Of motorcycles, maté, and Marx.
Coinciding with the release of the Robert Redford–produced film The Motorcycle Diaries, Granado’s work is a lightly edited journal of his travels, in 1952, across South America in the company of Ernesto Guevara, who would earn fame and martyrdom as Fidel Castro’s lieutenant. Granado was older than Guevara by a few years and already a practicing medical doctor; to judge by these pages, it would also appear that he played the role of committed revolutionary Che, that of the suave Argentine hipster. The South American working class, Granado complains, knows “only the beauties of alcohol, football, and horse racing,” lulled into submission by “classroom, pulpit, and press, which are all in the hands of the rich and powerful.” Ernesto, for his part, doesn’t speak much in Granado’s pages, which would have benefited from a little levity in the place of class analysis, a little more of the pair’s enjoyable banter. All the same, Granado does credible work in chronicling the progress the pair made up the Pacific Coast, through the Andes to Lake Titicaca, and down to the jungles of Colombia, traversing the most tortuous roads on the least reliable of mounts. (Their motorcycle, for one, which often forced them to travel by thumb.) Granado is capable of lyricism, and his descriptions of the passing landscape and ports of call are the best parts here: “By the time we crossed the last of the snowy hills the clouds formed by the snow’s evaporation were already enormous. Their blue contrasted with the coppery red of the hills without snow on them, and these in turn were splashed by the green of the moss.” “At the very first bite I felt my tongue burning. I can’t even say I know what monkey meat tastes like—all I felt was the burning of the chile.” Such moments, however, are few.
Not to be dismissed as a firsthand document. But for a more entertaining take on the journey, see Patrick Symmes’s Chasing Che (2000), an altogether better read.