Trail Of The Unexpected: Cuba

Bohemian Bars, Barbecues And The Hidden Seeds Of Revolution

The walls of the café were dotted with pictures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The waiter, who was sporting a flowing white shirt and long, dark locks, which conveyed to him a touch of the bohemian, came over to us. "We have cappuccinos, caffe lattes, herbal teas. Maybe cheesecake?" Cafés themed around the British Empire and fashionable infusions can be found in many of the world's cities; but Rosario, the Argentinian birthplace of Che Guevara, the 20th century's poster boy for revolutionism, must be among the least likely of these.

I had expected the hometown of socialism's favourite son to be a Lowry-like sort of place, recalling the industrial north of England in the 1920s rather than the most middle-class of cities. There are a lot of myths surrounding Che, but one thing is certain: when he waged revolution on behalf of the oppressed masses of South America he didn't do so on a stomach full of gnocchi and Chardonnay.

As it happens, there is every chance the young Che would have been entirely at home in such a setting. He was born Ernesto Guevara on 14 June 1928 to parents from the wealthy bourgeoisie of Rosario, his father of Spanish-Irish descent and his mother, Celia de la Serna, from a line of Spanish aristocrats. He was a weak child, suffering from asthma – and, as was the case with any child born on the sunny side of the tracks, he was sent to a mountain resort in the hope of curing his debilitating condition.

You won't learn any of this from visiting the city, 185 miles north-west of Buenos Aires. There is no museum dedicated to the man, and there are few obvious signs that he was ever here at all. A large mural of him has been painted on a concrete wall overlooking a car park near his birthplace, in an apartment block just off Santa Fe Avenue; and we passed a parilla, or Argentinian barbecue joint, called The Morning Star.

Rosario is easy to like, as first impressions go. It is full of snug bars, while the architecture has touches of the neo-Classical, mixed with Moorish and Art Nouveau styles. On Sunday morning, we ambled through Park Independencia, where we sipped a cappuccino and watched the local middle classes do what they do on a lazy Sunday all over the world – read the newspapers. Others were queuing up, picnic hampers in one hand and well-fed offspring in the other, to take a boat across the Rio Parana to one of the numerous shaded wooded islands.

In most South American cities, you have to be wary of high-speed cars. In Rosario, it's the joggers who don't take prisoners. They run in squads, presumably organised by health clubs, of up to 30 people. Late in the afternoon, we came to Park Urquiza, high on a ridge above the city and surrounded by some of the wealthiest houses. There were more joggers there than in New York's Central Park, all wearing the latest gear, from brand-name trainers to sweat-absorbent tops.

We joined them the next evening, stopping all too quickly to refresh ourselves at Bar Munich, a smart café full of twentysomethings, the women caked in make-up, and the men drawing on Western cigarettes. The rest of the crowd were drinking mineral water. We were the only ones to order beer.

However, there is a darker side to Rosario. As we ate a triple ice-cream of banana, chocolate and lemon, we came across an indignant letter in a local paper, which referred to film footage, shot four years previously, of poor families skinning and cooking cats in the slums on the city's edges. Perhaps it was this ignored sub- culture of Rosario, rather than a revolt against his own privileged upbringing, that sparked Che's revolutionary anger.

Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315) quotes a fare in September of £440 on Alitalia from London to Buenos Aires; the hop to Rosario is about $100 (£66) return

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform