Motorcycle Diaries, Week 8, History 475

Motorcycle Diaries is a film based on the personal diary of Che Guevara. This and other writings have given audiences, fans, and even historians great insight into the mind of this famous revolutionary. In Eduardo Elena’s article many interesting facts were presented that partly contrasted the film. First, Elena reveals that cross country travels, just the same as Guevara’s, were common practice for many in Latin America in the early 50s. The film makes it seems as though Guevara’s ambition is revolutionary, but, according to Elena, people had been migrating and traveling for decades, and in fact these migrations were increasing at the time of Guevara’s travels in Motorcycle Diaries. Elena does point out however that Che intentionally avoided ‘tourist’ areas, but took back country roads and visited off the beaten track so to speak. Elena believes that because Guevara was from a ‘middle class’ family from both his mother and father that it effected his perspective about travel as well as about those whom he met while traveling. When he would meet other travelers he would simply tell him he was leisure traveling, and even the film, those who hear this are taken back by his response. However, in Elena’s article, information suggests that leisure travel in Argentina was on the rise in the 50s, when Guevara was traveling, therefore a response such as the one given by Guevara about his reasons for travel really would not be so far fetched. Guevara’s diaries only mention these ‘tourist’ migrations sparingly.

Another interesting point made by Elena, and also in Ann Zulawski’s article, was the issue of class status and how that effected travel, political view, and general understanding of society. Because Guevara was a middle class citizen, he was able to enjoy luxuries of friends and family accommodations at the beginning of his travels. His travel companion Grenado wrote that they encountered a elder couple from New Jersey while they were traveling across Argentina. Guevara’s writing does depict these types of interactions, but Elena’s article suggests that interaction with tourist travelers reminded Guevara of the lifestyle he was ‘rebelling’ against. The film shows sharp contrast between the types of people Guevara encountered, such as the Communist couple looking for work, and the two women who offer food, shelter, and alcohol for the weary travelers. Zulawski’s article discusses parts of Guevara’s writing concerning Bolivia. What is interesting to me is not the politics that he writes about, but the division of people and specifically the ‘Indians’. Zulawski suggests that this observation by Guevara is due to racism that was prominent in Bolivia and across Latin America.

The film portrays Guevara as a young and ambitious man who has an appreciation for all people, especially with his interaction with the leper colony. It also suggests that his travels alone gave way to his change in perspective. Both Zulawski and Elena’s articles suggest other factors in his life played a vital role in the revolutionary he became. Those factors include social status, political understanding and opinion (especially in Elena’s article about Peronist governed Argentina), and location all in addition to his travels. Overall, the film portrayed Guevara in a positive light, and did not hint about the revolutionary he would become until the final scenes when his character reveals that he is a ‘new and changed’ person, an idea taken from Guevara’s own writing .