Ché Guevara: <br />The Man and the Myth as Reflected in “The Motorcycle Diaries”<br />
Che is still popular on College Campuses 40+ years after his death<br />Does the popular movie The Motorcycle Diaries introduce the real Che to this generation or just add to his myth?<br />
The Motor Cycle Diaries was based on Ernesto Ché Guevara’s journal of his 1952 trip through South America, Notas de viaje, translation by Ann Wright published as The Motorcycle Diaries: A Journey around South America in 1995. <br />
<ul><li>Ernesto and his friend, Alberto Granado take off from Buenos Aires in December 1951 on a 1939 bike they call “The Mighty One.”
They make a 9,000 trek through their homeland, then Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. </li></li></ul><li>But “The Mighty One” does not prove to be so mighty and dies along the way so they have to make the rest of the trip on foot, hitchhiking and by boat completing the trip four months later than anticipated.<br />
The film was directed by Brazilian, Walter Salles and stared Mexican Actor, Gael Garcia Bernal. The Motorcycle Diaries won the 2005 Academy Award for best Foreign Language Film.<br />
It was a beautifully filmed and well acted movie but how accurately did it depict South America in the 1950’s and how much did it tell us about the person Ernesto Guevara Serna was and the revolutionary he became as Ché Guevara?<br />
Washington Post film Critic, Stephen Hunter says the picture is “less an evocation of Ché the man than Youth the experience.”<br />
Let the world change you and you can change the world.<br />Reality:<br /> Guevara was influenced by his mother’s radical political ideas. At age 14, he joined the Partido Union Democratica and participated in violent protests against the government of Juan Peron.<br />Movie: <br />Guevara was changed by this experience into a revolutionary while on his journey.<br />
On the other hand, clearly this trip confirmed his beliefs that the poor, especially the indigenous peoples of South America, were oppressed by the wealthy<br />
Latifundia<br />was a system of land tenure that concentrated land ownership in the lands of wealthy estate owners. These estates were worked by share croppers or migrant worker who had no share in the profits and could be displaced at the will of the land owners.<br />
<ul><li>This concentration of land ownership began with the Spanish conquest of South America, grew worse with independence from Spain in the 1800’s.
The situation had not improved by the 1950’s when Guevara made his trip.
Today, half a century later, inequality of land ownership is still a problem in parts of South America.</li></li></ul><li>Machu Picchu, <br />the "Lost City of the Incas"<br /><ul><li>Royal estate of the Inca emperor.
Abandoned about the time of the Spain inquest.
Rediscovered by explorer Hiram Bingham’s in 1911</li></li></ul><li>“How is it possible to feel nostalgic for a world I never knew,”<br />Perhaps the Inca’s most amazing accomplishment was a series of highways that connected the empire and made communication and governing possible. (How hard it would have been to pave roads over the Andes!) The Incan empire was the largest and most powerful of the Pre-Columbian civilizations.<br />
Tupac Amaru <br />Puppet emperor who rebelled against the Spanish government and the Catholic Church in the late 16th Century.<br />
Alberto is inspired to unite the Quecha, form a party and encourage the people to vote. He wants to “reactivate Tupac Amaru’s revolution .”<br /> Ernesto’s response was, “A revolution without guns? It would never work.” <br />This is the only indication in the entire movie that Guevara advocated violent revolution for social change.<br />
At the San Pablo Leper Colony<br />Near the end of their journey, Ernesto, who had dropped out of Medical School to come on the trip, volunteered in a leper colony. He is upset by the callousness of the nuns who serve as nurses there. But it should be noted that he spent only three week at the colony, while the nuns had dedicated their entire lives to helping the lepers.<br />
In the postscript of the film the rest of Guevara’s life is summed up as follows:<br />…Ernesto ChéGuevara, one of the most prominent and inspiring leaders of the Cuban revolution. Ché went on to fight for his ideals in the Congo and Bolivia where he was captured and, with the support of the CIA, murdered in October 1967.<br />While the above statement is basically accurate, it leaves out some important facts.<br />
After the trip in the Motorcycle Diaries, <br /><ul><li> Ernesto went on to finish medical school but decided not to practice medicine.
