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BOOK REVIEW - Mi Moto Fidel

Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba
by Christopher P. Baker

Publisher: Adventure Press, National Geographic
Washington, D.C.

Rating: *****

Copyright: Christopher P. Baker.

Christopher P. Baker writes like a passionate and wild angel. His fascinating travelogue is both vivid and voluptuous, scintillating and sensitive, a lifetime ride and intimate portrait of one of the last secret places left on the planet. Titled for the story's vehicle, Mi Moto Fidel is a 1000 cc BMW Paris-Dakar motorcycle, his ticket and ours to an unforgettable understanding of the beautiful and beleaguered island of Cuba.

His journey begins in Havana, a World Heritage Site time-warped in wedding cake architecture, Russian buses and high-finned yanqui automobiles. Baker's own flirtatious rides down the seedy Malecón are just the rev up to feed our expectations.

Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba, the subtitle of this fascinating account rides the undercurrent and after effects of Castro's revolution. Cuba is a living slice of history steeped in a culture of Castro's making. Baker observes the island with its coves and cubana's sultry as the sun and sea with a passionate eye. It is then that we discover Cuba in its entirety, an island that is heartrendingly inspirational, yet an island son plagued with poverty and despair. Baker's early enthusiasm for the revolution and Fidel's achievements in health care, education and social progress became sullied by the author's spectacular epiphany about the Cuban leader's darker Machiavellian motivations and the terrible toll that the Revolution has taken. Baker paints the past and the present, the good and the bad ("Cuba sweet and sour," he calls it) during a time when the Marxist island is in dire straits following the collapse of the Soviet Union - Cuba's backers. He sees a faltering revolution where spies and fear of reprisals abound. "Life was good in the beginning…" says one of the many Cubans Baker befriends, "…the privileged party members, eat well. They have food on their table. For the rest of Cuba life is a lucha." Baker explains, "A lucha. A fight or struggle. The word is on every Cuban's lips."

Englishman author Baker's 7000-mile ride is written in Technicolor words and with old-fashioned Greenesque brilliance. Open any page in the book, read any sentence and you'll see the island, begin to know its people. To turn the pages is tantamount to being there. To top that, Baker's photographer's lens is an impeccable addition to his writer's vision. Trained on the human aspect, how can we forget his doe-eyed habanera lover Daisy. We see her as she looks at Baker, eyes shining. The photographs are evocative of the beauty, excitement, and enchantment of Cuba. Baker has fallen for the complicated island and so do we through Baker's talent. If you are to read only one book this year let it be Mi Moto Fidel.

For more information on the travel writing of Christopher P. Baker visit www.travelguidebooks.com/

Copyright: Christopher P. Baker.