Che′s Travels

The Making of a Revolutionary in 1950s Latin America

Che′s Travels

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 4 photos, 2 maps Published: September 2010

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies

Ernesto “Che” Guevara twice traveled across Latin America in the early 1950s. Based on his accounts of those trips (published in English as The Motorcycle Diaries and Back on the Road), as well as other historical sources, Che’s Travels follows Guevara, country by country, from his native Argentina through Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela, and then from Argentina through Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico. Each essay is focused on a single country and written by an expert in its history. Taken together, the essays shed new light on Che’s formative years by analyzing the distinctive societies, histories, politics, and cultures he encountered on these two trips, the ways they affected him, and the ways he represented them in his travelogues. In addition to offering new insights into Guevara, the essays provide a fresh perspective on Latin America’s experience of the Cold War and the interplay of nationalism and anti-imperialism in the crucial but relatively understudied 1950s. Assessing Che’s legacies in the countries he visited during the two journeys, the contributors examine how he is remembered or memorialized; how he is invoked for political, cultural, and religious purposes; and how perceptions of him affect ideas about the revolutions and counterrevolutions fought in Latin America from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Malcolm Deas
Paulo Drinot
Eduardo Elena
Judith Ewell
Cindy Forster
Patience A. Schell
Eric Zolov
Ann Zulawski


Che’s Travels contributes to existing scholarship by offering further evidence that suggests why Guevara was killed in Bolivia in 1967. The book does not do this by suggesting a ‘historical inevitability’; rather, each author puzzles over the fact that Guevara, as an intelligent, well-read individual with a great deal of interest in his continent, was less insightful than one might have thought.... The fact that Guevara was unable to see the complex intertwining of social processes and unrests in Cold War Latin America appears throughout the volume as a persuasive reason why Guevara’s revolutionary politics would ultimately fail.” — Isabel DiVanna, Canadian Journal of History

“[Che’s Travels] is an interesting reading and a welcomed contribution to a historical period that . . . has not yet received adequate attention by scholarship. Moreover, it represents an accomplished effort to break down Guevara’s iconography and, in consequence, move in the direction of a deeper historical contextualization of his figure. For all these reasons, I consider this is enjoyable and informative reading.” — Vanni Pettiná, LSE Review of Books

“This fascinating volume of essays, organised as it is in country-by-country analyses, offers readers of all specialisations a path to explore the historical moments that Guevara passed through at the outset of the Cold War in Latin America.”
— Aaron W. Navarro, Cold War History

“Written in a clear and engaging manner, the essays locate Guevara’s observations in his diaries within broader historiographical and historical frameworks. Indeed, one of the book’s achievements is its appeal for a wider audience. While more general readers may be interested in the personal details of his travels and the sense of intimacy they convey about one important historical figure, historians and social scientists can engage with several of the themes advanced by the authors. . . . An innovative and highly readable perspective on the life of one of Latin America’s most famous historical figures.” — Jorge Nállim, Labour/Le Travail

Che’s Travels is a noteworthy success. The analytical framework laid out at the beginning of the book yields a cohesive volume that enriches our understanding of the social, political and economic contexts that shaped one of Latin America’s most influential personalities.” — John R. Bawden, The Latin Americanist

Che’s Travels offers a needed analysis of 1950s Latin American social and
political conditions, which, by using Che’s travels as a guide, makes the analysis clear and easy to follow. It could be an excellent way to introduce college students to the difficult conditions and political circumstances that transformed some middle class Latin Americans into revolutionaries.” — Alejandro Quintana, History: Reviews of New Books

“This is a fascinating collection which ... attempts to build around the itineraries of Che Guevara’s two famous journeys through Latin America (in 1951 and 1953) a series of snapshot pictures of the relevant countries of that time, judging both the extent of their impact on him and his subsequent impact on them. . . . a revealing and detailed, if not complete, picture of the Latin America of 1951-3.” — Antoni Kapcia, Journal of Latin American Studies

“This is a well-written study and enjoyable to read. . . . [T]he book is easy to follow . . . . The best destination for this book is probably undergraduate Latin American history classes, because it offers both a comprehensive study of 1950s Latin America and a scholarly overview of pre-revolutionary Che.” — James C. Knarr, The Americas

Che’s Travels is superb. Following the always interesting Che and his motorcycle across 1950s Latin America is a great way to cover most of the region and an absolutely crucial moment in Latin American history.” — Steve Striffler, author of In the Shadows of State and Capital

“Readers will follow the legendary itinerary, stopping along the way to learn a great deal about both Ernesto Guevara de la Serna and the countries he motored through in the early 1950s. A brilliant and perfect companion to The Motorcycle Diaries, this book provides sustained commentary on what Che saw, and importantly, on everything he missed. The authors combine impeccable research with piercing analysis as they move through terrain strewn with traces of Guevara’s hubris, misconceptions, and compassion.” — Alejandra Bronfman, author of Measures of Equality


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Paulo Drinot is Senior Lecturer in Latin American History at the Institute of the Americas, University College London. He is the author of The Allure of Labor: Workers, Race, and the Making of the Peruvian State, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction / Paulo Drinot 1

Point of Departure: Travel and Nationalism in Ernesto Guevara's Argentina / Eduardo Elena

Beauty and Bounty in Che's Chile / Patience A. Schnell

Awaiting the Blood of a Truly Emancipating Revolution: Che Guevara in 1950s Peru / Paulo Drinot

"Putting Up" with Violence: Ernesto Guevara, Guevarismo, and Colombia / Malcolm Deas

Che Guevara and Venezuela: Tourist, Guerrilla Mentor, and Revolutionary Spirit / Judith Ewell

The National Revolution and Bolivia in the 1950s: What Did Che See? / Ann Zulawski

"Not in All of America Can There Be Found a Country as Democratic as This One": Che and Revolution in Guatemala / Cindy Forster

Between Bohemianism and a Revolutionary Rebirth: Che Guevara in Mexico / Eric Zolov


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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4767-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4748-4
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