Thursday, May 29, 2014

How I feel now that it is over

Being able to do this project really opened my eyes to what I think of south america. This was a privilege because I was able to have a personal interview with Alex Chacon who is practically a celebrity. I wish more people would have come across our blog because anyone who looked at it would have been instantly hooked. My only regrets about doing this project is that we only had a little amount of time to do it. It would have been fun if we started this at the start of the year so the by now we could see how we progressed throughout humanities and our sophomore year. "The Motorcycle Diaries" by Che Guevara was a fantastic book to read. My view of Che changed an abnormal amount throughout the book. At first I thought of him as someone that just wanted to go on an adventure before he settles down, but I soon saw someone in him that cared for the people around him and just wanted to help people in what ever ways he could. After watching a documentary about him later in his life he still had that mind set but in a different way. What I mean by that is that he cared for the people he fought next to, to a point in which they were like sons to him and each one of them viewed him as a father figure that would protect them. I would recommend this book to everyone because it shines a light on the people of south america and show them for what they really are and not what we think of them as. I feel like most people of north america think of them to be these bad people that just try to smuggle drugs into our "perfect" little society, but this is not even remotely the case. All the people that Alex, Alberto, and Che witnessed were more than welcoming to them, they would welcome them into their homes, feed them and treat them just like family even if the family had close to nothing.  It was cool to be able to read that and then right after talk to someone that actually did. Both the book and Alex's journey had similar aspects but one thing was for sure Alex was much more prepared for what lied ahead. Even though Che and Alberto faced many challenges they were different than the ones Alex had to face. Theirs included their bike breaking down time and time again till it finally gave up and they had no reliable source of transportation. The challenges that Alex faces were more along the lines of not knowing which road to take because a good amount of them were unmarked. In the end I am happy I did this project and that I could do it with a group that cared just as much as I did about what we were learning.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What I am taking away

After reading "The Motorcycle Diaries" by Ernesto Guevara, my eyes have been open to a world that I had not witnessed before. Prior to opening to the first chapter I had not heard of Che Guevara and how he was a main influence in the Castro regime. When I started reading I only thought of Che as a young medical student eager to travel throughout South America, however I quickly learned that he's much more than that, he's a caring man who wants to better the world in any way he can. In his personal journal he wrote about all the injustice and inequalities he saw on his journey. On one incident he writes about how capitalism has poisoned South America after touring a coal mine in Chile. In the coal mine he witnessed all the workers were native citizens while an American company exploited them with minimal pay, poor working conditions, and excessively hard work. This annoyed Che and  made him want to end the touring there to continue his journey. Progressing in his journey Che saw other injustices such as mistreated elderly or abused power, despite the negative events Che tried his best to help anyone he could. He especially wanted to visit a leper colony to help those who had been quarantined from normal society. When Che finally got his wish he spent as much time as he could with the people of the colony talking to them person-to-person with out any protective mask, clothing, or even gloves when shaking hands. He really wanted to make them feel like human beings because the citizens of the colony were kept on a regular basis in crummy shacks with other sick. When they saw the non-sick they were usually covered head to toe in anti-bacterial suits. This made me realize that Che didn't care if they were sick only that they were human. This is a concept that stood with him into his years as a guerrilla leader, he did the things he did in order to equalize all humans not to gain power and rule the world. This is what iv'e taken away from reading "The Motorcycle Diaries", to see past all in-differences like Che, to see a human the same as me.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Motorcycle Diaries Book Review

