Healer or Fighter?

Guerrillero Heroico
Alberto Korda, via Wikimedia Commons

Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at respected and hated fighter and writer Che Guevara.

Watch Video


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2

And I’m Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3

“Above all, always be able to feel deeply any injustice towards anyone, anywhere in the world. This is the most beautiful quality in a revolutionary.”

Voice 1

These words are from a letter written by Che Guevara. He wrote this letter to his children before he died. Che Guevara was a powerful and famous Latin American revolutionary. He worked to defeat many established governments and change social systems. He fought for the rights of the oppressed. Some people greatly respect the work of Che, and other people hate him. Today’s Spotlight is on Che Guevara.

Voice 2

Ernesto “Che” Guevara was born in Argentina in 1928. His family was large and wealthy. He had a good education. And he grew up reading many books. Che enjoyed many kinds of books - poetry, philosophy, fiction, and political writing. These books shaped his ideas about the world. They also encouraged him to work for what he believed was right and just.

Voice 1

In 1948 Che started medical school in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was studying to become a doctor. During his studies, Che left for one year to travel through South America. He and his friend Alberto Granado traveled 8,000 kilometers total.

Voice 2

This trip was very important for young Che. In fact, he later wrote a book called “Motorcycle Diaries” about this time. On this trip, Che saw many things that angered him.

Voice 1

For example, Che visited a copper mine in Chile. The worker’s conditions were terrible. They were forced to work long hard hours for little pay. The work was dangerous. And many of the workers became sick from the conditions in the mines.

Voice 2

Che also visited the famous ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. High in the Andes mountains, he saw many poor farmers. These farmers farmed the land of rich land owners. They had to pay the landowners to rent the land. And they made little money for their hard work.

Voice 1

Near the end of his trip, Che and Alberto visited San Pablo leper colony in Peru. The people who lived in this area had the disease leprosy. Healthy people in this town feared getting the disease. So, they forced the people with leprosy to live away from town - in the leper colony. While staying at the leper colony, Che began to understand how the lepers were pushed away from society. They were forced to live in poverty - they had little clothes, food or medicine. The lepers had a difficult life. But Che saw the love and respect they had for each other. Che remembered this experience for many years.

Voice 2

On Che’s 9 month trip, he saw many people that society had forgotten. This trip made him believe that he needed to help make a change for all of Latin America. He wrote that he now saw Latinos as,

Voice 3

A "family of 200 million brothers who suffer the same miseries."

Voice 1

After this trip, Che returned to Buenos Aires. He finished his education and became a doctor. Soon after, he decided to help the poor and forgotten - but not just as a doctor.

Voice 2

In 1955, Che met Fidel and Raúl Castro in Mexico City. These men were political revolutionaries. They were planning to violently defeat the government of Cuba. They were Marxists, or Communists. They wanted a new government that gave everyone equal money, property, land, and education. Che agreed with and supported this idea of equality for all people. So, he decided to help them.

Voice 1

In 1956, Che, the Castros and a group of rebels sailed to Cuba. They attacked the Cuban military. Their attempt to defeat the government failed. And many of the rebels were killed. But during this attack, Che experienced an important change.

Voice 2

As a doctor, Che’s job was to care for wounded fighters. During the attack, many of his friends were hurt. People were shooting at Che as he tried to help his friends. Finally, Che set down his medical supplies and reached for a gun. This act was an important symbol for Che. It represented a change in his life. He was not a doctor now. He was a fighter and a revolutionary.

Voice 1

After this experience, Che became more violent. He became a very strong and hard leader. He trained his men to follow his rules. If they did not, he treated them badly. However, many men were still willing to follow Che. His ideas about equality and care for all people were powerful.

Voice 2

In 1958, Che and a larger group of rebels again attacked the Cuban government. This time, they were successful. Che became a Cuban citizen and a leader in the new government. During the change in government, Che showed his violent side. Che did not give trials to his political enemies. Instead, he let angry crowds choose whether the enemies would live or die. Many people were executed with no chance to defend themselves. After the revolution, the new Cuban government took control of all the land. Then they gave equal parts of land to each citizen. This angered many wealthy landowners.

Voice 1

Che also organized the “year of education” in 1961. He gathered groups of teachers. And he sent them to poor country areas to teach. Many people who had never had an education learned to read. After just this one year, 20% more Cubans could read.

Voice 2

For many years after this revolution, Che traveled around the world - in Latin America, Africa and Asia. He visited politicians and world leaders. He helped rebel groups in other countries who also wanted a Marxist government.

Voice 1

Che also had many enemies around the world. The many rebel groups he helped took power from governments, and made big changes in countries. Many government leaders did not like this. Some leaders even wanted him dead.

Voice 2

In 1967, Che went to Bolivia. He hoped to start a revolution there. However, he had little support from the Bolivian people. The revolution failed and Che’s enemies found him. Che was captured and killed on October 9th, 1967.

