Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A motorcycle trip that changed history

Many young people, by nature, are yearning for adventure. This has given rise to ‘commercialization of adventure’ through adventure parks, white water rafting, bungee jumping and other activities, for which people are ready to spend money. This gives a sense of difference and liberty to the lives of the participants.

Travel is also an adventure. If someone chose to travel in a motorbike, across countries or even continents, it will be looked upon by some people as madness, even now. Fifty years ago, many more people would have said the same when two friends from Argentina embarked on a trip of Latin America in their motorbike dubbed La Poderosa (The mighty one).

Alberto Granado and Ernesto Guevara were training to be doctors and were from extremely privileged families. They had seen the wealth of Argentina, which was, and still is, a relatively rich country in Latin America. In their country, they could not see the plight of the native South American (Amerindian) people, simply because their forefathers had ‘eliminated’ those people centuries ago.

Alberto Granado and Che (R)

Their voyage took them across Argentina to Chile and then to Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, ending in Miami before they flew home. Their vehicle, “the mighty one” broke down for good in Chile and they completed the tour basically by hitch-hiking. This helped them interact with the people on the ground. As Alberto Granado told to the Irish Times in 2004, it gave them a chance to “become familiar with the people. We worked, took on jobs to make money and continue traveling. We hauled merchandise, carried sacks, worked as sailors, cops and doctors.” What started as a adventure trip ended up being a lesson in life.

Guevara’s introductory lessons in Communism were in Chile, where he witnessed the suppression of the Communist Party members, whose protests against consistent hunger had transformed into “a love for this strange doctrine.” Later in the trip, they saw how introvert and negative the Peruvian Aymara Indians looked. They had been under the tutelage of colonial and then local masters for centuries. The situation was the same until very recently, decades after Guevara’s murder.

The lessons continued as they went to a leprosy colony in Peruvian Amazon region. He saw how even simple gestures of kindness meant a lot to those people who had been discriminated from society.

By the time he went back home to Argentina, Guevara knew that he was not the one that left on the journey several months ago. He was sure that “when the great guiding spirit cleaves humanity into two antagonistic halves, I will be with the people.” He had not become the Pan-Latin American, Communist revolutionary leader. But, by the time his trip ended, his journey in the revolutionary path had started.

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