Born into a middle-class family in Rosario, Argentina, Guevara received a medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires in 1953. Convinced that revolution was the only remedy for Latin America's social inequities, in 1954 he went to Mexico, where he joined exiled Cuban revolutionaries under Fidel Castro. In the late 1950s, he played an important role in Castro's guerrilla war against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, and when Castro came to power, he served as Cuba's minister of industry (1961-65).
A strong opponent of U.S. influence in the Third World, he helped guide the Castro regime on its leftward and pro-Communist path. The author of two books on guerrilla warfare, Guevara advocated peasant-based revolutionary movements in the developing world. He disappeared from Cuba in 1965, reappearing the following year as an insurgent leader in Bolivia. He was captured by the Bolivian army and shot near Vallegrande on Oct. 9, 1967.