The Motorcycle Diaries is about Che Guerva’s journey across South America from 1951-1952. During this journey, Che had a political awakening as he witnessed the injustice going on in different Latin American countries. Although, Elena explains that, “Contrary to conventional wisdom, the 51-52 journey recounted in The Motorcycle Diaries did not constitute Guevara’s first travel experience, nor even his first trip abroad”(Elena 4). Although the movie is not completely historically accurate, it does give insight into Che’s transformation. Che’s travels throughout Latin America led him to be one of the most prominent leftist revolutionaries. The film also highlights some of the most important social and political injustices of Latin America.
I think one of the most important parts of the film was when Granado and Che encountered the man and his wife that were traveling looking for work. They were forced off their lands for being communists and indigenous. In the movie, Che explains that he could see an extreme sadness in the man’s eyes. At one point, they ask Che and Granado if they were traveling to find work as well. They explain that they were just traveling to travel. The couple was very confused as to why they would do this. After meeting that couple, Che realizes how poorly the indigenous are treated in their own homeland. He even gives the 15 dollars he had been saving to the couple. The treatment of the indigenous people is a driving force behind Che’s decision to be a revolutionary. The indigenous were treated as refugees within their own country.
Another important scene in the movie was when Che is celebrating his birthday with the workers at the leper colony. When asked to make a speech he said, “Even though we are too insignificant to be spokesmen for such a noble cause, we believe, and this journey has only confirmed this belief, that the division of American into unstable and illusory nations is a complete fiction. We are one single mestizo race from Mexico to the Magellan Straits. And so, in an attempt to free ourselves from narrow minded provincialism, I propose a toast to Peru and to a united America” (The Motorcycle Diaries). Then he decides to swim across the river to the other side of the leper colony where all the patients live. This scene documents Che’s passion of helping common people. In a way the lepers can also represent the poor indigenous people of Latin America and how they live on the margins of a society controlled by the wealthy.
Elena explains that “The 1950s were a time of internal migration on a massive scale, and rural populations headed by the millions to the cities”(Elena 29). He also notes that the film did not highlight this important facet of the 1950s. She also explains that Che himself was against the paradigm of tourism but he defended the value of traveling freely. Elena almost makes this seem like a contradiction, but I disagree. Che wasn’t attempting to be a tourist—he did not travel to see the usual tourist traps. He was traveling to get closer to the land and the people of Latin America. This point is captured by the way Che and Granado live during their journey. They stay wherever they can even at some points live off the land.
The movie did a good job portraying Che in a positive light. However the movie did a good job showing the social atmosphere of Latin America it did not go into detail about Che’s actual beliefs. The movie also fails to show the political atmosphere of Che’s home country, Argentina. During the time of this movie, Juan Peron was dictator of Argentina. Che was partial to Peron’s policies, even though he was a horrible dictator, which is disheartening. Drinot explains that Che said, “Peron has done something; he has protected the workers; he has done something to take away economic power from the oligarchy and, to some extent, from the imperialists” (Drinot 97). Although Che was a genius and one of the most important figures in history, he did have his faults. I also wish the movie had shown some of political issues surrounding each of the Latin American countries they visited during their journey.