Thursday, February 21, 2008

Che Guevara and Alberto Granado and the Motorcyle

South America - hot sunshine, sombreros, grizzled outdoorsy hard drinking men, hot blooded curvaceous, vibrant women twirling to sambas and tangos, laughter, music, blue seas and skies, broad pampas and steamy dense forests somewhere in the interiors.

If I think a bit more, coffee plantations,herds of cattle, Rio, Incas and dirt and dust. All culled from geography lessons, books and movies.

Books do make one think about different lands and different peoples. One which is opening a door is Traveling with Che Guevara by Alberto Granada. Till now, Che has been just a name and Argentina a country somewhere there.

What did I know of the exploitation of Argentina and the other South American countries by capitalist forces? And by their own dictators. Nothing. I have to thank the friend who gave me the book for a new thought.

Two young idealistic young men, Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granada , one a full fledged doctor and the other, a medical student set off on a motorbike to see Argentina, Chile and as many countries they can of their continent. Their aim is to spend as little money as possible and wherever they can, exchange work for food and shelter.

The scene where they leave home and a very disapproving family is so universal and touching. This book is written by Granada who has a subtle sense of humor and is vastly appreciative of the scenery and the beauty of the countryside.

But they are more affected by the exploitation everywhere of the poor.And thus were born two revolutionaries.

Guevara is an iconic figure who is considered one of the most influential people of the century
He even changed countries, in pursuit of his ideals. People now do change countries, but for material reasons.

After his death, Guevara became an icon of socialist / marxist revolutionary movements and a cultural icon worldwide. Anywhere there is a revolution, his picture with the burning eyes shot by Granada appears. Its been called.
"the most famous photograph in the world and a symbol of the 20th century."

To quote

Perhaps in these orphaned times of incessantly shifting identities and alliances, the fantasy of an adventurer who changed countries and crossed borders and broke down limits without once betraying his basic loyalties provides the restless youth of our era with an optimal combination, grounding them in a fierce center of moral gravity while simultaneously appealing to their contemporary nomadic impulse. To those who will never follow in his footsteps, submerged as they are in a world of cynicism, self-interest and frantic consumption, nothing could be more vicariously gratifying than Che's disdain for material comfort and everyday desires. One might suggest that it is Che's distance, the apparent impossibility of duplicating his life anymore, that makes him so attractive. ( this hits very hard)And is not Che, with his hippie hair and wispy revolutionary beard, the perfect postmodern conduit to the nonconformist, seditious '60s, that disruptive past confined to gesture and fashion?

Which of us do not want to follow a vision , a dream which is bigger than us? Even if we did not follow through the Marxist vision of equality and right that possessed us in our youth, just the thought of this enterprising journey on a bike is enough to blow a fresh breeze in our existence. What might have been.

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