In the time that I read The Motorcycle Diaries, I was able to see the story of change through many different perspectives. As Ché traveled throughout South America, his mind was opened to new ideas. Ché started out on a motorcycle with a friend and started off on a journey of a lifetime across South America, what it turned into however, was one of the largest revolutions of all time. Ché just graduated medical school and decide that going straight into the field was not why he wanted to do. So with this decision he sacrificed everything to travel. The two started off in Argentina and ultimately started meeting new people who would also tag along with the two. As Ché and his new band of friends travel South America, they run into many problems such as altercations with natives in Peru, and more importantly meeting Ché's first wife who would implant the idea of communism in his brain. Ché underwent a period of serious change during this journey. This is crucial for the events that would soon follow after he would separate from his motorcycle friends. Ché met Fidel and Raúl Castro after he separated his friend. These two men lead the revolution against Fulgencio Batista. Ché was now responsible for the overthrow of Batista. The three men then decide to place the new socialist government in Cuba. Ché was at the point in his life where his experiences with his friends and new ideas started to take him away from his hard earned career path as a doctor. Ché wanted to keep exploring and wanted to do what his heart was telling him to do. Ché’s motives were ultimately revolutionary, this leads to the Cuban Trade Embargo and ultimately his death in Bolivia. Ché wanted to change the way that people ran countries. He despised the United States way of running it and made sure everyone new. The book The Motorcycle Diaries, details the way that Ché changed throughout his life. The influence and though of communism lead him to be one of the most famous revolutionaries in history. his face is still plastered all over South America and will be remembered forever. The Motorcycle Diaries, simply outlines and shows the ways he changed over his long eventful journey

South America, what a place

South America has so many different places that you must see. Many visit there every year to experience the treasures it holds. The geography of South America is one of a kind and no where on earth can compare to its beauty. The climate varies vastly throughout the beautiful continent of South America. Che Guevara and Alex Chacon had the privilege of experiencing South America for what it really is. When we interviewed Alex he had a lot to say about the beauty of the amazon he said "there were points in which all the roads around were dirt and unmarked."  This was one of the hardest things he encountered on his journey. One of the most beautiful parts of South America is the Iguazu Falls which lies on the borders Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.  This is something that is must see if you happen to travel to one of these country's.  As you can see there is a platform so that tourists can be up in the action of the falls.  I wish that I could experience this natural beauty for myself. Many people travel to South America just for the soul purpose of experiencing this luxury. Alex Chacon never got the opportunity to see this, the only reason is that he didn't know it would be the size and magnitude that it is. I feel like the best time to visit this would be either while the sun is setting or while it is rising so that the sun is barely visible in the distance. In the picture below it is an example of the falls during a sun set.
 (In the picture above it is an example of the falls during a sun set.)
Something that calls south america home is Salar de Uyuni. Salar de Uyuni is the worlds biggest salt flats. It is 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 Square miles). These salt flats are located in Bolivia and are at an elevation of 11,995 ft, which is above sea level. This masterpiece is a mystery to all that visit there. After it rains it it becomes a giant mirror that reflects the sky perfectly. This area contains up to 70% of the world lithium reserves which is a quite ridiculous amount. A cool fact about it is that it is home to several species of pink Flamingos. Alex Chacon rode through this and it looked like he had alot of fun doing it. When he was there it was not around the time of a rain so he didn't experience the power of the reflection.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Map of Che and Alberto's Journey and His time in Africa

Che_Guevara-Granado_-_Mapa_1er_viaje_-_1952.jpg (436×612) 
       This is a map of Che and Alberto's Journey in South America, keep in mind that this is only a map of their journey and not his entire life. The map starts the journey from the bottom in Argentina (where the book started off) and shows how they made their way North as the story progressed.The map ends in Cuba where Che then after returned to Argentina. Che also spent some time in Africa. In 1965, Che visited the Congo for about a year in order to get away from the U.S. His purpose for going was to spark an anti-western revolution and to gain supporters and recruit soldiers for his cause. Che's efforts were stopped by a man named  Colonel "Mad Mike" Hoare. Michael Hoare had been contracted by the American Government in Kinshasa. Colonel Hoare and his mercenaries pushed Che's small
militia onto the shore of Lake 
Tanganyika and forcing them to escape by crossing it and crossing through some Tanzinia territory. Che later returned to Cuba and reunited with Castro. 

