The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

The Motorcycle Diaries details the story of a trip made by a young Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, and his older friend Alberto. The trip, which Che and Alberto made largely on motorcycle, took the pair through several countries in South America, and brought them into contact with a wide array of peoples of all walks of life. The encounters and experiences that came out of this trip had a profound effect on the young Che, and would play an important part in the formation of Che’s revolutionary social views.

It is important to note that this was not the first time Che had traveled. He grew up in a middle class family, with wealthy and prestigious familial connections, and was therefore able to enjoy a fairly high standard of living. He had traveled often as a youth, and his family moved around a lot as his father took different jobs. As an avid reader, Che also gained an understanding of the world outside Argentina from various travelogues. The motorcycle trip he took prior to finishing his medical degree undoubtedly had the most profound effect on him. He and Alberto set out with an end-goal in mind (the leper colony in Peru), but the voyage itself was the focus of the trip. Che wanted to meet the lower classes, the Indians, and the working poor. To this end the travelers made a point of going off the beaten path, eschewing tourist destinations in order to get in touch with the common peoples of South America. Also important to note is that while Che was on the move, so was much of South America. During the 1950’s millions of people flocked from the countryside to the big cities, as urbanization boomed. Many of the people Che encountered were people like these, headed for the cities. (Elena, Eduardo, Point of Departure)

Another important aspect of Che’s philosophy that took shape during this voyage is his conception of the unity of South America’s peoples. At this point in South American history, a strong racism was present among European South Americans, resulting in a strict segregation in the post-colonial period between these elites and their indigenous countrymen. These racism of the elite classes was highlighted by the changes occurring around them as a result of the massive urban migrations of the mid-twentieth century. Che was aware of this, and came to be more and more appalled by it as he traveled. Thus the idea of pan-Latin American unity became very attractive to him. This ideal would become integral to his revolutionary theories. Towards the end of the film, Che makes a toast to the “single mestizo race” of South America.