It was on this day in 1952 that a 23-year-old medical student from Buenos Aires, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, hopped on a motorcycle with his biochemist friend and began his journey through Latin America. For Che, it was a journey that would last nine months and in which he'd traverse 8,000 miles by motorcycle, hitchhiking, steamship, horseback, river raft, and cargo plane. He'd return home a changed man, dedicated to the causes of alleviating poverty, unifying Latin America, and to armed revolution. This journey became the basis for his New York Times best-selling book The Motorcycle Diaries.
Guevara came from a well-off Argentinean family. He didn't get very good grades in medical school, and he didn't seem that interested in politics. He really just loved to ride his bicycle and to travel. He'd biked around Argentina all by himself a few years before. So when his older friend, 29-year-old biochemist Alberto Granado, mentioned the idea of taking a motorcycle from the south end of Latin America to the north, young Guevara jumped at the chance. He decided skip his upcoming final exams and put medical school on hold for a year.
And 58 years ago today, Guevara and Granado mounted a rickety old motorcycle, which they nicknamed La Poderosa, the Mighty One, and departed Buenos Aires. On their way out of Argentina, they stopped at a resort where Guevara's girlfriend's family was staying for the summer so that he could say good-bye. His girlfriend gave him $15 to buy her a swimsuit from North America, which he swore he starve rather than spend on anything else. Weeks later, he handed the money to a homeless couple.
In Santiago, their sputtering motorcycle broke down for good, and they resorted to hitchhiking for the rest of the trip. From Chile they went to Peru, to a leper colony along the Amazon River where they hung around to treat patients. There he spent many nights awake into the wee hours talking with a Peruvian Marxist; he later cited these conversations as having helped to define his politics.
Guevara and Granado traveled on to Colombia and Venezuela, where Granado stayed to work treating people with leprosy. Guevara boarded a cargo plane to fly back to Argentina by way of Miami. But the plane had engine problems, and Guevara was stuck in Miami for several weeks, and he waited tables and washed dishes to survive.
He made it back to Argentina, sat down and reworked his travel notes years after the journey and wrote contemplative commentary around the descriptions of landscape and people that he'd jotted down while he was out on the road years before; his book The Motorcycle Diaries is actually a memoir. There are a few English translations available, including ones by Ann Wright (1996) and Alexandra Keeble (2003).
Che Guevara wrote in his diary: "I will be on the side of the people ... I will take to the barricades and the trenches, screaming as one possessed, will stain my weapons with blood, and, mad with rage, will cut the throat of any vanquished foe I encounter."
Che Guevara died in 1967 at the age of 39, executed by members of the Bolivian army.
Actually, he was killed by the CIA and their killing continues to this day...when will demand this stops?
Monday, January 4, 2010
It was on this day in 1952 that a 23-year-old medical student from Buenos Aires, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, hopped on a motorcycle with his biochemist fri
Posted by Chasing Wind Mills, Why Not? at 12:49 PM