The Life and Afterlife of Ernesto Guevara

Dr. Chad Black
The University of Tennessee
Spring 2012
Class Meetings: Wednesdays, 4:40-7:05

Office: 2626 Dunford Hall, 6th Floor
Office Hours: Wednesday, 2:00-3:00 or by appt.

Email: cblack6 -at-


This course is about the roots of revolution in 20th-century Latin America. It is about heroic individuals and almost-immovable structures. It is about moments of historical contingency and long term historical processes. It is about domestic and international elites and revolutionaries. Using the life and afterlife of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, we will examine 20th-century Latin American history with an eye to the question, "If, when, and how did armed revolution become a rational response to Latin American reality?"

We will examine ideologies of economic development and revolutionary action that helped define the region. We will look at specific moments that intersected Ernesto Guevara's life, from Peronist Argentina to Guatemala '54 to Cuba '59 to Bolivia '67, and his afterlife of hopeful image and crass commodity. In order to do this, we will hone our skills as historians, engaging difficult texts within the context of their making. We will read a lot. That is, at its most quotidian, what historians do.

Course objectives:

  1. To introduce students to important some important moments in the history of development and revolution in post-WWII Latin America.

  2. To help students better understand the relationship between important historical concepts such as agency and structure, culture and power.

  3. To help students understand some historical approaches to asking and answering questions, including:

    • How to identify, closely read, and analyze primary sources.
    • How to work with and evaluate useful secondary sources, specifically identifying and evaluating their central arguments.
    • How to work with non-written sources (including images and artifacts).
    • To understand and appreciate ambiguity in historical argument and presentation.
  4. To encourage students to hone their skills at collaboratively posing and solving problems.

nota bene: This is a participation-intensive class. It is imperative that each week you do the reading and follow through with your part of preparing for class. Class sessions are devoted to discussions of our readings and the broader issues, theoretical and empirical, raised by those sources. We will be meeting once a week, and much of your work will be done outside of class. The burden of time management is thus on you.

Required Readings

The following texts are required for this course:

  • Anderson, Jon Lee. Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. Revised edition. New York: Grove Press, 2010.
  • Casey, Michael J. Che's Afterlife. New York: Vintage, 2009.
  • Cullather, Nick. Secret History: The CIA's Classified Account of Its Operations in Guatemala. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2006.
  • Drinot, Paulo, editor. Che's Travels: The Making of a Revolutionary in 1950s Latin America. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.
  • Elena, Eduardo. Dignifying Argentina: Peronism, Citizenship, and Mass Consumption. Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2011.
  • Guevara, Ernesto and David Deutsch. The Che Guevara Reader. Ocean Press, 2003.

Other readings will be posted on the course website.

Course Policies

Disabilities Qualified students with disabilities needing appropriate academic adjustments should contact me as soon as possible to ensure that your needs are met in a timely manner with appropriate documentation.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism occurs when someone knowingly or unknowingly presents another person's words or ideas as his or her own. Any work turned in for this class must meet University standards for academic honesty. Any students unsure about how to apply these rules are urged to consult with meĀ prior to turning in any written work.

Deadlines: Assignments that are due in class must be turned in at the start of class. If you anticipate problems, please contact me before the assignment is due, not after!

Office Hours: Students are strongly encouraged to speak with me outside of class. I am available during office hours on a first-come, first-served basis. If you cannot come during office hours, please contact me via email or phone to schedule an appointment.

Course Requirements

  1. Participation. 10%. This is a participation intensive seminar. In order for it to work well, we must all come to class prepared to discuss the readings. As we meet just once per week, each student is allowed one (1) absence for any reason. As part of the participation grade, each class meeting students are required to bring a short news summary related to Latin America. The best news summaries will connect in some way to issues covered in the class. There are news sources available on the [course site](/news, though students are not restricted just to those sources. I will collect short summaries at the beginning of each class.

  2. Group Discussion. 25%. We will be dividing the class into seven (7) groups. Each group will be responsible once during the semester for leading discussion of that week's readings. Discussion leaders are also responsible for identifying and entering important events on the timeline we will be constructing over the course of the semester. More information on presentations and the timeline are on the Assignments page. Discussion leaders will also provide a short bibliography of additional works that expand on the readings.

  3. Project 1. 25%. DUE: October 10th no later than 6:30pm. 7-10 page paper. Using the assigned readings, film, and any appropriate additional materials, students will write a 7-10 page essay on the Making of a Revolutionary.

  4. Project 2. 20%. DUE: November 14th in class. 7-10 page paper. Using assigned readings, declassified documents, and film, students will write an essay on the Death of a Revolutionary.

  5. Project 3. 20%. Due: December 6th and the end of the exam period. Using assigned readings, pop culture artifacts, and film, students will write an essay examining the Apotheosis of El Che.


Week 1: Introduction (8/22)

Week 2: Post-War Latin America (8/29)

  • Anderson, Introduction, Chapters 1-3
  • Elena, Introduction, Chapter 1-2

Week 3: Ernesto's Argentina (9/5) Group 1

  • Anderson, Chapter 4
  • Elena, Finish

Week 4: Points North (9/12) Group 2

  • Anderson, Chapters 5-6
  • Drinot, pp. 1-87

Week 5: Diarios de motocicleta (9/19)

  • Anderson, Chapter, 7
  • Drinot, pp.88-180

Week 6: To Guatemala (9/26) Group 3

  • Anderson, Chapter 8-10
  • Drinot, pp. 181-244

Week 7: Politics of Development (10/3) Group 4

  • Cullather, Whole thing.

Week 8: No Class --> Project 1 Due (10/10)
Papers due to me no later than 6:30pm on Wednesday.

Week 9: Cuba 1 (10/17) Group 5

  • Drinot, finish.
  • Anderson, Chapters 14-18
  • Guevara Reader, Part 1

Week 10: Cuba 2 (10/24) Group 6

  • Anderson, Chapters 19-23
  • Guevara Reader, Part 2

Week 11: Cuba 3 (11/1) Group 7

  • Anderson, finish
  • Guevara Reader, Part 3

Week 12: Che Volume 2 (11/7)

Week 13: Apotheosis 1 (11/14) --> Project 2 Due

  • Casey, Introduction, Part 1
  • T.B.A.

Week 14: Apotheosis 2/Chevolution (11/21)

  • Casey, Part 2
  • T.B.A.

Week 15: Wrap it up! (11/28)

  • Casey, Finish.
  • T.B.A.

Final Project Due by the end of the official exam period, 12/6.