“The Motorcycle Diaries,” Follows the journey of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his friend Alberto on a journey throughout South America while he takes a break from pursuing a medical degree. The movie seems to begin as a simple depiction of two friends riding an old Norton motorcycle through the country side, violently crashing quite often, while Alberto makes sexual advances toward every woman they encounter along the way. According to Elena, ” Like that of his celebrated literary precursors, Guevara’s approach to travel was shaped by his relatively privileged social position. Gender factors into the equation here not only in the desire for sexual adventure evidenced clearly in the Motorcycle Diaries….More importantly the text highlights the supreme confidence that guided Guevara’s travels.” (Elena, 26) Because they are upper middle class males, Guevara and his friend are confident in their journey and will later be disturbed by the discrepancy between their lives and those of the poor and downtrodden that they encounter. In fact, the beginning of the film is often quite comical. The light nature of the beginning of the film is contrasted quite a bit with the second half of the film. As Ernesto and Alberto proceed along in their journey, their motorcycle eventually becomes wrecked beyond repair and they must continue their journey on foot. Ernesto, especially, begins to pay more attention to the poverty-stricken indigenous people in each region they travel through.
The film takes a more serious tone in the second half. The two companions come across a mine in, what I think is Chile, were Guevara is clearly disgusted with the treatment of the workers by the manager. He even throws rocks and screams at the truck carrying the poor workers as it drives away. Here is clear example of Guevara’s developing sympathy for those who are oppressed. He also visits Manchu Picchu in this section of the movie. This seems to be one of the pivotal transformations in Guevara’s life. He ponders on how such a great and mighty civilization that built such magnificent works could be subjugated and destroyed by European colonial ambitions. He also encounter’s and is taken in by Dr. Pesce, who, in the film, gives Guevara a number of essay’s and books to read to further expand and influence his growing socialist ideals. Guevara wrote, “To Dr. Hugo Pesce: who without knowing it perhaps, provoked a great change in my attitude toward life and society, with the same adventurous spirit as always, but with goals more harmonious with the needs of America.” (Drinot, 95)
Che’s transformation and shift in the way he sees society is continued toward the end of the film. Working at a leper colony, he notices and comments on the physical divide of the river, separating the lepers from the doctors and nuns whom cared for them. He swims the strong river on his birthday as a way to symbolically bring himself closer to the poor and oppressed that he would later fight for and bridge the divide that society had created. The film does a decent job of showing part of the reasons Che became one of the most famous revolutionaries of his time.