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Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba [Paperback]

Christopher Baker
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2002 Adventure Press

Throughout the course of his three-month, 7,000-mile odyssey through Castro’s Cuba, Christopher Baker—thanks to his attention-getting vehicle—enjoyed instant entrée to a people both deprived of and obsessed by chrome and motorized wheels.

Baker’s dazzling narrative introduces readers to a tremendous variety of Cubans in this penetrating and spellbinding travelogue—from tobacco growers and prostitutes to fishermen and impassioned dissidents. Revealing a vivacious people in the throes of a slow and painful transition, Baker takes us through his own gradual but profound change of heart about Castro’s regime. Mi Moto Fidel is a rare work of warmhearted humor and considerable insight that mines the depths of Cuba’s troubled history and politics...and shines an unprecedented light on this stubbornly enigmatic country.


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From Amazon

Mi Moto Fidel, Christopher Baker's intriguing account of his three-month romp through Cuba on a fire-engine red motorcycle is perhaps the most thorough portrait of this faded Communist country to date. Baker leaves no stone unturned as he revisits Ernest Hemingway's haunts in Havana, checks out a secret cave in the foothills of the sierras that once served as Che Guevara's command post during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and sips motojos at a thatched-roofed beach bar on Playa Los Pinos. On this exhaustive journey, our leather-clad "yanqui" interacts with a myriad of characters from artists to farmers to fisherman to prostitutes and engages in lively discussions on everything from politics, sex, cigars and, of course, on the ageing revolutionary himself, Fidel Castro. Baker effectively captures the essence of the Cuban people--primarily their generosity and resilient spirit and his various dalliances with beautiful habaneras (Daisy, Sonia, Juanita to name a few) will pique readers' interest (men's more than women's, perhaps). By the time Baker winds up back in Havana he has covered some 7,000 miles on his cherished bike. After reading Mi Moto Fidel, you'll no doubt be inspired to hit the road. --Jill Fergus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Often hilarious, sometimes hair-raising, this engaging travelogue documents Baker's journey across Cuba astride a gaudy BMW motorcycle. The thrust of the book is relatively simple: child of the New Left grows up, takes monstrous icon of capitalism to former ideological paradise, locals ooh and ah at the chrome behemoth and the freedom it supposedly represents, writer becomes disenchanted, denounces socialism. Throw in enough skirt chasing by the 41-year-old Baker (a travel and natural science writer) to elicit images of a Yorkshire Mickey Spillane, and you've got an entertaining and thought-provoking, if frequently meandering, tale. Baker encounters an extraordinary cross-section of Cubans, including Fidelistos loyal to el barbudo (a nickname for Castro) and dissenters who speak of betrayal and corruption. Baker's own somewhat "pro-triunfo" beliefs change as he slowly cracks el manto (literally, "the mantle" of ideology and government propaganda) and sees what many believe to be the true product of Castro's regime. Baker's ideological revelation is compromised by his basing his transformation almost entirely on one conversation with a formerly middle-class couple, and by his inability to convince the reader that Cuban corruption has been more devastating than the U.S. economic stranglehold. His dabbling in ideology mars the book slightly; still, if the reader accepts Baker's treatises as nothing more than amateur musings, this account of a marvelously eccentric trip remains a very engaging read. Eight pages of full-color photos. (Feb.) Forecast: The clever cover, in reds and golds, will have browsers lifting this off shelves to see what it's all about.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a great book Aug. 1 2006
Format:Hardcover
This remains a great book, even after re-reading it years later. It ought not to be dismissed as an account of the author's mid-life crisis, and it remains a truthful, perceptive account of real life in Fidel's Cuba, as well as the sheltered perspective of the tourist (usually Canadian or Euro-trash equivalent).It is also a poignant story of the loss of love and the loss of redemption, wrapped up in a travelogue of considerable insight. Added Bonus: it's about motorcycles, too.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Solid Prose Ruined by Imperialist Activities July 17 2004
Format:Hardcover
Mi Moto Fidel is a good story of Cuba and it's people, and, of course, Fidel.
The author, Christopher Baker, is a good observer and accurately portrays a nation awash in poverty thanks to Marxism run wild.
In reading the book, one becomes impressed with the staggering physical beauty of the place, almost as a metaphor for the wonderful humanity of the people of this caribbean emerald of an island. The Cubans are as he describes them: resilient, positive, generous and heroic in their survival against enormous economic degradation.
The book, though is troubling, and these troubles don't arise from either the "Moto" or from Fidel.
Mr. Baker's pomposity makes him, as the narrator and main participant in the work, a most unlikable protagonist. To him all tourists are obese, ignorant, rude and unwelcome. Spaniards, English, Americans, Germans and Canadians are all disparaged.
It seems as if Mr. Baker believes that he is the only non-Cuban entitled to visit the place.
Perhaps worse is Mr. Baker's role as a profligate participant in sexual imperialism. The most ethically bankrupt possible thing that a beneficiary of the developed economies can do is travel to a poor country and take advantage of the country's poverty by having sex with as many women as possible. Especially the young attractive ones.
