Cigars With Che


With the death of Fidel Castro in Nov 2016 and the planning of a trip to Cuba (coincidentally) not too far after I started earlier this year to slowly dive into the history of Cuba. Of course I know about the Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs, but that is American history within Cuban history, I wanted to know more. My sister recommended that I watch “The Cuba Libre Story” an eight part documentary of Cuba through the years. Starting with ingenious people, to colonization and slavery, to Jose Marti (who I was told multiple times is always and forever the national hero of Cuba), up through the 1950's Revolution and Fidel and Raul's reign. I, like many others, became enthralled in the players of the revolution and their rise to power. Ernesto “Che” Guevara, I believe, had the most interesting story.

Born to a middle class family in Argentina he had an easier and more comfortable life than many. As a young man, he took a break from his medical school studies to ride a motorcycle around South America with a friend. In his 9,000 mile journey he witnessed the peril that South America's indigenous population was in while the rich, non-ingenious people prospered. This class gap, if you want to call it, was his first major taste of crisis in the world and the start of his communist thinking. A few years later he joined Fidel and other revolutionaries in Mexico and the rest is history. I won’t go into the detail of his time in Bolivia, but it is worth picking up a book and reading about it. I cannot say he is a hero, but to so many he was. I also cannot say that he was a villain, but to so many he was.

During one of our days in Cuba we headed west to the Valley of Vinales. I was expecting pure farm lands, but with tourism taking off it has a slight hustle and bustle to the small main street area. We visited beautiful caves and met an even more beautiful water buffalo (who was bathing in the water, and at that point I was so hot I contemplated joining him). After a local lunch of fried snapper, rice and beans, and plantain chips we headed off to the tobacco farm. The guides at the farm were so warm and funny and you truly saw a working farm in it's element. I saw around 5 hens laying eggs, roosters communicating back and forth, and cattle plowing fields. Although the hens fascinated me the most, we were there for the tobacco, and to my surprise we learned the making of one of Che’s favorite—Montecristo No. 4. It was a little treat for my weird fandom/interest in him. So we sat, smoked some cigars, broke out in a heat rash (this was reserved just for me, not for the rest of my friends), and wondered what Che would think in 2017 about a changing Cuba.