Monday, March 21, 2011

The Motorcycle Diaries - Notes on a Latin American Journey by Ernesto Che Guevara

The Motorcycle Diaries - Notes on a Latin American Journey
Ernesto Che Guevara
Published by Ocean Press, in association with the Che Guevara Studies Center, Havana, 2003

Review by Ramona Wadi

An unconventional recollection that seems to be the prelude to the cry of Hasta la victoria siempre! Patria o muerte! Embarking on a journey to discover Ernesto on his way to becoming Che, one realises that Che was there prior to the history that shaped his name into a worthy revolutionary memorial.

In December 1951 Ernesto set out on a trip from Buenos Aires, travelling to Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, together with his friend, Alberto Granado. From the cordillera in the Andes, Ernesto writes "I know now, by an almost fatalistic conformity with the facts, that my destiny is to travel ..." In between anecdotes of travel and publicity in Chile, as the pair got themselves mentioned on a newspaper as "Two Argetine Leprosy Experts Tour Latin America by Motorcycle", Ernesto's reflections are profound and indicative of a philosophy that would not acquiesce to the exploitation of Latin America. Already, in a speech given prior to their departure from the San Pablo Leper colony, Ernesto calls the division of Latin America "completely fictional". The disregard and comtempt for political borders and categorising of nations and people seems to have been reinforced by the observations throughout the journey.

The political reflections become more prominent as Ernesto and Alberto come into contact with the campesinos - a married Chilean communist couple who recount their reality of prison and mysterious disappearances of friends. The yearning for better quality of life was suppressed by the fact that people were slaves of higher authorities and need battled with dignity, so that the workers were coerced into working under other miserable conditions in the sulphur mines for a "few meagre crumbs" which failed to sustain their lives. Ernesto describes the conditions of the mines as " ... so hard that you don't need a work permit", thus exposing the cycle of oppressive need.

A mere eight years after this Latin American Journey, the Cuban revolution had triumphed and Ernesto Che Guevara had become one of the central figures of the Cuban revolution. Perhaps a confirmation of his revolutionary choices is found in the epilogue of this diary - an assertion to be with the people, "the great equalizer of individual will".

The memories of a journey had transformed into a reason for revolution.

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