Common Tread

You can ride Harleys in Cuba with Che Guevara's son? Really?

Jun 08, 2016

I just learned that I can take a guided tour of Cuba on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a company founded by a son of Che Guevara.

Is it just me, or is this one of the most unexpected developments in the motoverse?

Let's parse this for a moment. Ernesto "Che" Guevara's defiant gaze is on T-shirts, murals, buildings, stamps and currency, making him an icon of the ideological struggles of the 20th century. He helped Fidel Castro make Cuba the thorn in the United States' side. One of his sons, Ernesto Guevara, now runs La Poderosa Tours, offering guided tours of Cuba. Exclusively on motorcycles made by Harley-Davidson, surely one of the brands most closely associated with the United States.

Che Guevara stamp
This famous image taken by Alberto Korda of Che Guevara, seen here on a stamp, became an icon of the 20th century. Photo by Daniele Vinnacia/
Maybe you have to have been around before the Berlin Wall fell to appreciate this (sorry, Millennials), but all I could think of when I learned about La Poderosa Tours is that the 20th century now feels like a very long time ago.

The motorcycle genes were there for Guevara the son to inherit. The name, La Poderosa Tours, refers to the nickname Che Guevara gave to the Norton that he and a friend rode around South America in their youth. La Poderosa translates as "the mighty one." Consider it Guevara's first attempt at propaganda, if you want to, because the Norton wasn't that mighty. But that humble motorcycle did have a mighty effect on Guevara and on history, even though it didn't finish the trip. It was traveling South America and meeting exploited miners and peasant farmers in the Andes that forged the young Argentinian medical student's world view and radicalism. "The Motorcycle Diaries" was his account of that trip. It was later made into a movie (trailer below).

In Mexico, he met Fidel Castro, signed on for Castro's revolution in Cuba, and went on to become one of the 20th century's most iconic figures. He was killed in Bolivia, where he had joined another revolution.

And now we have his son leading tourists on Harleys across Cuba for about $5,000 a week. That's a commentary on how much the world has changed, and not a cheap shot at the son. Everyone has to make a living, and give me the choice between being shot in the head by Bolivian soldiers or leading European motorcyclists (and now, presumably Americans, too) around a tropical island on Harleys and watch how fast I grab the keys to the Street Glide.

I can ride a Harley in Cuba with Che Guevara's son. The 20th century is so dead, man.