And Mr. Baker seemingly indulges in this as often as he rides his "moto". He boffs in doorways, in hotel rooms, and as a guest in homes.
From his actions, Mr. Baker proves that he is not rich, he certainly isn't generous and from his website, he doesn't have movie star looks. The only reason that these women canoodle with him is for the meagre dollars he tosses around like manhole covers.
I have to conclude that despite the value of the depictions of the country and its people, this should be a do not read.
(...)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Off the beaten path - A "spot on" account. May 1 2004
By Canuck
Format:Paperback
While no expert on Cuba I have traveled to Cuba three times. The first with a large mixed group of singles to a package holiday in Varadero, the second for a solo 3 week backpacking trip from Havana to Santiago de Cuba (and places between) and the final trip with a couple of friends for 2 weeks in Havana. These trips took place from 1998 and 1999. During all 3 trips I used Christopher Baker's travel guide on Cuba by Moon Travel. I found this guide extremely accurate and very helpful.
Having discovered "Mi Moto Fidel" I was able to relive all of my previous experiences while enjoying Mr. Bakers. I can say that like his Travel guide, "Mi Moto Fidel" is spot on and a true account of what you may and can find in Cuba. The only thing I would like to add is I was fortunate to encounter a number of foreign travelers (French, German and Italian) similar to myself and my situation (back-backing and off the beaten path) who greatly enhanced my Cuban experience through, help, advice, shared experience and occasionally company.
I would recommend not only 'Mi Moto Fidel, Mr. Baker's Cuban Travel guide and most importantly, to get out of Varadero and see and experience the "real Cuba".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Travel Book of the Year Oct. 25 2003
Format:Paperback
I bought this book after reading that it won both the Lowell Thomas Award "Travel Book of the Year" and the North American Travel Journalist Associations' Grand Prize for Excellence. Figured that must mean something!
I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was so enthralled that I read it in one sitting, although I wish I'd bought the hardback copy, which has colour photographs.
Baker is a fascinating writer with a tremendous ability to make you feel as if you're actually there, on the back on his motorcycle. There are two main themes to the story of his three-month journey, the primary purpose of which is to research a travel guidebook. The first is his exploration of Cuba's sexuality (one senses that the island's sensual ease actually puts the author - who is English - at ease with his own sexuality). Most prominent and interesting is his metaphorical political journey, which begins with his arriving in Cuba as a believer in the Revolution. The deeper he gets into Cuba and the deeper he develops his understanding, his early naive perspectives dissolve, to be replaced by a realization that Castro's communist revolution has been a highly destructive process, although Baker acknowledges the revolution's achievements and is fair-minded and has no obvious axe to grind (some of the comments by other reviewers about the author being too left-wing etc. seem churlish). The more he changes, the more Cubans open up to him and express their anger toward Castro and his government. The book really gets interesting when Baker has what he calls his "epiphany," and the secret police first appear. I won't give the ending away, but the final scene with the arrival of the secret police is the stuff of great movies.
Politics. Sex.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Self-absorption rather than self-discovery
I read this book a week before my trip to Cuba, so the anticipation of realizing a 5 year traveling dream could make the most boring travelogue exciting. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2003 by ArtoBeck
5.0 out of 5 stars Christoper Baker really brings it to life
I read this book before a trip to Cuba, and Christopher Baker knows what he's talking about. He seems to really deeply care about the land and its people, and went through a lot of... Read more
Published on June 18 2003 by Singlemalt
2.0 out of 5 stars boasting, self-centered
I must say I became disappointed, because the author is so full of his own ego, lacking any style. Seemingly he wants to get in touch with the life of cuban people, but is staying... Read more
Published on March 27 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ!
Mi Moto Fidel offers its reading audience a wonderfully captivating take on life in "Castro's Cuba". Mr. Read more
Published on March 12 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars God's gift to Cuban women
I've always wanted to vistit Cuba, and I am a big motorcycle buff. So putting the 2 together is what attracted me to the book. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003 by Bob Foster
4.0 out of 5 stars Motorcycling around Cuba
This is a great travel, political, and adventure book, and one of the first non-fiction books I've ever read that I got totally lost in. Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written in contrast to his purely factual guidebooks
I bought this book expecting something along the lines of Patrick Symmes Chasing Che. Instead I got something else entirely. Fair enough. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Cuba - spot-on
Chris Baker does an outstanding job of capturing the essence and gist of Cuba in Mi Moto Fidel. Almost everyone that has gone to Cuba cites "the people" as one of the major assets. Read more
Published on July 1 2002 by Rhonda Gutenberg
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfulfilled Promise
I began reading the book before a trip to Cuba. I continued to read the book while in Cuba, and I finished the book after returning from Cuba. Read more
Published on May 2 2002
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