10. The Story Behind the Che Guevara Photo
Ernesto “Che” Guevara was an Argentinean Marxist who rose to prominence during the Cuban Revolution, and gained international fame as a guerrilla, author, and diplomat. His image became a romantic icon of anti imperialism, and after his death, he was regarded as a martyr by leftists worldwide. As a youth, he had spent his holidays motorcycling through South America in the early 1950s, where he encountered conditions of dire poverty, inequality, and injustice, that radicalized and set him on the path to Marxism.
Che’s iconic photo was taken on March 5th, 1960, by photographer Alberto Korda, who was covering a funeral for victims of an explosion in Havana’s harbor. Korda focused on Fidel Castro, and only shot two frames of Guevara as an afterthought. Only Castro’s shots were published, and Guevara’s were returned to Korda. The photo languished in obscurity for seven years, until a rich Italian got a hold of it and helped make it famous. When Guevara was killed soon thereafter by the Bolivian army with CIA help, Cuba embraced him as a martyr and revolutionary symbol, and Korda’s photo was the perfect romantic image. The photo rocketed to global fame as Guerrillero Heroico (“Heroic Guerrilla Fighter”), becoming a shorthand symbol for rebellion and one of the most recognizable images of all time.