Ernesto acquires a French inhaler to help with his asthma but loses Alberto, with whom he parts ways in Caracas. Without his traveling companion, he feels lonely and “unguarded.” He misses having Alberto around to share his observations and experiences. Despite his sadness, Ernesto acknowledges that their long journey together has come to a necessary end. Alberto needs to look for a job, and Ernesto wants to return home and finish his studies.
Losing Alberto is a bittersweet moment, but it shows how Ernesto has matured. He’s an adult now, and can stand on his own. That the parting seems very natural perhaps suggests that the two have grown apart in some ways. Ernesto is increasingly committed to his political ideology, while Alberto is more concerned with practical issues like finding a job.
Alone for the first time, Ernesto explores the outskirts of Caracas. The slums here are populated by two rival ethnic groups, those of Portuguese and those of African descent. Although both groups live in dire poverty, they are prejudiced and hostile to each other. They are further separated by their “different ways of approaching life.” Ernesto says that black people are “dreamers” and as a result often lazy, while Europeans have “a tradition of work and saving.” He doesn’t give much evidence for these generalizations, attributing them to essential racial character.
Ernesto’s characterization of black people is, of course, based entirely on offensive stereotypes rather than fact or experience. This passage shows that, even as Ernesto has matured and become politicized in the course of his trans-continental journey, many of his views are still naïve and uninformed, and his picture of justice is not expansive or radical enough to include everybody equally.
Ernesto peeks into one of the tiny huts where a mother is cooking dinner for several ragged children. He tries to take photographs of them, but they are suspicious and throw stones to drive him away. On the way back to Caracas, Ernesto notes that even though the houses and infrastructure are atrocious, many families have bought refrigerators, radios, or cars.
Capitalism has done nothing good for Caracas. People buy material goods because they want to feel bourgeois, but they’re just giving their money to foreign corporations. The corporations are themselves in league with corrupt governments who don’t provide basic services, keeping the proletariat trapped in poverty.