The Motorcycle Diaries

by

Ernesto Che Guevara

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La Poderosa Symbol Icon

Ernesto begins his narrative with an image of his friend Alberto’s motorcycle, which is the vehicle that makes possible Ernesto and Alberto’s road trip across South America. The motorcycle’s nickname, “La Poderosa” or “The Powerful,” is obviously a joke to the two men, since La Poderosa is far from a powerful machine—it’s difficult to ride, it breaks frequently, and it dies forever halfway through the trip. In this sense, the motorcycle symbolizes the youthful scrappiness of their adventure and their reckless desire to embrace risk and improvisation. However, just as Ernesto transforms from a naïve and unfocused youth to a serious political revolutionary over the course of the book, the symbolism of the motorcycle shifts, as well. When Ernesto and Alberto finally lose the motorcycle and become “bums without wheels,” Ernesto realizes that owning a motorcycle had identified him as a member of the middle class, which had led people to respect him and Alberto in the poor towns he visited. Without the motorcycle, the two men begin to live and to be treated like members of the proletariat. Thus, La Poderosa does signify real power—the power of class advantage—which the men had been previously unaware that they possessed. The transition in the motorcycle’s symbolism foreshadows Ernesto’s eventual disavowal of his bourgeois roots and his embrace of the proletarian cause.

La Poderosa Quotes in The Motorcycle Diaries

The The Motorcycle Diaries quotes below all refer to the symbol of La Poderosa. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ocean Press edition of The Motorcycle Diaries published in 2003.
Chapter 2 Quotes

The enormity of our endeavor escaped us in those moments; all we could see was the dust on the road ahead and ourselves on the bike, devouring kilometers in our flight northward.

Related Characters: Ernesto Guevara (speaker), Alberto Granado
Related Symbols: La Poderosa
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

It was our last day as "motorized bums"; the next stage seemed set to be more difficult, as "bums without wheels."

Related Characters: Ernesto Guevara (speaker), Alberto Granado
Related Symbols: La Poderosa
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

To a certain extent we had been knights of the road; we belonged to that long-standing "wandering aristocracy" and had calling cards with our impeccable and impressive titles. No longer. Now we were just two hitchhikers with backpacks, and with all the grime of the road stuck to our overalls, shadows of our former selves.

Related Characters: Ernesto Guevara (speaker), Alberto Granado
Related Symbols: La Poderosa
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:
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La Poderosa Symbol Timeline in The Motorcycle Diaries

The timeline below shows where the symbol La Poderosa appears in The Motorcycle Diaries. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
2. Pródromos (Forewarnings)
Growing Up Theme Icon
...vacation from medical school. The young men pass the time in Alberto’s garage, fixing his motorcycle (which they call “La Poderosa”) and discussing plans and anxieties about their professional futures. Alberto... (full context)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Ideology Theme Icon
Alberto suddenly suggests that he and Ernesto take a road trip to North America on La Poderosa , and Ernesto instantly agrees. Ernesto notes that the trip that followed remained in the... (full context)
5. Hasta Romper el Ultimo Vínculo (Until the Last Tie is Broken)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...behind as well, sleeping in the open air and eating cheaply on their meager budget. La Poderosa turns out to be prone to accidents and often hinders their progress. Still, they are... (full context)
6. Para Las Gripes, Cama (For the Flu, Bed)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
As soon as the doctor gives his permission, Ernesto and Alberto depart, but La Poderosa quickly suffers several breakdowns. Ernesto and Alberto have to find people to fix the bike... (full context)
8. Exploración Circunvalatoria (Circular Exploration)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
...of spending the night in a real bed. They take a day to fix the motorcycle’s mechanical problems and reminisce together about past exploits. At dinner, the friends treat them to... (full context)
14. Las Dificultades Aumentan (The Difficulties Intensify)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Medicine, Politics, and Helping Others Theme Icon
La Poderosa breaks down twice, but this is no longer such a hindrance. Each time, Ernesto and... (full context)
15. La Poderosa II Termina Su Gira (La Poderosa II’s final tour)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
...Poderosa finally suffers damage which can’t be fixed, and the men have to leave the motorcycle behind. From now on, they can only go between towns by walking or hitchhiking. Without... (full context)
16. Bomberos Voluntarios, Hombres de Trabajo y Otras Yerbas (Firefighters, Workers and Other Matters)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
...much persuasion; they don’t believe the men will be able to transport themselves home without La Poderosa. (full context)
17. La Sonrisa de La Gioconda (La Gioconda’s Smile)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Ernesto continues to analyze the difficulties brought about by the loss of La Poderosa. Even a malfunctioning vehicle is more expensive than most people can afford, and owning one... (full context)