Iconic photo of Che Guevara taken

Moments before he was shot to death by a soldier of the Bolivian government, the revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara told his executioner, “Shoot, coward! You are only going to kill a man!” Guevara died a short time later, on October 9, 1967 at the age of 39, but he was correct in his assertion that this would not be the end of his legacy. Today, that legacy almost always takes the form of a single photograph, Guerrillero Heroico, which some have called the most famous photograph in the world.

That photo was taken on March 5, 1960, seven years before Guevara’s death, at a funeral for workers killed in an explosion in a Cuban port that Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government blamed on the Americans. Guevara, a general in the revolution and the intellectual heavyweight of Castro’s regime, looked on as Castro delivered his fiery funeral oration. For about thirty seconds, he stepped to the front of a crowd near Castro’s rostrum, into the view of newspaper photographer Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, also known as Alberto Korda. Korda snapped two shots of Guevara, his face resolute and his long hair flowing from under his trademark beret, before Guevara retreated back into the crowd. Perhaps due to his background as a fashion photographer, Korda took a liking to one of the images and cropped it into a portrait, even though the newspaper La Revolución declined to use it.

For several years, the now-iconic photo remained nothing more than a personal favorite of the man who took it. Korda named the picture Guerrillero Heroico—“Heroic Guerrilla Warrior”—and hung it on his wall, occasionally handing out copies to guests. It was not until 1967 that the public would first see the image, which appeared in the magazine Paris Match alongside an article about Latin American guerilla movements.

Guevara was killed in November of that year, captured while fighting with Bolivian revolutionaries. During his memorial service in Havana, an enormous print of Guerrillero Heroico was hung over the façade of the Ministry of the Interior. The service marked Che’s canonization as a martyr of global revolution, as well as the ascendance of Korda’s image as an icon of rebellion.

The following year the image of Guevara went viral. It appeared on the cover of a copy of Guevara’s memoirs, published in Italy. It was also used as the cover of a literary journal advertised on the New York City subway. In the same year, Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick created a stylized version of the image, setting a black-and-white Guevara against a red background, and distributed it as widely as he could to honor Guevara’s legacy. A poster bearing Fitzpatrick’s image was shown at the Arts Laboratory in London. 1968 was a year of upheaval across the world, and Guevara’s image featured prominently during the student riots that swept France in May, the populist protests of Italy’s “Hot Autumn” and the nonviolent, surrealist-inspired demonstrations of the Dutch “Provos.” 

In addition to being held aloft at protests or hung in the homes of his admirers, Guevara’s image has become popular as a fashion statement, adorning t-shirts and posters wherever counterculture is revered. Rage Against the Machine used a modified version of the image as the cover for their 1993 single “Bombtrack,” and Madonna referenced it on the cover of her 2003 album American Life. Korda succeeded in stopping Smirnoff Vodka from using his photo in one of its campaigns, but it has appeared in countless other advertisements, including ads by Nike and a campaign by Taco Bell which featured a Chihuahua in revolutionary garb.

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Golda Meir elected as Israel’s first female prime minster

Year
1969
Month Day
March 17

On March 17, 1969, 70-year-old Golda Meir makes history when she is elected as Israel’s first female prime minister. She was the country’s fourth prime minister and is still the only woman to have held this post.

Meir, who was born in Kiev, Ukraine and raised in Wisconsin, began her career as a Zionist labor organizer, and later held several positions in Israeli government, including Minister of Labor and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Upon the sudden death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1969, Meir was chosen as his successor. 

During her tenure, Meir gained a reputation as a savvy diplomat. She saw the country through the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, after Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel. Although Israel was victorious, over 2,500 Israelis died, and many criticized the government for a lack of preparedness.

Due in part to her age and ailing health, Meir resigned in October 1974. She was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin.

Meir died in Jerusalem on December 8, 1978, at the age of 80. 

READ MORE: 7 Women Leaders Who Were Elected to Highest Office

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Elvis Presley is drafted


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Year
1957
Month Day
December 20

On December 20, 1957, while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, rock-and-roll star Elvis Presley receives his draft notice for the United States Army.

