Cuba: motorcycle tours from the son of Comandante
Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara was killed in Bolivia on October 9, 1967. Half a century later, BBC correspondent Will Grant went with his son on a motorcycle tour in Cuba and asked Ernesto Jr. how he lives in the shadow of the idol of rebels around the world.
The resemblance to father is sometimes simply striking. Light unshaven, a prominent nose – features familiar to pain, right down to the smoldering cigar in the hand.
In addition to appearance, the youngest of Che’s sons inherited a passion for motorcycles from the legendary Hispanic.
“I’ve been fond of mechanics all my life, I love speed, cars, motorcycles,” says 52-year-old Ernesto, named after his father.
We are sitting in a Havanaan bar designed to please Harley Davidson fans.
“Even as a child, I was happy to mess with bikes, with cars. Probably, this is from my father, but in any case – this is my passion.” On appearance and hobbies, the resemblance to Che ends. Ernesto chose a completely different path for himself – tourism. He founded the travel agency and named it La Poderosa Tours in honor of the Norton motorcycle, on which Che went from his native Argentina in his youth on a journey across the American continent.
Ernesto’s private travel company, a lawyer by training, was allowed to reform Raul Castro, who succeeded Fidel’s brother at the helm of Cuba a decade ago.
Now Che’s son is organizing motorcycle tours in Cuba. I signed up for one of them, and we went to Pinar del Rio – the center of the cigar industry of the largest Caribbean island.
Under the prying eyes of the onlookers, the Harley Davidson convoy rumbled heavily, out of town.
A motorcycle as a means of transportation when traveling in Cuba is becoming increasingly popular with tourists. Our group is a hodgepodge of bikers from different countries: USA, China, Great Britain and Argentina.
“The Americans of my generation were ordered to enter Cuba,” says amateur biker Scott Rogers from Massachusetts at a short stop. “Nobody knows when the shop will be closed again, so I decided not to put off this business in a long box.”
Many are attracted by the ability to touch the legend.
Legends about the father do not prevent Ernesto Guevara from living his life.
“I always try not to connect these things. All that I have achieved in my life, I have achieved as Ernesto Guevara March – on my own, just as a person,” says Che’s son from his second marriage with Aleida March.
“I approach everything responsibly. If it turns out, that’s fine. No – well, it happens.”
Portrait of Che in a beret with a star – an icon for rebels around the world. So far, this philosophy has helped Ernesto. Tourism in Cuba is booming, and his company is booming.
He admits that not everyone likes his business idea, but critics – especially in Miami – who often reproach the descendant of the militant socialist Che for moving to the enemy camp.
Ernesto indignantly dismisses: “What does socialism or capitalism have to do with it! Why reduce it all to this?” “For me, we just do a good job and help our country,” says Che’s son.
One of the stops on our way is connected with the dark page of the biography of his father.
The fortress of San Carlos de la Cabanha in the Cuban capital remembers the revolutionary tribunals under the leadership of Che Guevara and the execution of “traitors”. Critics of the Cuban revolution call them extrajudicial killings.
Ernesto defends his father, calling those courts “normal.” I say that his point of view is unlikely to find sympathy on the other side of the bay, among the Cubans who fled to Florida.
Ernesto named La Poderosa after Che’s motorcycle. “Let the enemies say anything. The people of Cuba know why this happened, how it happened, and most importantly – that in order to restore calm in Cuban society, no one was going to forgive the killers.”
“So I don’t worry, my soul is calm, and my father’s soul is at peace,” he says.
Ernesto admits that it was not easy for him to grow up with such a famous parent – or rather, in the shadow of his image, because Che was killed in 1967, when Ernesto was only two years old.
“Of course, at school I was sometimes singled out as Ernesto Guevara, but in general I passed as Ernesto Guevara March, under my own name. The son of both parents – both father and mother.”
And he does not cease to emphasize this, constantly separating his “I” from the cult of Che.
“Those who love me love me the way I am. And not for the name of Guevara.”