Motorcycle Diaries

The film Motorcycle Diaries no doubt shows the transformation of Ernesto Guevara, the middle-class medical student into the supporter and involvement in revolutionary movements.  Throughout the movie he changes from an eager, adventurous young man into the man he was eventually going to become, the empathetic revolutionist leader of the underprivileged and forgotten people.  This rebellious nature is foreseen in the movie and pointed out by the article written by Eduardo Elena, “Point of Departure: Travel and Nationalism in Ernesto Guevara’s Argentina,” when Elena discusses the appearance in which Guevara conducts his travels as being unconventional to the normal expectations of tourism.  Elena states, “His (Guevara’s) travels offered a rejection against prevailing class norms, cultural expectations, and the political trends of the 1950s.”  This is seen repeatedly in the film by his way of wanting to collaborate with the people they encounter along their travels and especially when the bike they are using as transportations no longer works, Granado expects them to find other means of transportation, while Guevara simply suggests they continue their journey on foot so that they may mingle with passing people along their trip.  At the ending of the movie Guevara notes that his travels had changed him more than he thought and feels that he can no longer continue on with life as it once was as stated by Elena that, “The passage captures the complex function of travel for Guevara, for whom the physical experience of the voyage remained inseparable from reading and writing about travel, each sphere of activity continually informing the others.”  Throughout the film both comrades are eager to speak and associate with those they come in contact with and notably stay unassociated with those in the city unless need be.  In the instances they do encounter city-life is when they need help with the motorcycle in which they begin their journey and when they come to the city in which the man they are initially trying to meet with lives.  This path of they journey is noted by Elena as well, “In his decision to investigate the heartland of Argentina…He preferred to avoid large cities and devoted little time in his journals to describing metropolitan  spaces or their inhabitants…Guevara was guided by a desire for contact with rural folk…”  This is seen in the movie by multiple different occasions with scene of Guevara and Granado attempting to set up their tent, inevitably leading them to meeting the couple where Guevara has to break the news of the old man having a tumor, then with the Peruvian couple who are out of work and travelling down streets in order to find an alternative lifestyle with the mines.  The entire visitation with the leper colony can be seen as unconventional with both men taking a different approach to treating the residents of the colony by not alienating themselves from the sick both physically and socially.  This is demonstrated with the physical contact they assume with the lepers along with the soccer game interaction.  Paulo Drinot’s article, “Awaiting the Blood of a Truly Emancipating Revolution: Che Guevara in 1950′s Peru,” makes this connection as well by drawing the actions from Guevara and Granado’s diaries as being “genuine enough” by Guevara being unable to “escape the sort of small-minded provincialism that made it possible for him to claim a belief in a single mestizo Latin American race while still classifying people according to their levels of ‘development’” as stated in his birthday speech to the staff of the leper colony.

The indigenous Indians of South America are also depicted in this film and portrayed accurately according to the articles and the accounts of Guevara himself with his own written diaries of the ‘defeated race’.  The film depicts the maltreatment of the people by the scene of the miner calling out for Indian workers sitting on the rocky hillside waiting for their turn to be called in order to be given the opportunity of work.  Guevara and Granado encountered this couple the night before and within that length of time the men are able to identify with them empathetically and even more so that Guevara challenges the white man trying to hire these people and calls him out on his unfairness and indifference. 

Separately, the mention of the indigenous, Incan people are mentioned in Drinot’s article, referencing Guevara in stating that he references “Incan superiority with reference to architecture: whereas colonial buildings crumble every time there is an earthquake.  While this physical action is not portrayed in the film, the same thought is by the indigenous people encountered near Machu Picchu and the young boy showing Guevara and Granado of the different stones making up the edge of the building where as the Incan stone is much larger and sturdier compared to the colonial Spanish stones.

Overall, with the inlay of the moments of humor from both main characters and perhaps some added parts for melodramatic scenes from the director, the overall historical part of the film and the make up of Guevara’s character into his revolutionary-self is accurate.  As stated in Elena’s article, “There is little doubt that the risk-taking Guevara went further than his peers to seek out people from different social worlds…This side of Guevara’s personality that Motorcycle Diaries best captures.”