Mike Hoare in the Congo in 1964. Photo by Agence Presse.jpg
Colonel "Mad Mike" Hoare
Che-Africa-36693372211.jpeg (456×624)
Che posing with a baby and a soldier in one of the  Congolese villages.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cuban Political Cartoons

This cartoon Fidel and handing over the "torch" of Cuba to his younger brother Raul, who is also very old and was with Fidel and Che during the Cuban revolution. Raul fully supports what his brother did and what he stands for. Raul has been the president of Cuba since 2008 and has tried to help the country for many years. This picture is from an American perspective and shows that the older and bashful Fidel Castro who hasn't helped much is now passing the torch to his brother who is just years younger. In the book The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara discusses the relationship that Fidel and Raul share. It is a very tight and loving brother bond that could never be split. Raul looks up to Fidel all the time, and it was a dream come true when Raul was able to revive control of Cuba from his older brother. This cartoon shows the irony in Fidel Castro giving the country of Cuba to his brother who also is very old and is highly unlikely to change any laws and regulations that his brother has put in place. As Cuba continues to struggle with the government that is in place, the country will only stay the same and possibly get worse. This cartoon illustrates the problems and irony residing in Cuba.

This picture is from the Cuban perspective and shows President Barrack Obama keeping the embargo against Cuba that has been in place since the Cuban Missile Crisis. The man with Florida is Uncle Sam and he is trying to control and keep Cuba away and out of the US. Uncle Sam's arm says embargo and that is the United states hand trying to "choke" Cuba so that they are unable to trade with the United States. Although the book did not have any description of Che's involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis, we know that Che was heavily opposing of the US's reaction. Che ultimately started the crisis by befriending and asking the Soviet Union for help during the Cold War. This lead to the Embargo which is still continued to this day. The relevance of this cartoon is very prevalent. The trade embargo with Cuba has forbid anything from Cuba to enter the country and most Americans cannot travel to Cuba, unless they apply to get a special permit and pass. This is a problem for both countries but more so Cuba. One of the most profitable markets in Cuba is its tourism, and Americans are always ready to spend hundreds to have a good time. With the embargo still in place Cuba is unable to hit and profit from this market.

Top Ten places to visit in South America

This is a list I compiled of the top ten places to visit in South America, keep in mind that these countries are not all spanish speaking countries (ie Brazil) and that this list is based on research and personal opinion (seeing as to how I’ve been to South America on multiple occasions) . South America is home to some of the most beautiful places on the planet and I figure if we have a blog all about South America then it’s important to recognize it’s beauty as well as it’s struggles. Che Guevara

#1) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
With it’s warm white sands, gorgeous vistas and vibrant nightlife, Rio de Janeiro makes for a fun getaway at any time of year. Whether you're looking for a glittery Carnival costume or a striking view of Christ the Redeemer you won’t be disappointed with what you find in this amazing city. I have been to Rio three times before and I can confidently say that it is my dream destination and my go-to vacation spot.
            (“Christ the Redeemer” Statue in Rio de janeiro Brazil)

#2) Buenos Aires, Argentina
This sophisticated city known as the "Paris of the South" has a lot going for it. You'll find it hard not to fall in love with Buenos Aires' wide boulevards and Parisian-style cafes. Buenos Aires suits all types of vacationers. Arrive in fall or spring for gorgeous foliage and all around good company from the people of Buenos Aires. Guevara and Alberto soon set off from Buenos Aires, Argentina, astride a 1939 Norton 500 cc motorcycle they named La Poderosa II (The Mighty One) with the idea of eventually spending a few weeks volunteering at the San Pablo Leper colony in Peru on the banks of the Amazon River. They later returned to Buenos Aires at the end of August after spending a month in Miami. He returned to medical school by October of 1952.
(“The Obelisk” commemorative landmark in the city)

#3) Cusco, Peru
As the former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is the home base for travelers visiting the legendary Machu Picchu. If you're not worn out from the hike along the Inca Trail, spend time marveling at lesser-known attractions like the extensive Pre-Columbian Museum. Cuzco made an impression on Che and Alberto on March 1st, 1952 as they spent time studying the architecture and wandering the cities museums and libraries. In Cuzco a local doctor provided them a Land Rover to take them to the Valley of the Incas
        (Machu Picchu, the legendary Inca palace)

#4) Costa Rica
Costa Rica is more than a simple beach vacation. There are volcanoes to hike, misty rainforests to explore and a vibrant culture to experience. Be forewarned: You'll find it super hard to find a reason to leave.

