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Traveling with Che Guevara
Alberto Granado
I read this book after seeing the movie “The Motorcycle Diaries”. The reason for reading it is that I found the film so lame in terms of political expression (whether I would agree with it or not), that I had to discover if the book on which it was based resembled it. It didn’t.

This diary was published for the first time in 1992, in an edition which included Guevara’s one as well. I want to read that too, even though I have a feeling I’ll find it less interesting than this one: I think charismatic figures in general write “with an agenda” in mind, and therefore are less spontaneous, even if this happens before their being famous.

In the preface to the American edition, which was published after the movie, Granados mentions that there was nothing more heart-wrenching for him than seeing again with the people afflicted with leprosy, whom he had met at the leprosarium of San Pablo. A man, who was fifteen at the time of their first encounter, told him: “After you two visited our hospital, people were kinder to us.” (p. xi)

Granado also says that one of the greatest sources of satisfaction was the fact that wherever the movie was filmed, the director employed local people, thus helping local economies as well. (p. xv)

One of the propellers of this trip through South America were the readings both Granado and Guevara did growing up. Ciro Alegria’s depiction of exploitation of Indians in Peru, American writers such as Erskine Caldwell, Sinclair Lewis and William Faulkner.

Granado writes very well. I don’t know how much he changed of his diary through revisions, but I have to say that it’s at times very poetical.

If I think back at the book, I can feel three moods: The beginning, happy, adventurous, poetical and positive, in Argentina. A middle one, where the problems with the motorbike are coupled with financial and physical stress, while they meet oppressed peoples in Chile and Peru. An interlude in the two leprosaria they visit. And finally, their very negative passage through Bogota, and finally Caracas, where they encounter problems with the military and the police.

On page 7, at the beginning of their trip, Granado and Guevara stop at says he had never met people from the upper class, and that was amazed at how they spent time worrying about the most stupid of things.

On their way to Piedra del Aguila, Granado finds himself admiring the scrubby desert. “Bare hills alternate with plains of stunted scrub and an immense solitude.” (p.16)

On page 18, there is a first hint of a strange prejudice Granado has towards Germans, Yankees, Jews, rich Argentines and Chileans. For some reason, wherever he wants to complain about people with power, these four groups are always mentioned together.

There is a scary incident where both Ernesto and Alberto almost get lost in the mountains during he night, where marvel and fear got mixed up in Alberto’s narration. (p. 21-23)

(to be continued...)
Entered on: Thursday, July 7th, 2005 at 20:55.
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