Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey is a beloved hybrid of bildungsroman, travel writing, political commentary, and diary. It achieved even more prominence when turned into a popular film in 2004, and has been on bestseller lists many times. Though the work predated Guevara’s radical political days, many of his ideological convictions were formed on this journey and thus are present in the text.
Guevara was twenty-three years old when he and friend, Alberto Granado, decided to travel around Latin America. They left Buenos Aires, Argentina in January 1952 on “La Poderosa” (The Mighty One), a single cylinder 1939 Norton 500cc. He had already done a long trip through Argentina in 1950 and felt prepared for the longer version he and Granado had decided to pursue. They eventually traveled through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and finally Miami before Guevara returned via cargo plane to Argentina.
The diaries leaked out of Bolivia not long after Guevara’s death, and it was said that the Bolivians were going to sell them to the highest bidder. The diaries made it to Cuba, though, and a copy of them was released to the public for free.
In the 1980s, Guevara’s family began working with his unpublished manuscripts and brought The Motorcycle Diaries to press in 1993. In 2003, it was published by Ocean Press and the Che Guevara Studies Center, featuring an introduction by Guevara’s daughter, Aleida Guevara.
In 2005, Granado spoke to the BBC of the journey, stating, "The most important thing was to realize that we had a common sensibility for the things that were wrong and unjust” and "I got the impression that Che was saying goodbye to institutional medicine and becoming a doctor of the people."