         (Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica)

#5) The Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands are best known for their rich array of creatures — ranging from giant tortoises and lizards to seals and penguins. Getting here will cost you, but isn't admiring towering volcanoes, gorgeous sands and unique wildlife worth it?
                     (Helicopter shot of one of the main islands)

#6) Easter Island, Chile

Easter Island, also known as “Isla de Pascua” or “Rapa Nui” by the Spanish and Polynesian, is one of the most alluring sacred sites on Earth. Famous for its enigmatic giant stone figures, the Moai were built centuries ago, but continue to remain a mystery and our only link to the demise of this isolated Polynesian culture.
    (The famous Easter Island statues)

#7) Angel Falls, Venezuela
Veer off the beaten course for a little adventure and a lot of adrenaline. The tallest waterfall in the world at 3,212 feet promises just that. Take in the views via helicopter, only then will you fully capture the thrill and immensity of this natural wonder.
                   (Helicopter View of the falls)

#8) Granada, Nicaragua
A colonial destination, Granada is the first European town established on mainland America. Explore their open-air markets, beautiful street walk ways and colorful architecture. If you should find yourself outlining the details of your retirement while in town, so be it.
                      (The Historical Guadalupe Church)

#9) Lima, Peru
Lima, founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, is a fascinating city and a treasure trove of history. Explore ancient Incan archeological sites, or stroll through the elegant cathedrals and opulent palaces dating from Spanish colonial times. Downtown Lima is crowded, but you'll enjoy exploring the city's neighborhoods—especially the beachfront areas, which have great shopping and dining and fabulous hotels. On May 1st, 1952 Che and Alberto arrived in Lima, Peru and during this time Guevara met doctor Hugo Pesce, a Peruvian scientist, director of the national leprosy program, and an important local Marxist. They discuss several nights until the early morning and years later Che identified these conversations as being very important for his evolution in attitude towards life and society. 
                                            (Lima Skyline)

#10) Bogotá, Colombia
Ten million people call vibrant, passionate, sprawling Bogota home. The energy of this metropolitan heart of columbia is fueled by it’s hundreds of eclectic and authentic dining hot spots, fantastic wines, and frequent foodie festivals. Try asking the locals where they like to eat, then walk off your empanadas and aji with a stroll through the historic district of La Candelaria or during an indulgent shopping adventure on the North Side. On July 2, 1952 Ernesto and Alberto caught a Catalina flying boat to the capital. While visiting Bogotá, Colombia, he wrote a letter to his mother on July 6, 1952. In the letter he describes the conditions under the right-wing government of Conservative Laureano Gómez as the following: There is more repression of individual freedom here than in any country we've been to, the police patrol the streets carrying rifles and demand your papers every few  minutes.
                                    (Bogotá Skyline)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cuban Cuisine

Cuban cuisine has many influences and tastes from around the world that make up it's unique flavor. The influences in Cuba's food come from Europe, Africa, China, Caribbean, and Spanish cultures. In most of Eastern Cuba you can find food with African, Caribbean, European, and Latin American influences. There you will find food with a lot more spices due to Caribbean immigrants moving to Cuba. Also the manner in which the meals are cooked are found in Africa, such as Fufu de platano (Fufu is derived from western Africa) which is mashed plantains stuffed with pork, chicken, or shrimp. Most of these foods were not seen by Che for many months as they require a great deal of preparation and technique.
Western Cuba has similar tastes but influences from the other side of the world. In western food you'll come across Chinese, Spanish, and a little European flavor. The Chinese influence is seen in many rice dishes where beans are not added, and the use of flour which is mostly excluded in common Spanish foods. This is food that Che ate during his journey through Latin America as it is the cheapest and easiest to prepare. Pastries are also very common in western Cuba, like pasteles, a puff pastry filled with fruit (mainly guava).Others like croquetas include meat and peppers inside the pastry. If Che came across any while traveling it would have been a delicacy to have eaten.
.Croquettes with salad.jpg
Finally, mate. Mate is a very well known Latin brew of the yerba plant that is ingested through a bombilla (a metal or wooden straw that filters the yerba) and a calabash gourd. Mate was originally used by indigenous Guarani to southern Brazil and soon spread through South America as European colonies started to sprout. Through the years it has become one of the most common drinks in Latin America as seen in "The Motorcycle Diaries" as Che's and Alberto's go to drink in times of tiredness, sickness, or even thirst. There has also been drinks based off of mate, such as Materva, a Cuban mate mixture created before the Cuban Revolution that gave Cubans the mate taste with a twist. With the revolution Materva died out but luckily in the 1960's a Florida based company bought the drink and it has ever since been sold in the United States.
File:Mate en calabaza.jpg
Traditional calabash gourd and bombilla straw with mate.

