Book Review — Traveling with Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary

Once again I’ve had one of those adventures that are only possible when you make your dreams come true.
~ Alberto Granado

Traveling With Che Guevara by Alberto Granado
Traveling with Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary by Alberto Granado is the diary that The Motorcycle Diaries was based. Granado (August 8, 1922 – March 5, 2011) was an Argentine–Cuban biochemist, doctor, writer, and scientist. He was also the youthful friend and traveling companion of revolutionary Che Guevara during their 1952 trip around Latin America, and later founded the Santiago School of Medicine in Cuba.

Traveling cross-continent was a challenge in the early 1950s, especially on a British motorcycle. Granted their Norton was more dependable than the Triumphs I rode years later, but that really isn’t saying too much. Granado documents his trip with Che Guevara from Argentina, Chile, skirting Bolivia, into Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. Of course, the diary is full of the problems encountered, good times, bad times, and the people they met. There are contrasts between the new industrial areas and the beauty of the natural land.

One thing that jumps out at the reader is the undertone of the book is the class system and exploitation. They visit a huge mine in Chile where the workers are poor, but the foreigners operating the mine make a fortune. There is a division between the landed and the workers. At tea harvest time, land owners put out hiring notices and people flooded in for the work. With the glut of labor, landowners auctioned off jobs to those willing to take the lowest wages. It is this treatment of the people that turned Che against the foreign capitalist and rich landowners. This became Che’s calling in life.

…the best and most generous of Chile is in its ordinary people, that we hadn’t been wrong in choosing the poor over the rich and the revolutionary over the reactionary.

This was a life changing trip for Che. Without it he may have become just another drone in the society that that was growing apart. Che is condemned by the West as would be expected by someone who openly opposed their system. He remains a hero to the poor and underclass in Latin America. Differing and passionate accounts from both camps keep Che’s life in controversy. No matter which side the reader occupies, the story is well worth reading. The accounts of the trip are entertaining and informative. This diary was originally printed in Spanish in 1978. It wasn’t until the Cold War and the threat of communism were long over before it was published in English in 2003. With the normalizing of relations with Cuba, it will be interesting to see if many more Spanish language books on the struggle in Latin America will make it into English.

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