Motorcycle Diaries

Director Walter Salles demonstrated an artful recreation of the famous Ernesto “Che” Guevara  in his film Motorcycle Diaries but further research demonstrates just how one dimensional this portrayl is. While this film uses the historical timeline of Guevara’s 1952 trip across South America correctly, the movie as a whole lacks true dimension into Che Guevara’s role in shaping the lanscape of 1950-1960s Latin America. Salles shows the true humanitarian Guevara was but omited Guevara’s limited understanding of important social and political climates transpiring at the time.

Motorcycle Diaries highlighted a relatively early trip that occured prior to what would become many trips Guevara took travelling the countries of Central and South America. While Guevara’s  motivation to travel was fueled by a desire to learn of the places he read about during his childhood and early adulthood, he is shocked by the class divides he witnesses. However, As Patience A. Shchells’ noted in her article Beauty and Bounty in Che’s Chile, “the more he journeyed, the less he apparently saw and the more his outlook on the world became reduced”(49). While Guevara would demonstrate a genuine affection to help those less fortunate than himself, he was clouded by his own biases of being raised with the privledges of growing up in a middle class home in a progressive Argentina.

The film highlights the optimism Guevara felt in his ability to help change  disequalibirium he finds between the poor indigenous people and those with wealth.  This portrayl omited Guevara’s notable overgeneralizations and racial stereotyping that was evident in the journals he kept. As noted in Paulo Drinot’s article Awaiting the Blood of a Truly Emancipating Revolution, Drinot recounts part of Guevara’s first person account of an encounter he had with indigenous Peruvians claiming””There stares were tame, almost fearful, and completely indifferent to the outside world””(103) and Drinot again recounts  Che commenting on the”’fatalistic spirit of the Peruvian mountain indians”” (102).  These statements were reflected in many of the encounters Guevara would make with the indigenous popluations of each country he visitied demonstrating how he blankets all indians as being ignorant and uninterested in trying to come to terms with the helpless state he deemed them to be stuck in.

 Guevara failed to comment on  the active involvement of Bolivias peasants and working class fighting for agrarian reforms and other social reforms taking place in  Bolivia during his visit there in 1953. Pressure for agrarian reform and better working conditions came directly from the people he dubbed as incapable of fighting for their own embetterment.This is reflected in Ann Sulawski’s article The National Revolution and Bolivia in the 1950s stating that the political situation Guevara would have encountered was shaped by growing contention among militant workers and peasants as well as the middle-class reformers (184). This indicates that the poor indigenous people of Bolivia were very much taking an active role in fighting for their rights, no where near the docile and passive people Guevara presumed them to be. 

Though Guevara’s  character in Motorcycle Diaries was incomplete, it did embodied the young idealist Guevera was. Che, striving to find a political party he thought was not exploiting the indigenous people of Latin America, cannot be ignored or denied. He is considered a martyr for resigning his own privledged position to take part in social reform. He was courageous for trying to shed his sheltered middle class status and for that he resonated with many others who supported the need for social reform.