Current day "Materva" can.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Meeting Alex Chacon

Speaking with Alex Chacon brought all of this into perspective for me. I realized that Alex, like many others in our world had a desire to make a difference in the world and he went out and did it. Not only has he inspired me to possibly do more in my own life but he has shown me that if you truly want to do something, then there's always a way to do it (even if it means selling all your stuff). I was very surprised when I first learned that Max actually got in contact with Alex because I considered him a celebrity (and very rarely does anyone actually get in contact with a celebrity). When we were initially starting to exchange emails we actually had to reschedule our phone call because he was at a meeting for one of his sponsors, GoPro.

Talking to Alex Chacon was a gratifying experience that gave me a new view on Latin America. Before the interview with him I thought of South and Central America as underprivileged countries whose main economic income is through fruit and drugs. This was set into my mind by large news corporations who are covering the current struggle in Brazil, Venezuela, and others leading up to the 2014 World Cup. However what Mr. Chacon said was very surprising to me. He said that locals in every country welcomed him with open arms into their homes. They even cooked and gave him food for his journey. This is very similar to what Che wrote in "The Motorcycle Diaries" when him and Alberto were accepted into homes 50 years earlier, making me think Latin America hasn't changed in its humanitarian values in the lapse of time between Che's and Alex's journey.

It was a privilege being able to discuss with Alex Chacon about his adventures. From the first time I saw his blog I wanted to talk to him and once I did I wanted to go on that trip myself. Alex changed my perspective about Latin America, at first I thought that the people of Latin America would be dangerous, he quickly changed my mind. He told about how nice and giving all the people that he met were, and that they were his favorite part of the trip. Almost every soul he turned was more than happy to welcome him into their homes, he was invited into many homes for meals and a bed. Compared to Alberto and Ernesto, Alex was much more prepared for this trip. One reason he did that is because he didn't want anything to be in his way and he was going much further than they did in The Motorcycle Diaries. One of the things that was very important that he brought was extra tubes for his motorcycle. If Alberto and Ernesto brought this stuff they would have been much better off.

After speaking with Alex Chacon, I learned a lot about how to manage and live your life on a journey of a lifetime. Alex said that after college he wanted to see the world and experience new things. He sold all of his possessions so that he could have enough money to travel throughout South America. It was very cool to hear that his dream throughout his life was to travel to South America, and when he did he had to give up and risk everything so that his dream could be accomplished. A question that Blue asked was “ What was the type of food that you ate?”, and it was interesting to hear that at the time all he could afford is just beans and some rice. He would eat beans and rice for days just to save some money. As Alex started to blog and post of his experiences online, people started to catch on started donating money to him. He wrote a quick bio on his blog and the money started to come in and Alex was able to do more with his newly gained money. He ultimately bought a GoPro and started to take videos with it. GoPro took notice of this and decided to sponsor him and also supply him with money so that he can continue his journey. As Alex continued his journey, more sponsors such as Oakley, also gave Alex sponsorships. Now, after sacrificing all his personal belongings and all the usual large meals, Alex is now sponsored by some of the biggest brands in the world.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How To Make An Authentic Cuban Cigar

This is a video that shows the process in which people in Cuban work factories made these cigars. As you can see, these conditions that the workers have to work in day in and day out. The process that is shown, has been industrialized, but companies such as Bolíviar, Bravo, and Dunhill all have a wrapped option for their cigars. The companies that offer a hand wrapped cigar price them higher because they are "More authentic."The companies also allow tours of their work houses. The tour guides allow the tourists to buy the cigars freshly made by the workers as seen in this video .

Alex Chacon Interview

Questions and answers
1. Q: Was it lonely on the road?
A: Yes, traveling solo through so many different country's is lonely.

2. Q: Did you have a companion on the road?
A: No, but people often do, its not unlikely to see people with pets. Many people make this voyage and its personal preference to take a pet or not.

3.Q: What was one thing you struggled with on your journey?
A: Navigation, mainly because he didn't have a GPS and a good amount of the roads are unmarked.

4.Q: Did Che have any influence on your wanting to journey to South America?
A: He didn't read the book until after his trip in order not to spoil the surprises that laid ahead. He thought that if he read the book before then trip that he would end up doing the same things that Che did and wouldn't have his own experiences.

5.Q: How did you conserve and raise money?
A: He didn't have any sponsors when he first started so he sold everything he owned in order to get the supplies needed for the trip. He was often invited to stay in strangers houses just like Che did.

6.Q: What was your motivation to take the trip and finish it all the way through?
A: He wanted to make it to Machu Picchu because he dreamed of going there when he was a kid. The people he met along the way not only assisted him in whatever in order to continue but he found motivation in their positive energy about their own lives. Kept creating new challenges for himself to go further.

7. Q: How did strangers treat you and how did you treat them?
A: The people were the best part, took him into there homes, helped in whatever way they could.

8. Q: What was the climate like?
A: It changed constantly because he was going though so many different places. He faced scorching hot, bitter cold, and jungles to a point he couldn't see road.

9.Q: What type of equipment did you bring on your journey?
A: Three pairs of every kind of clothing (socks, underwear, ect.) thermal gear, summer gear, small first aid kit, extra tire tubes, patches, spark plugs, tools to disassemble and reassemble the bike, computer, gopro, helmets, and a jacket.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cuban Cigars: Best Smoke In The World

Cuban Cigars: Best Smoke In The World
By: Max Gelband

Brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro 
A picture of Ché Guevara taking a smoke break
     Through out history it has been said that Cuba has the best cigars in the world, hundreds of people all pay ridiculous amounts of money for an item that only last about 30-40 minutes. Well of course, Cuba has been a sought out place to smoke cigars. Cigars are judged on the flavor, color, and quality of the wrapping. Cuba has been a hot spot for all of these qualities. During the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, and Ché Guevara all enjoyed the experience of smoking the highest quality cigar. "A smoke in times of rest is a great companion to the solitary solider." Is what Ché said about the cigars. The want for these cigars is very high in America. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United Sates created a trade embargo against Cuba which meant that cigar loving people were unable to enjoy the Cuban quality. 
     In this day in age it is much easier to buy and sell Cuban cigars due to the mass use of the internet. Buyers can purchase cases of cigars for 60 to 500 dollars depending on if they are real, are they hand wrapped or machine wrapped, and what type of treatment the tobacco has gone through. Cigars for most are used as a celebratory item, but some have fallen in love with the taste. Interestingly enough, cigars like any other novelty item, have conventions. These conventions take place all over the world and can stretch across the pond to England. These conventions attack cigar lovers from all over the world from many different countries. The infamous English leader Winston Churchill was a huge fan of cigars. Curchill first fell in love with cigars when he was on his first war tour to Cuba for the British Army. In fact, he has has his own type of cigar due to his love. Curchill cigars are different from most cigars due to the smoke time and the delicate ways to handle it. Curchill cigars on average last to an hour or an hour and a half. If you do not have the patience to smoke the cigar, then you will overheat the tobacco and spoil the taste of the cigar. Curchill cigars sell for 35 to 1150 dollars a box. Most of the Churchill cigars are manufactured in Cuba, but many variations of these cigars are made all over the world. 
This is a picture of Winston Churchill smoking a Cuban cigar
All in all, the influence of Cuban cigars is relevant. They are loved by many all over the world and have been raved about since the Cuban Revolution. Even the infamous Winston Churchill was obsessed with the cigars and ultimately has had a type of cigar named after him. The history and desire for these cigars will last forever and the legacy of the Cuban cigar will remain the best in the world.