The Motorcycle Diaries is about Ernesto “Che” Guevara during his exploration of South America in 1951-1952 with his friend Alberto Granado. The movie is based on events depicted in Che’s personal diary that was found on him after his assassination in Bolivia in 1967. Throughout the journey, Che became aware of the social injustices that were, and had been, occurring throughout fellow Latin American countries. Che’s exploration throughout the continent served to transform his purpose into one that pursued revolution in search of social justice and equality.
The journey began in Che’s hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina where Che had grownup in a middleclass family. During this time, Argentina had adopted the policies created by then president Juan Peron. Peronism sought to nationalize industry within Argentina in order to bring social equality to the working class. Juan Peron’s nationalistic policies caused a migratory response in the Argentine people that incentives Argentines to migrate into cities for jobs. Peronist policies gave the working class certain rights, including time off for vacation. However, Che’s journey was not a typical vacation encouraged by Peronist policies. Eduardo Elena notes in Point of Departure that Che was searching for, ““the “souls” of the people reflected in the sick, prisoners in jail, and ordinary pedestrians.”” It would appear that Che was on a some sort of humanitarian crusade.
While in Argentina the movie depicts their initial departure from Buenos Aires, and a short visit with Che’s girlfriend. The last scene in the movie that takes place in Argentina helps to expose Che’s desire to help people when he diagnoses a man with a neck tumor. From there Alberto and Che leave Argentina and as Eduardo Elena suggests on page 39, they do so in a manner that exemplified their rejection of Peronist nationalism. However, as Elena suggest on page 36 that Che supported the anti-imperialist policies that came from Peron’s nationalism but was also “aware of the dark side of nationalist politics.”
Che and Alberto eventually arrived in Chile where they used their wit to score a meal from two Chilean women. Unfortunately, while in Chile they wrecked their motorcycle for the last time and Alberto is forced to sale the bike for spare parts. While in Chile, Che sacrificed a night of fun to aide a dieing elderly women which he gave up a portion of his medication to help. After Che and Alberto ran across a fleeing communist couple, they made their way to Cuzco, Peru.
The journey through Peru began with Che and Alberto’s interactions among some of the indigenous people. The movie portrayed the living conditions of the indigenous people as being very tough. The indigenous people of Peru made up more than half of the population but suffered extreme social inequalities. Paulo Drinot notes on page 98 that Che’s was “clearly overwhelmed by what he understood to be a racist and violent social order that barely recognized the humanity of the indigenous.“ Later in Che’s journey he found the conditions of the indigenous Bolivian people to be similar to that of Peru. Alberto and Che next stop to give aide to a leper colony in San Pablo, Peru. Most notably, Che refused to where gloves in order to make the inhabitants of the colony feel like humans once again.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s diary and the subsequent movie, The Motorcycle Diaries serve to explain how Che’s revolutionary resolve was created.