The Motorcycle Diaries

by

Ernesto Che Guevara

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The Motorcycle Diaries: Chapter 39 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
This chapter is a transcript of a letter Ernesto wrote to his father while resting in the hospital at Iquitos. He mentions that the area near the river is full of modern settlements, and that to find “savage,” or non-Europeanized, tribes, you have to sail along the smaller tributaries. He also explains the precautions they’ve taken against diseases like typhoid and yellow fever.
While Ernesto displays a laudable interest in learning about native cultures, he often describes them with the same stereotypical language he criticizes in others. Calling the Indians “savage” debases and exoticizes them, and characterizes them as inherently less civilized than Europeans.
Themes
Suppression and Reclamation of Indigenous Culture Theme Icon
Ernesto tells his father about the respect local hospitals and doctors show the “two visiting researchers.” In particular, he recounts how the leprosy patients in the Lima hospital, grateful that he and Alberto played sports with them and “never wore overalls or gloves” out of fear of the disease, gave them gifts and money on their departure. Even if he isn’t a qualified doctor yet, Ernesto is proud and happy to be have given a “psychological lift” to the patients, who face so much hardship and isolation.
Ernesto is still enthusiastic about his experiences in the Lima hospital. His letter to his father shows that even if he has become disillusioned with the state of public health, Ernesto is still inspired by the potential of medicine to improve the welfare of underserved communities.
Themes
Medicine, Politics, and Helping Others Theme Icon