In the film adaptation of The Motorcycle Diaries, they portrayed Che Guevera as a young man looking for his identity and finding his purpose in life after traveling across South America with his good friend, Albert. At the beginning of the movie, Che seems like he is open to new things by going on this trip with his friend. In Elena’s article “Point of Departure: Travel and Nationalism in Ernesto Guevara’s Argentina,” Elena talks of the personal transformations Che makes by his journeys. The film, along with the readings, depicts Che as a man who was changed, mainly based on the experiences he had and the things he saw along his journeys.
The film does not indicate that Che had already traveled across some of South America before his journey with Alberto, even going on his own solo motorized bicycle trip across Argentina, as Elena also points out. The film portrays Che as naïve to other lands, while in fact; he had already seen many before this journey. Elena writes that Che was “exposed to a range of travel experiences (physical and literary) during his upbringing” (p.26). By leaving out his previous experiences, Che seems changed solely by this one journey, when really it served as a stepping stone in a series of events.
I thought The Motorcycle Diaries took on a fairly accurate account of the journey Che took. Elena says that Che was “guided by a desire for contact with rural folk…” (p. 28). Throughout the movie, apart from staying at his girlfriend’s mansion, it seems that Che and Alberto do, in fact, spend much time in rural settings, meeting those who lived there and seeing their poverty-stricken lives. They avoid the conventional tourism methods. They do not visit attractions or use conventional means of travel. Elena points out that Guevara took drastic measures to “distinguish himself from his contemporaries and embraced a different paradigm of travel…” (p. 24).
When Che and Alberto spend time working in the leper colony, the film depicts them as two who are willing to risk disease to show those less fortunate that they are equals, as seen when they don’t wear gloves before going to the colony, and shaking lepers’ hands. In Drinot’s “Awaiting the Blood of a Truly Emancipating Revolution: Che Guevara in 1950s Peru.” Drinot writes of a moment when Guevara, Rojo, and Ferrer sat in the back of a truck, along with the indigenous people, signaling their “rejection of racist conventions.” Zulawski writes of the same incident, “He and his companions had to confront the silent hostility that three young white men bumming around might have expected.” The indigenous people did not respond to their sympathetic views. But Che was not a man who followed typical conventions and ideas, as evidenced by not only this, but in the departure date for his trip with Alberto. They choose to leave on October 17, a national holiday in Argentina, a day when people were making their way to Buenos Aires for a day about the Perons. Che had , according to Elena, anti-Peronist leanings and Elena points the irony of their departure from the city the same day that people are flocking to it for his honor. This is not showcased in the film version.
After seeing social injustices in places like Peru and Bolivia and others, Che’s mission became clear. He spent the rest of his life, inspired by these incidents, working to help the people of countries in not only South America, but others like Cuba.