Motorcycle Diaries, directed by Walter Salles
THE FILM Motorcycle Diaries is the true story of the journey undertaken by
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara de la Serna and his friend Alberto Granado through South
Starting off from their home in Buenos Aires in Argentina in 1952 these two
medical students leave behind their comfortable middle-class lifestyle and set
off on an old motorbike to find out about the rest of America. But Che
discovers injustice on this journey. The rest is history.
It is a journey through Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia ending in
Venezuela that takes these two privileged students on an expedition into the
real life of the South American masses. Soon they run out of money and try to
scam and charm their way along. But they really survive through the generosity
of the poorest people who help them along their way.
Then they discover the real South America. As we travel with them through
stunning scenes of natural beauty they share life with the landless labourers
evicted from their land by the big landlords, the indigenous peoples forced to
sell their labour, the workers forced to travel to beg for work in the mines
in the mountains and the peoples trying to build a new life around the Amazon.
They discover the monumental injustice that grips the continent then and
now. Many of the people featured in the film are not actors but people telling
the truth about life now just the same as in 1952.
According to the film this is the journey that propels medical student
Ernesto Guevara towards revolutionary Che. As well as acquiring the nickname ‘Che’
because of his Argentinean accent, Guevara becomes convinced that he has to
struggle against the injustices afflicting the continent.
The film reaches its climax at a leper colony in Peru when Che proclaims
there is no real distinction between the peoples of the countries of the
continent and declares for a "United America" rejecting the artificial
national barriers erected by imperialism. But his is not a purely
anti-imperialist call. Unlike some demagogues who call for the unity of Latin
America he turns first to the multi-millioned masses and the downtrodden. He
symbolically swims the Amazon to join the most oppressed, the inmates of the
Motorcycle Diaries charts the beginning of Che Guevara’s journey to fight
for the social emancipation and unity of the peoples of South America. The
story is so enthralling that it takes us with him. It doesn’t explain his
later ideas or the mistakes that he made. But it shows what changed him into a
But the film also underlines that the same oppression exists today and new
Ches are being created.