With a suggestive style–one writer called him “Elvis the Pelvis”–a hit movie, Love Me Tender, and a string of gold records including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” Presley had become a national icon, and the world’s first bona fide rock-and-roll star, by the end of 1956. As the Beatles’ John Lennon once famously remarked: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” The following year, at the peak of his career, Presley received his draft notice for a two-year stint in the army. Fans sent tens of thousands of letters to the army asking for him to be spared, but Elvis would have none of it. He received one deferment–during which he finished working on his movie King Creole–before being sworn in as an army private in Memphis on March 24, 1958.

After basic training–which included an emergency leave to see his beloved mother, Gladys, before she died in August 1958–Presley sailed to Europe on the USS General Randall. For the next 18 months, he served in Company D, 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Division in Friedberg, Germany, where he attained the rank of sergeant. For the rest of his service, he shared an off-base residence with his father, grandmother and some Memphis friends. After working during the day, Presley returned home at night to host frequent parties and impromptu jam sessions. At one of these, an army buddy of Presley’s introduced him to 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom Elvis would marry some years later. 

Meanwhile, Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, continued to release singles recorded before his departure, keeping the money rolling in and his most famous client fresh in the public’s mind. Widely praised for not seeking to avoid the draft or serve domestically, Presley was seen as a model for all young Americans. After he got his polio shot from an army doctor on national TV, vaccine rates among the American population shot from 2 percent to 85 percent by the time of his discharge on March 2, 1960.

READ MORE: 7 Fascinating Facts About Elvis Presley

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Kerner Commission Report released


Year
1968
Month Day
February 29

The President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders—known as the Kerner Commission—releases its report, condemning racism as the primary cause of the recent surge of riots. Headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, the 11-member commission was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1967 to uncover the causes of urban riots and recommend solutions.

The report, which declared that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal,” called for expanded aid to African American communities in order to prevent further racial violence and polarization. Unless drastic and costly remedies were undertaken at once, the report said, there would be a “continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.”

The report identified more than 150 riots or major disorders between 1965 and 1968 (including the deadly Newark and Detroit riots) and blamed “white racism” for sparking the violence—not a conspiracy by African American political groups as some claimed.

Statistics for 1967 alone included 83 people killed and 1,800 injured—the majority of them African Americans—and property valued at more than $100 million damaged or destroyed.

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Suharto takes full power in Indonesia


Year
1967
Month Day
February 22

On February 22, 1967, Indonesian President Sukarno surrenders all executive authority to military dictator General Haji Mohammad Suharto, remaining president in title only.

In 1965, Suharto, a senior army officer, narrowly saved Sukarno from a communist coup. In the aftermath, he moved to replace Sukarno and launched a purge of Indonesian communists that resulted in thousands of deaths. In 1967, he assumed full power and in 1968 was elected president. Reelected every five years until his forced resignation in 1998, Suharto stabilized his nation and oversaw significant economic progress. However, he was criticized for his repressive rule and for Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor, which left an estimated 100,000 Timorese dead from famine, disease, and warfare. Suharto died in 2008. 

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Prague Spring begins in Czechoslovakia


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Year
1968
Month Day
January 05

Antonin Novotny, the Stalinist ruler of Czechoslovakia, is succeeded as first secretary by Alexander Dubcek, a Slovak who supports liberal reforms. In the first few months of his rule, Dubcek introduced a series of far-reaching political and economic reforms, including increased freedom of speech and the rehabilitation of political dissidents.

Dubcek’s effort to establish “communism with a human face” was celebrated across the country, and the brief period of freedom became known as the Prague Spring.

But on August 20, 1968, the Soviet Union answered Dubcek’s reforms with invasion of Czechoslovakia by 600,000 Warsaw Pact troops. Prague was not eager to give way, but scattered student resistance was no match for Soviet tanks.

Dubcek’s reforms were repealed, and the leader himself was replaced with the staunchly pro-Soviet Gustav Husak, who re-established an authoritarian Communist regime in the country.

In 1989, as Communist governments folded across Eastern Europe, Prague again became the scene of demonstrations for democratic reforms. In December 1989, Husak’s government conceded to demands for a multiparty Parliament.

Husak resigned, and for the first time in two decades Dubcek returned to politics as chairman of the new Parliament, which subsequently elected playwright Vaclav Havel as president of Czechoslovakia. Havel had come to fame during the Prague Spring, but after the Soviet crackdown his plays were banned and his passport confiscated.

