The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

The Motorcycle Diaries was a film dedicated to the journey of Che Guevara, one of the most influential people in all of modern history. Although the film does not get into Guevara’s political philosophy or impact on Latin American politics, it does an acceptable job of illustrating the events that led up to his ultimate influence on Marxist philosophy and lifelong work on bettering the lives of millions of people in the Central and South Americas. Throughout the duration of the film, Guevara and his biochemist friend, Alberto Granado travel on motorcycle to what seems like to the viewer, every corner of South America. Most of the regions they visited had the same elements: poverty, inequality, oppression, and a perverted governmental system. This journey, along with Guevara’s intellect, ambition, and passion for equality is what ultimately made him capable of having a major impact in the Cuban Revolution.

Eduardo Elena points out a few historical flaws that must be addressed when understanding the historical aspect of Guevara. In his work titled Point of Departure, Elena describes Guevara’s relatively modest upbringing and notes the fact that his ‘journey’ was not his first time out of Argentina (24). Since his family was not as poor as many of the people Guevara encountered on his journey, he had the opportunity to learn; reading became one of his passions, the ideas of Karl Marx would soon follow (25). In the film, Guevara is seen as a kid with no money, exploring the vast and mysterious lands of South America for the very first time. The film presents the argument that Guevara is a passionate young man and capable of saving the world through his impressive skills in medicine and having the quality that many politicians of the time did not–honesty. But in reality, it was Guevara’s experiences with the ordinary people of South America and his use of Marxism as a solution to Latin American’s political and social problems. As Elena notes, people were flocking away from the rural areas Guevara was visiting; most of them were moving towards bigger cities (32). This definitely puts South America’s politics on display for Guevara to see because of lack of opportunity presented in rural areas.

In Paulo Drinot’s Awaiting the Blood of  Truly Emancipating Revolution, he describes Guevara differently than the film and Elena. Drinot notes that Guevara was in Peru during Manuel Odria’s 8 year dictatorship (82). Guevara sees a type of indigenous people he had never witnessed before. According to Drinot, Guevara had empathy for them even though he looked down upon them as if they were animals (102). This view Guevara is not similar to the one portrayed in the film; in The Motorcycle Diaries, Guevara’s honesty would have never allowed him to talk down upon anyone. Guevara also did not concern himself very much with Odria’s reign as dictator of Peru because he was mostly focused on indigenous life and the impacts of poverty and inequality on humanity (98). This portrayal of Guevara is similar to the one in the film; without being a firsthand witness to the poor conditions and inequalities these groups of people faced, it would not have been possible for ‘Che’ to make a political difference in Latin America, no matter how much honesty and passion he possessed.