Week Seven- Motorcycle Diaries


Although the film Motorcycle Diaries does not explicitly state that Ernesto Guevara began to form his revolutionary ideas from the cross-continental motorcycle trip that is the focus of the movie, one can interpret that this is an underlying theme, given Guevara’s role in the Cuban revolution. It is interesting to see, however, that Guevara did not initially have much interest in the politics of other countries as Paulo Drinot points out in his article “Awaiting the Blood of a Truly Emancipating Revolution: Che Guevara in 1950s Peru.” Guevara did not make many references to the political situations in his diary about the other countries during his ride across South America. These diaries are the basis for the film and therefore show that although some incidents during his travels could have set in motion the mindset that caused him to become a great revolutionary, that was not the time for an extreme change.
            Traveling was also not a new adventure for Guevara, who, as shown in Eduardo Elena’s essay “Point of Departure: Travel and Nationalism in Ernesto Guevara’s Argentina,” is a very well traveled youth before the events of the film. This exposure to different cultures and areas is possibly an important factor in his extreme political views. Although his motorcycle trip was most likely more expansive than his other travels, all of these experiences combined, not just the one in Motorcycle Diaries, could have been responsible for changing his worldviews on politics. Elena also points out that Guevara already considered his travels more than just a leisurely vacation, which he may not have been doing outright research, but he was paying attention to culture and politics of other places and forming his own views in the process. Another impact that most likely was an important factor for Guevara was his contact with the indigenous people of different countries. We see his empathy in the film for the mining couple and the lepers at the settlement, however the living conditions and lifestyles of these people seems to have a greater impact on Guevara than the film emphasizes. Drinot shows in his essay how Guevara felt that the government or those of the upper classes did not treat natives equally.  Guevara is touched and unhappy with how defeated the Indians seem to see themselves compared to the people who had more than them.
            As Elena profoundly points out in his essay, the audience of the Motorcycle Diaries gets no exposure to the real political environments in each of the countries that Guevara visits. One has no idea how the social and political structures and happenings throughout South America had an impact on the man that he became. This film does make an interesting story about Guevara’s travels, however it does not show the raw situations that each of the countries he travels though is experiencing, therefore shaping the future life of Ernesto Guevara. Although one cannot say that this particular trip had a significant impact on Guevara, it is still important to see the situations of the different areas that he visited.