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Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Motorcycle Diaries

I came into close contact with poverty, hunger and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident, as occurs often in the downtrodden classes of our American homeland. And I began to realize at that time that there were things that were almost as important to me as becoming famous for making a significant contribution to medical science: I wanted to help those people. — Ernesto Guevara

Spoken: August 19, 1960 to the Cuban Militia
Source: Obra Revolucionaria, Ano 1960, No. 24 (Official English translation)
Translated: Beth Kurti

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was a 23-year-old medical student who saw the plight of the poor across Latin America. It's a grim fate for a revolutionary who wanted to change the world to become only T-Shirt icon in present. Despite his political legacy and the usage of violence, I love his rebel cause to make world a better place. Paraphrasing here two best passages of his travelogue : The Motorcycle Diaries. This travelogue shows Ernesto the Medical Student developing a sense of Pan-Latin Americanism that fuses the interests of indigenous peasants with traditional adversaries like upper-middle-class Argentine intellectuals.

1- Che Guevara while treating a peasant woman dying of tuberculosis.---

"It is at times like this, when a doctor is conscious of his complete powerlessness, that he longs for change: a change to prevent the injustice of a system in which only a month ago this poor woman was still earning her living as a waitress, wheezing and panting but facing life with dignity. In circumstances like this, individuals in poor families who can’t pay their way become surrounded by an atmosphere of barely disguised acrimony; they stop being father, mother, sister or brother and become a purely negative factor in the struggle for life and, consequently, a source of bitterness for the healthy members of the community who resent their illness as if it were a personal insult to those who have to support them.

It is there, in the final moments, for people whose farthest horizon has always been tomorrow, that one comprehends the profound tragedy circumscribing the life of the proletariat the world over.

In those dying eyes there is a submissive appeal for forgiveness and also, often , a desperate plea for consolation which is lost to the void, just as their body will soon be lost in the magnitude of the mystery surrounding us. How long this present order, based on an absurd idea of caste, will last is not within my means to answer, but it's time that those who govern spent less time publicizing their own virtues and more money, much more money, funding socially useful works.

There isn't much I can do for the sick woman. I simply advise her to improve her diet and prescribe a diuretic and some asthma pills. I have a few Dramamine tablets left and I give them to her. When I leave, I am followed by the fawning words of the old woman and the family's indifferent gaze."

2-Che Guevara describe a sojourn spent working with leprosy patients in Peru.---

"Their appreciation sprang from the fact that we never wore overalls or gloves, that we shook their hands as we would shake anybody's . . . that we played football with them. It may seem like pointless bravado, but the psychological lift it gives to these poor people - treating them as normal human beings instead of animals, as they are used to - is incalculable and the risk to us extremely unlikely. "

- Che Guevara, 1952. "The Motorcycle Diaries...Notes on a Latin American Journey" .


  1. The book is a collection of notes of Ernesto Guevara during his motorcyle tour with his friend Alberto Granado. The journey was 5000 miles across South and Central America and it depicts his various encounters with people all across South America. During the journey, Ernesto realises the extremely adverse living conditions of the people of Latin and South American countries due to the American capitalism. This changed the way he used to think about the world. He completed his medical studies after returning from the motorcycle tour. But the journey transformed him and he transformed the people of South America.. He was the key figure in Cuban Revolution.. Dr Ernesto Guevara was now known as 'Che' by all who loved and all who hated him..

    Brilliant book. One of the best I have read on history and politics.

    1. Thank you Neha for giving a good summary on the book. I read the book and was quite moved by the sincerity of the writer.



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