Voice 1

Today, Che Guevara is loved by many people. They see him as someone who fought for the poor. They remember him as a kind and loving healer. However, many other people remember Che as a violent man. They cannot forget his unkindness. Many other people do not agree with his political ideas. However, no matter what people think of Che Guevara, everyone agrees that he changed history and Latin America forever!

Voice 2

The writer of this program was Johanna Poole. The producer was Michio Ozaki. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the Internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called ‘Healer or Fighter?’ We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

(Get our app for Android or for Apple devices. Let us know how you like it and write a review!)


What qualities makes a person a good leader of a country?


Avatar Spotlight
said on July 15, 2011

Hello hey all people in this beautiful world and good afternoon everyone. And always thanks all people who worked above this program you just created wonderful article before it i didn’t know who is Che Guevara and why many of citizens our country wear his photo on them T-shirts but I think many of them just don’t know who is he was BUT I now know about him. Have a nice day everybody.

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 01, 2011

I notice that Mr. Che Guevara is a Healer , Fighter and also Revolutionary .
I find he should make communication , negotiation and give reasonable to government before he chose the fighting or revolution .
He would like to give everyone equal money , property , land and education . I do not agree with him at all because how hard they are before they get those things . As for me I would like to give everyone only equal education . When they have high education , they are able to find a job and lead their lives in a good way .

Avatar Spotlight
Blue Lotus
said on July 09, 2012

A wonderful story about a historic man. But I think his method has some mistakes. In the future, I want to change the life of poor people in my country in my way. But, there will never have violent.

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 15, 2012

Che Guevara is a good healer, fighter and revolutionary who changed Latin America forever. He had given many people a equal rights. In my opinion he was just a good, not the best revolutional leader. In the past, instead he killed political enemies without trials, he should gave them a chance. Althouht the goverment which he defeated were very worse but the people in that are not worse at all.

humble71's avatar
said on July 18, 2012

Che Guevara is an example for everyone who wants to change the world and help to poor people. He practiced what he taught to others with his example. He could continue living a normal life because he belonged to a wealthy family but he followed his deeply thoughts and he learned to be a leader, qualities that made of him an icon and symbol of protesters all over SouthAmerica and other nations around the world . I can’t judge Che Guevara because I’m a human being with defects , but I admire his decision and determination to break the rules of the political system in Cuba.
Thanks for producing this historical topic.

Avatar Spotlight
Gia Minh Tien
said on April 02, 2015

Every Communist countries have had great leader. Reasonably, they has my honor but it is not mean they had no mistakes.

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 13, 2016

Che Guevara is not considered a hero, but a kiler many people say he is like Hitler

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on July 30, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Saturday 30, July 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Johanna Poole, Joshua Leo, and Michio Ozaki:

First of all, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!
There are many qualities to make a person a good leader of a country.
1- To be a honest and just citizen
2- To be a good citizen
3- To like of his or her country
4- To want to do improvement in his or her country
5- To know the needs of his or her country
6- To defend his or her fellow countrymen or fellow countrywomen against the enemies who come to attack them
7- And etc.
8- Thanks!

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos
São Paulo SP Brazil

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 01, 2019

Good day! When I talk to Cubans today, I am terrified of how they live. They do not have internet, drugs, food and money. Average earnings in Cuba are $ 20 a month.

Avatar Spotlight
Lan Can
said on May 01, 2019

First, I really like the music of this program.
Second, in my opinion, Che was a hero but he made a mistake. He thought he could bring equality for all people but it never happened. Rich is not always bad. Rich does not mean exploit. And poor is not always to be exploited.  But I appreciate highly what he did for education.
When I was a teenager, I read about a Chinese writer. He studied to be a doctor but he quitted it to become a writer because he thought being a doctor, he could cure a patient, 10 patients or hundreds patients. But being a writer, he could cure millions people.  Che quitted to be a doctor to become a revolutionary and in fact, he changed the mind of many people and created huge things in history.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 03, 2019

We are humans and we have our dignity as humans. We learn and train to live to be good persons and we live a beautiful good lives. We live and work and we get safe housing, food and warm clothes every day. We wish beautiful good things and we do beautiful good things in life and we do not do not-good things. Being good persons, we keep away from not-good things and we push not-good things away. We help the poor and difficult conditions having people. Our world will be better and more beautiful when everyone can live a beautiful good life. We find ourselves when we live our lives for beautiful good things. We are humans and we have our dignity as humans. We learn and train to live to be good persons and we live a beautiful good life. Beautiful good things exist. Not-good things cannot exist.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 04, 2019

Ernesto Guevara is the proven proof of the propaganda power over people’s minds. He was a cold bloodthirsty murderer who personally executed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people and created around him the romantic myth of the “revolutionary”, admired by thousands of young people deceived by the communist media around the world ... Ask the Cubans what they think of Tchê ...