Meet the most important Latin American Revolutionaries. Ernesto Che Guevara, Zapata, Simon Bolivar, Subcomandante Marcos. Latin America Revolutions.
Since the Spanish conquest of America there has been a long history of revolutionary processes that have shaped the region into what it is today. The longing for freedom and the awareness of being a particular continent have all contributed to these processes. Most will recognize names like Bolivar, “Che” Guevara, the Castro brothers and others who have filled the pages of Latin American history.
Simon Bolivar and Colonial Independence
Simon Bolivar was born in Caracas on July 24, 1783 and died in Santa Marta, Colombia on December 17, 1830. He was a liberator, the idealist behind Grand Colombia which was a confederation of the Latin American states of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Bolivar was from a family of Basque and Burgos origin, although his ancestors arrived to Venezuela around 1580 and 1650, when Venezuela was still a colony.
Simon Bolivar participated in three revolutions to gain Venezuelan independence. The first revolution was from 1810-1812 and failed, forcing Bolivar to take refuge in Cartagena of the Indies, Colombia. From there, in 1813 he took charge and launched a second revolution which also failed resulting in Bolivar being banished to the island of Jamaica. Simon Bolivar’s third attempt in 1816 was a success resulting in him seizing power of Venezuela.
Bolivar’s dream of creating a union of independent nations called Gran Colombia took him across borders as he spread the independence movement to other countries, from Colombia to Panama. Later Bolivar and Sucre, another liberator, defeated the Spanish troops at the Battle of Pichincha which would ultimately earn Ecuador its independence.
His greatest successes were militaristic but not political. Bolivar’s dictatorial ideas caused many oligarchic governments of the territories to move away from the concept of creating a Gran Colombia and towards finding their own means to gain independence. And so, Bolivar’s dream of Gran Colombia never became a reality.
Emiliano Zapata was one of the most important figures of the Mexican revolution. He was the commander of a large revolutionary army until his death in 1919.
During the revolutionary process, Zapata defended the peasants of southern Mexico from landowners who expelled them from the land. Zapata was declared an outlaw by the Mexican government when he recovered these lands by force for the peasants.
Zapata was assassinated at the Chinameca Hacienda in Morelos on April 10, 1919, where he was attending a meeting with General Jesus Maria Guajardo Martinez. The General had deceived Zapata, leading him to believe that he wanted to join forces. Zapata walked into the trap and was ambushed and shot to death. Today, Zapata’s name lives on in Mexico where people still shout “Long live Zapata!”
Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Fidel Castro
If one revolutionary figure exists that stands out in popular culture it is, without a doubt, Ernesto “Che” Guevara. The whole world recognizes his famous picture, taken by Alberto Corda in 1960, that has been printed on thousands of posters, shirts, hats, etc.
Ernesto Guevara was born in Rosario, Argentina on June 14, 1928. He studied medicine in Buenos Aires where he came into contact with various members of the communist party. He traveled through South America on several occasions which would shape his revolutionary left-wing ideology.
In Mexico he met Fidel Castro and joined the 26th of July movement. The group’s mission, led by Castro, was to free the island of Cuba from the dictator Batista. On November 25, 1956, a yacht called "the granma" left Puerto de Tuxpa in route to Cuba. There were 82 men onboard, among them Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Ernesto Guevara.
When the group arrived to Cuba, they were ambushed by Batista´s army and the survivors reunited in the Sierra maestro mountain range in the southern part of the island.
From the Sierra Maestra the 26th of July movement group began to organize alliances with local peasants to oppose the regimen in the cities. They also sought the support of the United States Embassy.
Che took on the role of doctor and guerrilla fighter who would earn a reputation for being daring and strategic. After several battles for control of the island, they took control of Santa Clara, the 4th most important city. The Santa Clara battle and the seizure of an armored train resulted in the fall of Batista, who subsequently fled Cuba. From Santa Clara the group moved on to Havana and took control of the country.
After directing the Ministry of Industry in Cuba, Che moved on to other zones to initiate revolutionary movements. First he headed to Africa, to the Republic of Congo, which was a complete failure. Che then focused his efforts on Bolivia, where he was assassinated in a covert operation by the Bolivian army and the CIA.
Despite his death, Commandor Che Guevara lives on in the minds of both his admirers and his critics.
Subcomandante Marcos was the spokesperson of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) rebel movement of Chiapas State in southern Mexico. The movement received great media attention on January 1, 1990 when the army took over six administrative capitals in Chiapas and demanded “democracy, liberty, land, bread and justice for the indigenous people”.
According to sources in the Mexican government, Marcos is likely the nickname used by Rafael Sebastian Guillen Vicente, an ex-philosophy student of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and professor at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM).
Subcomandante Marcos organized a peaceful march in 2006 known as “The Other Campaign” dedicated to the other 32 Mexican states. The objective of the march was to hear other people’s complaints about the society and to make the movement more equal.