Ernesto Guevara might be a name you’d heard once or twice in your life. Had he not swapped Ernesto for the catchier ‘Che’, that is. The Motorcycle Diaries is pretty much the prequel to Che. Anakin before he was Vader. Peter Parker before he was Spiderman, … You know where I’m going with this. Guevara wrote diaries as he and his friend, Alberto Granado, travelled around South America in the early 1950s. They commenced in their home city of Buenos Aires, Argentina before ending their journey in Caracas, Venezuela. Unsurprisingly, the vehicle of choice for the pair was a motorcycle.
The Motorcycle Diaries
As is asked once or twice in the duration of the film, why are the men travelling? What is the purpose?
‘To travel’, replies Guevara.
As a 23-nearly-24 year old medical student, Guevara’s answer to these questions would not be a big surprise in 2016. He simply wants to see more of the world. Hec, his almost 30-year-old companion has never left Argentina before this trip. What’s wrong if a young man with no family and little responsibilities wants to travel his continent with a pal on a motorcycle? Except, it is hard to be a carefree young lad going off on his jollies in 1950s South America. Poverty, hunger, disease in the rural areas of South America that city boys such as they were weren’t accustomed to seeing. Well, they say travel opens your eyes and gives you new experiences but I don’t think this is quite what they were expecting.
How does ‘Ernesto’ become ‘Che’?
Che Guevara, as a young medical student, became ‘radicalized’ after that trip. He would fight the US Government’s power over Latin America, particularly in Cuba, which is where he was inevitably assassinated by the CIA in 1967. The truth is that I don’t know how well the film depicted the extremeness of the situation in South America that would decide Guevara’s fate. It was bad, sure, but the actor (a SUPERB Gael Garcia Bernal, honestly if there anything this guy can’t do??) didn’t make him seem to outwardly affected. But the cogs were clearly in motion.
The young doctor was obviously moved and guilted by a couple who was travelling to find work and did not at all understand the men’s ability to travel for pleasure. While the old couple struggled to eat, Guevara and Granado had spent the last few weeks hiking up Machu Picchu and trying to get laid. However, the medical professionals as the men were also worked in a Leper Colony in San Pablo, where the staff live far over on the other side of the Island to the patients. Slowly but surely, the injustices in what Guevara’s privileged world view allowed him to witness would seep into his consciousness and would never let go.
The seed is planted
And that’s just it, isn’t it? The Motorcycle Diaries is the inspiring, eye-opening seed to Guevara’s radical plans. The film didn’t need to end on a close up of Guevara, breathing violently into the abyss as he rips open his shirt to reveal a spandexed burgundy star on a field of khaki. He was still an ordinary guy, just hopping on a plane and saying goodbye to his good friend. He had a girlfriend back in Argentina, with medical studies to finish. Guevara would need to go back home and study. Study the politics of Latin America. Learn about the hold the US government had on South American countries and learn about guerilla warfare and revolutions.
I want to travel a great deal more than I have right now. I’m a well-educated, newly converted city girl and the same age as Guevara was when he took his trip. I could be converted into radicalization, given the right scenario. Couldn’t I? It happened to Guevara. Not even instantly, but in a believable, slow way. Exactly how it happened in The Motorcycle Diaries. Two guys, just kicking back on their motorcycle around the continent. Just wanting to travel.
Have you ever seen The Motorcycle Diaries? Did you like it? (Btw, I loved this movie! Just didn’t want to gush and gush about it for 500 words!)