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Ferdinand Marcos inaugurated president of the Philippines


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Year
1965
Month Day
December 30

Former Philippines Senate president Ferdinand Marcos is inaugurated president of the Southeast Asian archipelago nation. Marcos’ regime would span 20 years and become increasingly authoritarian and corrupt.

Ferdinand Marcos was a law student in the late 1930s, when he was tried for the assassination of a political opponent of his politician father. Convicted in 1939, he personally appealed the case before the Philippine Supreme Court and won an acquittal. During the Japanese occupation in World War II, he allegedly served as leader of the Filipino resistance movement, but U.S. government records indicate he played little role in anti-Japanese activities.

In 1949, he was elected to the Philippines House of Representatives, thanks in large part to his fabricated wartime record. In 1959, he moved up to the Senate and from 1963 to 1965 served as Senate president. In 1965, he broke with the Liberal Party after failing to win his party’s presidential nomination and ran as the candidate of the Nationalist Party. After a bitter and decisive campaign, he was elected president. In 1969, he was reelected.

Marcos’ second term was marked by increasing civil strife and violence by leftist insurgents. In 1972, following a series of bombings in Manila, he warned of an imminent communist takeover and declared martial law. In 1973, he assumed dictatorship powers under a new constitution. Marcos used the military to suppress subversive elements but also arrested and jailed his mainstream political opponents. His anti-communist activities won him enthusiastic support from the U.S. government, but his regime was marked by misuse of foreign aid, repression, and political murders. His beauty-queen wife, Imelda Marcos, was appointed to important political posts and lived a famously extravagant lifestyle that included a massive wardrobe featuring thousands of pairs of shoes.

In 1981, Marcos was dubiously reelected president. In rural areas, insurgency by communists and Muslim separatists grew. In 1983, Marcos’ old political opponent Benigno Aquino, Jr., returned from exile and was assassinated by military agents of Marcos as soon as he stepped off the plane. The political murder touched off widespread anti-Marcos protests, and in 1986 he agreed to hold a new presidential election.

Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, ran against Marcos, and on February 7, 1986, the election was held. Marcos was declared victorious, but independent observers charged the regime with widespread electoral fraud. Aquino’s followers proclaimed her president, and much of the military defected to her side as massive anti-Marcos demonstrations were held. On February 25, Marcos, his wife, and their entourage were airlifted from the presidential palace in Manila by U.S. helicopters and fled to Hawaii.

After substantial evidence of Marcos’ corruption emerged, including the looting of billions of dollars from the Philippine economy, Marcos and his wife were indicted by the U.S. government on embezzlement charges. After Ferdinand Marcos’ death in 1989, Imelda was cleared of the charges, and she was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991, where she unsuccessfully ran for the presidency the following year. In 1993, Imelda Marcos was convicted of corruption by a Philippine court, but she avoided serving her 12-year prison sentence. In 1995, she was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1998, she unsuccessfully ran for president again.

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Jack Ruby dies before second trial


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Year
1967
Month Day
January 03

On January 3, 1967, Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner who killed the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, dies of cancer in a Dallas hospital. The Texas Court of Appeals had recently overturned his death sentence for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald and was scheduled to grant him a new trial.

On November 24, 1963, two days after Kennedy’s assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald was brought to the basement of the Dallas police headquarters on his way to a more secure county jail. A crowd of police and press with live television cameras rolling gathered to witness his departure. As Oswald came into the room, Jack Ruby emerged from the crowd and fatally wounded him with a single shot from a concealed .38 revolver. Ruby, who was immediately detained, claimed he was distraught over the president’s assassination. Some called him a hero, but he was nonetheless charged with first-degree murder.

Jack Ruby, originally known as Jacob Rubenstein, operated strip joints and dance halls in Dallas and had minor connections to organized crime. He also had a relationship with a number of Dallas policemen, which amounted to various favors in exchange for leniency in their monitoring of his establishments. He features prominently in Kennedy assassination theories, and many believe he killed Oswald to keep him from revealing a larger conspiracy. In his trial, Ruby denied the charge, maintaining that he was acting out of patriotism. In March 1964, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

The official Warren Commission report of 1964 concluded that neither Oswald nor Ruby were part of a larger conspiracy, either domestic or international, to assassinate President Kennedy. Despite its seemingly firm conclusions, the report failed to silence conspiracy theories surrounding the event, and in 1978 the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in a preliminary report that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy” that may have involved multiple shooters and organized crime. The committee’s findings, as with the findings of the Warren Commission, continue to be widely disputed.

