What are some examples of Colonialism from the "Motorcycle Diaries?"

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Colonialism and its legacy play a major role in Ernesto "Che" Guevara's observations during his youthful trip through Latin America.  After witnessing so much poverty and misery, and so much of both against a backdrop of elitism under the ever-present shadow of the European-centric collasus to the north, Guevara was increasingly embittered by what he saw.  From oblique references to colonial architecture in the towns and villages through which he passed and innocent asides ("Next door was a German family, or one of German origin...") to the oppressive presence of American imperialism, the young aspiring physician grows increasingly disenchanted with the enduring influence of colonial powers, especially with U.S. corporate practices in severely destitute regions. Perhaps nowhere was this resentment and anger towards the United States more prevalent than during Guevara's trip to Chile:

"Once there, the bosses, the blond, efficient and arrogant managers, told us in primitive Spanish: 'This isn't a tourist town.  I'll find a guide to give you a half-hour tour around the mine's installations and then do us a favor and leave us alone.  We have a lot of work to do.'  A strike was imminent.  Yet the guide, faithful dog of the Yankee bosses, told us: 'Imbecilic gringos, losing thousands of pesos every day in a strike so as not give a poor worker a few more centavos'...Cold efficiency and impotent resentment go hand in hand in the big mine..."

Guevara's references to the enduring legacy of colonialism are not limited to the more recent U.S. presence in Latin America.  He also notes the crucial distinction between the native communities (the "Indians") and the Spanish imperialists who arrived centuries before the North Americans.  In discussing the education of the Native American population in Peru, Guevara wrote the following:

"The destiny of those unhappy individuals (the Indians) is to stagnate in some minor bureaucratic position and die hoping that one of their children, thanks to the miraculous power of a drop of colonizing blood in their veins, might somehow achieve the goal they aspire to until their last days...Wasn't he (the Indian student) in fact a typical product of an 'education' which damages the person receiving its favor, a concession to the magic power of that single 'drop,' even it came from some poor mestizo womand sold to a local [political boss] or was the result of an Indian maid's rape by her drunken Spanish master."

The young Che Guevara was clearly influenced by what he witnessed during his travels.  That his views of colonialism would be shaped by such observations is not surprising.

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