Alberto Granado and Che Guevara begin their seven-months long road trip aboard Granado’s Norton

Saturday 29th December 1951

Alberto Granado and Che Guevara begin their seven-months long road trip aboard Granado’s Norton. A trip that will eventually change the lives of many.

On the Saturday morning, Alberto Granado packed his saddlebags, topped off the tank of his beloved 1939 500cc Norton (nicknamed Ponderosa II) and began what turns out to be a life-changing tour of South America with his friend Che Guevara. Throughout their continental excursion they both kept detailed journals as they witnessed first hand the poverty of disenfranchised native peoples and their frequent lack of access to otherwise cheap and basic medical care. The two men were especially deeply affected in Chile when they visited the American-owned Anaconda Copper’s Chuquicamata copper mine and met men working their asses off for nothing more than pennies and suffering from silicosis (a form of lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust). Granado later lamented that although he and Guevara were impressed by the mine’s high-tech machinery, “this was eclipsed by the indignation aroused when you think that all this wealth only goes to swell the coffers of Yankee capitalism.”

The two friends encounters with South America’s “downtrodden and exploited” such as the copper miners, migrant sheep shearers, and Indian peasantry were a major influence on both their lives. For Alberto Granado, it confirmed that there was a wider world to see and help than the middle classes of his hometown, while in Che Guevara it ignited a burning desire to tackle the cause of such misery, which he came to see as capitalism. These experiences also galvanized both men in realizing their future vocations — Guevara towards Marxist revolutionary politics and Granado to the pursuit of practical science.

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