The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey

The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey - Ernesto Guevara, Aleida Guevara March One of my biggest complaints about modern US civics education (where it appears to exist at all) is the short shrift given to certain historical figures. All most of us ever learn about Ernesto Guevara is that he was a revolutionary, assassinated by the CIA, and that revolutionaries are "bad." (Never mind that the United States was founded by revolutionaries.)What we never seem to learn is how Ernesto Guevara arrived at the place in history that he holds. We are not taught, for instance, that he was a well-to-do Argentinian, a physician. We are not taught about his motorcycle trip into the Andes, where the crushing poverty, malnutrition and disease he saw (particularly working in a leper colony with little in the way of actual medical facilities) challenged his assumptions about life so much that he gave up a great deal to go help the poor."The Motorcycle Diaries" is the story of that journey in to the Andes and how "Che" (a common Argentinian nickname) and his companion worked their way all over Latin America by picking fruit, coaching soccer or whatever needed to be done so that they could see their entire country. (The original goal was to reach South America, but their temperamental Norton motorcycle gave up on the journey long before they did.) It is during this journey, with wildly varying rules, regulations and laws for each country they visit, that the young Che begins to think about a united Latin America and how the puppet government installed by "our strong neighbor to the North" need to be removed so that the people can once again decide who leads them. He comes to believe that the skills he was fortunate enough to receive at medical school are deserved by all, not just those who can afford to pay, because it is the poorest who suffer the most.In other words, it is his experiences that form his belief system (as with all of us) -- but it is those very experiences that US history books tend to ignore.I honestly believe that this book should be part of the high school curriculum. The language is beautiful, and the ideas are thought-provoking. If people don't understand the "why" of someone's place in history, they are unlikely to understand that person's real importance.