Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Motorcycles Diaries

Ernesto Guevara introduces the diary thus: "This isn't a tale of derring-do, nor is it merely some kind of 'cynical account'; it isn't meant to be, at least. It's a chunk of two lives running parallel for a while, with common aspirations and similar dreams. In nine months a man can think a lot of thoughts, from the height of philosophical conjecture to the most abject longing for a bowl of soup – in perfect harmony with the state of his stomach. And if, at the same time, he's a bit of an adventurer, he could have experiences which might interest other people and his random account would read something like this diary."

The Motorcycles Diaries written by Ernesto Guevara pursues the inspiring journey of self-discovery and of the youthful origins of a revolutionary beyond comparison—Che Guevara. The book explores the rich and multifaceted social/human topography of the Latin American continent.

The story unveiled through the experiences of two friends who try to live life at its fullest. The Year is 1952 and Guevara and his older friend Alberto Granado (biochemist) decided to embark on a trip they had thought and discussed over the years. They decide to take a year off from their medical studies to travel across South America. They take off from their hometown of Alta Gracia astride a 1939 Norton (a 500 cc motorcycle) they had named La Poderosa II ("The Mighty One, the Second"). They envision spending a few weeks volunteering at the San Pablo Leper colony in Peru. The journey takes them through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and to Miami, before returning to Argentina. Miramar, Argentina, a small resort is there first destination and stop point as Guevara's girlfriend Chichina was spending summers there (in company of her upper-class family). The agreed upon 2 days stretch into 8. Finally they leave and Chichina gives Guevara US $15 to buy her a swimsuit if they make it to U.S. Guevara promises to starve than spend the money on anything else. But later he gave it away to a poor peasant couple who he feels need it more than his girlfriend (the first signs of a greatest revolutionary in making!).

They later cross into Chile and introduce themselves as internationally renowned leprosy experts to a local reporter, the newspaper carries a glowing story about them. They later use this press clipping to get free meals and other such favours with locals. They head north where we see Guevara's political consciousness began to stir while visiting the mining country and interacting with the miners and experience there pathetic living conditions first half.

To give any more info would be criminal so I leave it here for you to explore the theme from your perspective. I have heard the Movie based on this GREAT masterpiece of a book is equally fabulous (I plan to watch it soon).

His conception of a united/borderless Hispanic America sharing a common 'mestizo' (bond) was a theme evolves during his travel and would prominently recur during the later part of his revolutionary life. The journey helps manifest into the transformation of Ernesto the traveler, into Che Guevara the iconic revolutionary. The book is a must read for its gripping and candid writing and to explore the traveler within us. I leave you with an extract from the diary:

"The stars streaked the night sky with light in that little mountain town and the silence and the cold dematerialised the darkness. It was as if all solid substances were spirited away in the ethereal space around us, denying our individuality and submerging us, rigid, in the immense blackness."

Happy Reading!