Ernesto Che Guevara became an important historical figure for his involvement in the Cuban Revolution. However, before he was became second in command there were events from his life that formed him into the person he was. During his travels across South America he was exposed to the realities many different types of people faced, these encounters solidified his beliefs and led him to ultimately playing a pivotal role in the Cuban Revolution and overthrowing the Batista regime.
The film, The Motorcycle Diaries follows Guevara’s travels throughout South America and gives a depiction of the situations and people he met along the way, that all played a role in shaping him into the person he would become. The trip is extremely significant for the role it played in shaping Guevara’s life, because without those experiences he would probably not have formed the beliefs and opinions about society that he did. “There are a number of obstacles to examining Guevara and his travels in this manner one relies by necessity on a critical reading of Guevara’s own writings, yet they reflect the priorities of a youth seeking adventure in foreign lands, rather than meditations on his homeland” (Elena 23). This statement is very interesting because it brings to light the idea that Guevara was just a normal guy in his twenties, and it was simply through restlessness and adventure seeking that he was thrown into a life changing experience. The film focuses specific encounters he and his fellow traveling companion Alberto Granado had. “ Guevara took pains to distinguish himself from his contemporaries and embraced a different paradigm of travel, shaped by readings of explorer accounts, conversations with political refugees, and youthful adventures on a shoestring budget” (Elena 24). The film depicts the two as funny, spontaneous, and full of energy. However, at the same time the viewers get a sense of a deeper level of compassion that the two share for humanity. They are both troubled, especially Guevara, by the examples of poverty and despair they witness.
After his travels were over and he became involved in his political and revolutionist career, we see examples that show how important his travels were to his ideology. “While critical of the attitudes of many of the leaders of the new Bolivian government toward the country’s indigenous majority, he himself tended to see Indians as long suffering and impervious to contemporary political realities” (Zulawski 192). This is a perfect example of the kind of observation Guevara possessed, one that is shown through the film. This opinion about the suffering of the Bolivian poor, stemmed from the knowledge he gained during his travels and the film shows a foreshadowing of future opinions Guevara would have of people across South America. The film shows an important segment of Guevara’s life that is essential to who he became as a revolutionist, and gives an understanding of the experiences that led him to his ideology and beliefs. As an important historical figure in South American history in the 1950’s it is crucial to understand his background, and the reasons that drew him to such extreme measures and involvement in the Cuban Revolution.