.” – Fidel Castro interviewed in My Life: A Spoken Autobiography
Che and Antonio Núñez Jiménez after the victory at Santa Clara, 1958
Che and Jimenez after the revolutionary forces triumphed at the Battle of Santa Clara just as 1958 ended. Within a day of this photo being taken the dictator Batista fled Havana and the revolution triumphed, January 1, 1959. Che was wearing a cast as he had been injured previously during fighting at Caibarién.
Jiménez went on to serve the new government in various capacities. He was a noted academic, anthropologist, and writer and was honoured as a revolutionary hero when he died in Havana in 1998.
Che in the captured barracks of the Leoncio Vidal Regiment after the battle of Santa Clara
Che in the captured barracks of the Leoncio Vidal Regiment after the battle of Santa Clara. This was on January 1, 1959, the same day that the dictator Batista fled Havana and the revolution triumphed.
Che was wearing a cast as he had been injured previously during fighting at Caibarién.
Che with his parents in Havana after the triumph of the revolution, 1959
Iconic photo of leaders and heroes of the Cuban Revolution, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos
Born February 6, 1932, Camilo Cienfuegos was one of the principle revolutionary leaders who, along with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, helped to bring freedom and socialism to Cuba.
Che with his newborn child
A photo of Che with one of his newborn children. The Soviets dated this as 1960, which would mean it was his daughter Aleida, though other sources say it is his daughter Celia which would make it from 1963.
Planning agricultural reforms shortly after the Cuban Revolution
Che, Antonio Núñez Jiménez and Fidel Castro at a meeting dedicated to land reform and redistribution soon after the victory of Cuban Revolution.
Fidel and Che visit the art show at the Soviet Exhibition in Havana, 1960
Che surrounded by children in Revolution Square, Havana, 1960
“Favourite pastime”: Che plays chess, Havana c.1960
Che was an avid, and by all accounts serious, chess player. After the revolution he promoted the idea of chess clubs and tournaments in Cuba and did what he could to popularize the game.
Castro and Che talk off the record at a meeting in Cuba c. 1960
Che with a Portrait of José Martí in Havana after the Revolution
Che doing a shift as a loader when he was Minister of Industries during the agrarian reforms after the Cuban Revolution c. 1960
Che works at a sugar plantation when he was Minister of Industries during the agrarian reforms after the Cuban Revolution c. 1960
Che inspects a mine as Minister of Industries c. 1960
Che personally inspects the working and safety conditions at amine in Cuba when he was Minister of Industries.
Che in conversation with Soviet and Chilean industrial specialists, c. 1961
Che addresses the Punta del Este Conference, August 1961
Che addresses the Organization of American States (OAS) Conference in Uruguay, 1961. At the conference the United States was already working to have Cuba expelled from the OAS which is was several months later.
Che gave two fiery, famous speeches at the conference. From one of them comes this tremendous quote:
The National General Assembly of the People of Cuba—confident that it is expressing the general opinion of the peoples of Latin America—reaffirms that democracy is not compatible with financial oligarchy, with discrimination against Blacks and outrages by the Ku Klux Klan, or with the persecution that drove scientists like Oppenheimer from their posts, deprived the world for years of the marvelous voice of Paul Robeson, held prisoner in his own country, and sent the Rosenbergs to their deaths against the protests of a shocked world, including the appeals of many governments and of Pope Pius XII. The National General Assembly of the People of Cuba expresses the Cuban conviction that democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians, but rather it lies in the right of the citizens to determine their own destiny, as this assembly of the people is now doing. Furthermore, democracy will come to exist in Latin America only when people are really free to make choices, when the poor are not reduced—by hunger, social discrimination, illiteracy, and the legal system—to the most wretched impotence. To sum up, the National General Assembly of the People of Cuba condemns: the exploitation of human by human and the exploitation of the underdeveloped countries by imperialist finance capital.
Che addresses the UN General Assembly, December, 1964
A photo from when Che gave his famous speech to the 19th General Assembly in New York. Che denounced American imperialism and lies and length and quoted from the anti-imperialist Second Declaration of Havana.
It is also remembered for such trenchant moments as when Che said:
The United States intervenes in Latin America invoking the defense of free institutions. The time will come when this Assembly will acquire greater maturity and demand of the U.S. Government guarantees for the life of the blacks and Latin Americans who live in that country, most of them U.S. citizens by origin or adoption.
Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom? We understand that today the Assembly is not in a position to ask for explanations of these acts. It must be clearly established, however, that the government of the United States is not the champion of freedom, but rather the perpetrator of exploitation and oppression against the peoples of the world and against a large part of its own population.
Che’s last family photo, end of 1964
Apparently the last known family photo of Che with his second wife Aleida March and their four kids.
Che addresses a meeting at the House of Unions, Moscow, June 1960
Che was addressing a large audience at an event celebrating the new Soviet – Cuban friendship after the revolution. The House of Unions was run by the Moscow Council of Trade Unions in the Soviet era.
Che visits Lenin’s office at the Kremlin, Moscow, 1960
Che visits Lenin’s Mausoleum, 1960
Che in Red Square, Moscow, 1960
Che and Yuri Gagarin share a laugh
Wonderful photo of Che and Gagarin. It is not dated but is likely from 1964 in Moscow. Gagarin, in addition to be being the first person in space, of course, was also president of the Soviet-Cuban Friendship Society.
Che inspects a Soviet satellite at the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy in Moscow, 1960
Che meets Aram Khachaturian, Moscow, December 1960
Khachaturian was a famed Soviet composer from the Armenian SSR.
A different look for Che
Che just prior to leaving Cuba for the last time. Undated, but likely early 1965.
Che in disguise in Bolivia, November 1966
The first known photo of Che in Bolivia. Amazingly, that is him on the right in disguise. He had entered the country using a fake passport posing as an Uruguayan businessman after altering his appearance in several ways to, among other things, look older.
Che on lookout duty, Bolivia, 1967
Che in the mountains of Bolivia with the children of local peasants, 1967