Went toGuatemala where he became a supporter of the president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. When Arbenz was deposed, Ernesto joined the revolutionary forces trying to reinstate him.
In Mexico, he met Fidel Castro and signed up as a physician for Castro’s army of Cuban revolutionaries. </li></li></ul><li>Ultimate Guerrilla Warrior. <br />Castro’s right hand men. <br />In 1961, he published Guerrilla Warfare, a training manual he hoped would help bring about revolution in Latin America and the rest of the world. <br />Unsuccessful president of the Cuban National Bank and head of the Ministry of Industry. <br />About this same time, Guevara began criticizing the Soviet Union for their lack of support for the new Communist state. Castro needing Soviet backing seems to have forced Guevara out of office.<br />
Guerrilla Warfare in Africa<br />ChéGuevara in the Palace of Snakes, <br />Dahomey (now Benin), January 1965.<br />Guevara tried to put the principles of Guerrilla Warfare into practice in the Congo. The revolution backfired when a coup replaced the besieged president of the Congo with a rightist military junta. <br />
After returning to Cuba, Guevara assembly a group of guerrillas to spread the revolution to Bolivia. But he had misread the situation in the country, where the president had just been elected and seemed to have popular support. <br />He didn’t get along with the members of the Bolivian Communist Party who resented him for telling them how to run their own revolution. In the end a number of Bolivian recruits deserted Ché and attempted to turn him over to the Bolivian army. Eventually he was captured and executed in Bolivia.<br />
After his death, Ché became a martyr and a symbol of idealistic rebellion. It is really this symbol rather than the man that The Motorcycle Diaries is about.<br />Although many critics loved the movie, a number point out that it gives a idealized impression of a man who was far from ideal.<br />
One Critic’s Comments<br />This is, then, a feel-good movie about a guy who helped to establish the Castro dictatorship in Cuba, for which he killed many and ordered the executions of many more. That is the negative spin, of course; the other is that Ché was a tireless champion of the suffering masses, and bravely sacrificed his own life for their cause. But he could not be the<br />L to R: Che Guevara, Raul Castro, and Fidel Castro<br />effective Communist leader without also being the conscienceless monster. I know "Motorcycle Diaries" took place well before Guevara took up arms, but not acknowledging the whole truth does neither the legend nor history any favors…. It makes for a nice night at the movies, though. The story, for "Motorcycle Diaries" is a film about the sowing of revolution designed for the approval of bourgeois gentlefolk - for the very type of person that Ché, once one himself, would not think twice about putting a bullet into. There I go again; but why can't a film acknowledge that violence and repression were at least as much a part of his legacy as egalitarianism, martyrdom and a really popular poster?<br /> -- Bob Strauss, LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS<br />
Works Cited<br />“ChéChic. ” The Wilson Quarterly 28.4 (2004): 10-11. Research Library ProQuest. Web. 14 Mar. 2006.<br />Dorfman, Ariel “The Guerrilla: Ché Guevara.” Time 14 Jun 1999: 210-212. ABI/INFORM Global ProQuest. Web.14 Mar. 2006. <br />“Ernesto Guevara Serna.” Contemporary Hispanic Biography, Vol. 2. 2002. Biography Resource Center. Gale Group. Web.16 Mar. 2006. <br />Hunter, Stephen. “‘Motorcycle Diaries’: Che Guevara's Ride of Passage.” Review of: Motorcycle Diaries.The Washington Post 1 Oct. 2004: C.01. ProQuestNewsstand.ProQuest. Web. 14 Mar. 2006. <br />
McCormick, Gordon H. " Ché Guevara: The Legacy of a Revolutionary Man. " World Policy Journal 14.4 (1997): 63. Research Library ProQuest. Web. 14 Mar. 2006. <br />“Photographic Archive.” 2004 Latin American Library. Tulane University. Web. 16 Mar. 2006.<br />Strauss, Bob. “Meet a Kinder, Gentler Ché in ‘Motorcycle Diaries.’” Los Angeles Daily News,23 Sept. 2004.Daily News.Com. Web. 17 Mar. 2006. <br />Tennenbaum, Barbara A., ed. Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. New York: Simon & Schuster MacMillan, 1996. Print.<br />