READ MORE: The Other Victims of the JFK Assassination

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Europe’s Common Market founded in major step toward economic unity


Year
1957
Month Day
March 25

On March 25, 1957, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg sign a treaty in Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC), also known as the Common Market. The EEC, which came into operation in January 1958, was a major step in Europe’s movement toward economic and political union.

By 1950, it was apparent that centuries of Western European world supremacy was at an end. The national markets of Europe, isolated from each other by archaic trade laws, were no match for the giant market enjoyed by the United States. And looming over Europe from the east was the Soviet Union, whose communist leaders commanded vast territory and economic resources under a single system. Many European leaders also feared the resumption of conflict between traditional European antagonists such as France and Germany, which would only diminish the European economies further.

As a means of improving Europe’s economic climate and preventing war, some influential statesman and political theorists suggested economic integration. The first major step in this direction was taken in 1951, when France and West Germany formed the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), integrating their coal and steel industries. French leaders proposed the organization primarily as a means of monitoring German industry, and West German leaders immediately agreed, to allay fears of German militarization. To supervise the ECSC, several supranational bodies were established, including an executive authority, a council of ministers, an advisory assembly, and a court of justice to settle disputes. Italy and the three nations of the Benelux Economic Union–Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg–soon joined. The groundwork for the EEC was laid.

On March 25, 1957, representatives of six European nations signed two treaties in Rome. One created the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for the common and peaceful development of Europe’s nuclear resources. The other created the EEC. In the Common Market, trade barriers between member nations were gradually eliminated, and common policies regarding transportation, agriculture, and economic relations with nonmember countries were implemented. Eventually, labor and capital were permitted to move freely within the boundaries of the community. The EEC, the ECSC, and Euratom were served by a single council of ministers, representative assembly, and court of justice. In 1967, the three organizations were fully merged as the European Community (EC).

Britain and other European nations initially declined to join the Common Market and established the weaker European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960 as an alternative. By the early 1960s, however, the Common Market nations showed signs of significant economic growth, and Britain changed its mind. Because of its close ties to the United States, however, French President Charles de Gaulle twice vetoed British admission, and Britain did not join the EC until January 1973, when Ireland and Denmark also became EC members. Greece joined in 1981, Portugal and Spain in 1986, and the former East Germany as part of reunified Germany in 1990.

In early 1990s, the European Community became the basis for the European Union (EU), which was established in 1993 following ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. The treaty called for a strengthened European parliament, the creation of a central European bank and common currency, and a common defense policy. In addition to a single European common market, member states would also participate in a larger common market, called the European Economic Area. Austria, Finland, and Sweden became members of the EU in 1995. In 2009, the EEC was absorbed into the EU’s framework. As of 2020, the EU had 27 member states. 

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Canada adopts maple leaf flag


Year
1965
Month Day
February 15

In accordance with a formal proclamation by Queen Elizabeth II of England, a new Canadian national flag is raised above Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

Beginning in 1610, Lower Canada, a new British colony, flew Great Britain’s Union Jack, or Royal Union Flag. In 1763, as a result of the French and Indian Wars, France lost its sizable colonial possessions in Canada, and the Union Jack flew all across the wide territory of Canada. In 1867, the Dominion of Canada was established as a self-governing federation within the British Empire, and three years later a new flag, the Canadian Red Ensign, was adopted. The Red Ensign was a solid red flag with the Union Jack occupying the upper-left corner and a crest situated in the right portion of the flag.

The search for a new national flag that would better represent an independent Canada began in earnest in 1925 when a committee of the Privy Council began to investigate possible designs. Later, in 1946, a select parliamentary committee was appointed with a similar mandate and examined more than 2,600 submissions. Agreement on a new design was not reached, and it was not until the 1960s, with the centennial of Canadian self-rule approaching, that the Canadian Parliament intensified its efforts to choose a new flag.

In December 1964, Parliament voted to adopt a new design. Canada’s national flag was to be red and white, the official colors of Canada as decided by King George V of Britain in 1921, with a stylized 11-point red maple leaf in its center. Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed February 15, 1965, as the day on which the new flag would be raised over Parliament Hill and adopted by all Canadians.

Today, Canada’s red maple leaf flag is one of the most recognizable national flags in the world.

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