The Motorycycle Diaries

    The film “Motorcycle Diaries” gives insight into the incredible journey Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado took in the early 50’s, a journey which in effect contributed to the creation of Che the revolutionary vs. Ernesto the Doctor.  On this journey he comes in contract with various South American denizens who are impoverished, sick and still face prejudice. By befriending such people through his journey and coming to know their stories, Che makes a transformation by the end of the film, mirroring that of the real Che, as he begins to realize his calling may not be medicine, but rather, the support of those less fortunate in his native land as a political activist, “the poverty and injustice that [Che Guevara] observed struck a sensitive chord,”…”while he came to identify United states imperialism as the source of the injustices and poverty that he observed in South America.” (Drinot 90). 

    The journey that takes place in “Motorcycle Diaries” is actually not Guevara’s first experience abroad, as he had travelled extensively in his teenage years and prior to this journey with Alberto (Elena 24).  However, it is with this trip that he reacts to the people he meets and changes his outlook on politics and the South American people.  However the film lacks some historical authenticity, as do his notes in “The Motorcycle Diaries”, as neither portray that massive urbanization occurring during the 1950s in Argentina and South America.  At this period, migration from rural to urban areas was exploding exponentially.  The film also portrays Che as a “wide eyed and inexperienced” youth, which as mentioned previously is completely false, as he had travelled for years prior to the Granado trip (Elena 32-33).  By doing this, Che and Walter Salles, created a more dramatic tale, adding to the mysticism of “Che” as opposed to the truth of “Che” or as Drinot says, “The experiences lived in those travels…helped produce Che Guevara, helped to create Che from Ernesto Guevara,”(Drinot 90).

Regardless, the films documentation of certain events allows for the viewer to better understand Che the “man”.  Their visit to the leper colony shows his compassion in addition to his belief that the people of South America, regardless of class or condition are all equal and should not be in effect separated in anyway (as evident by the leper colony being separated from the “non-sick” by a river as a representation of the people of South American being divided by border lines and prejudice; the earlier seen depicting the people of that Chilean town screaming Argentine and chasing both Che and Grandado, as well as Che’s speech at the Leper party [i.e. We are all Mestizos]).
 The mine couple scene, in addition to the scene with the native Inca’s in Peru do well to show the plight of South American rural people and Che’s supposed reaction to these events, but the film doesn’t accurately represent the hardships that these people were enduring, but rather presents a safer and less downtrodden perspective of their plight.  Also, according to Drinot, Che actually contributed and recreated prejudice through his diaries in reference to the Andean people of Peru, relating them to animals: “The somewhat animal like concept the indigenous people have of modesty and hygiene means that irrespective of gender or age they do their business by the roadside, the women cleaning themselves with their skirts, the men not bothering at all,”  (Drinot 102).  Though Che was a revolutionary that brought freedom from oppression and sympathy to various South American peoples, the film Motorcycle Diaries, as well as his own diaries, provide a slanted prospective on the history of this particular journey and  the idea of “Che”.  Whilst insightful and “mostly” accurate, “Motorcycle Diaries” lacks certain elements of Che’s life, just as his diaries did, helping contribute to the overall “idea” of Che, but not the historicity of Che.