The Motorcycle Diaries


Ernesto Che Guevara

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The Leper Colony Symbol Icon

Because lepers are easy to fear and despise, the government and local communities ignore them and refuse to allocate necessary resources to them,; they are completely excluded from the normal benefits of belonging to society, and are instead consigned to isolated colonies. However, Ernesto finds a lot to inspire him when he reaches the San Pablo Leper Colony in the remote jungle of Peru. Within San Pablo colony, patients have created a society that allows them independence and dignity. They live in their own cabins and adjudicate disputes with their own judges and policemen. While the material conditions of the leper colony show Ernesto the necessity of social change, its atmosphere is reminiscent of the post-revolutionary future Ernesto imagines, in which the proletariat are liberated and empowered to govern themselves. While Ernesto doesn’t explicitly compare the lepers and the proletariat, he makes his first political speech at a banquet in the colony, in which he stresses the unity of Latin American peoples. Because of its egalitarian values, the leper colony is a microcosm of the ideal Communist society Ernesto envisions, and it helps him articulate his nascent political views.

The Leper Colony Quotes in The Motorcycle Diaries

The The Motorcycle Diaries quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Leper Colony. 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 40 Quotes

There are 600 sick people living independently in typical jungle huts, doing whatever they choose, looking after themselves, in an organization which has developed a rhythm and style of its own. There is a local official, a judge, a policeman, etc. The respect Dr. Bresciani commands is considerable and he clearly coordinates the whole colony, both protecting and sorting out disputes that arise between the different groups.

Related Characters: Ernesto Guevara (speaker), Dr. Bresciani
Related Symbols: The Leper Colony
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 41 Quotes

We constitute a single mestizo race, which from Mexico to the Magellan Straits bears notable ethnographical similarities. And so, in an attempt to rid myself of the weight of small-minded provincialism, I propose a toast to Peru and to a United Latin America.

Related Characters: Ernesto Guevara (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Leper Colony
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Leper Colony Symbol Timeline in The Motorcycle Diaries

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Leper Colony appears in The Motorcycle Diaries. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
38. Ucayali Abajo (Down the Ucayali)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Ernesto and Alberto sail to the San Pablo Leper Colony on a small passenger boat, La Cenepa. The captain lets them stay in first class... (full context)
40. La Colonia de San Pablo (The San Pablo Leper Colony)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
A day after arriving in San Pablo, Ernesto and Alberto finally visit the leper colony they’ve traveled so far to see. The colony is comprised of 600 patients who live... (full context)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Dr. Bresciani shows Ernesto and Alberto around the colony. He tells them about his own research, which examines patients’ nervous systems, because the disease... (full context)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
...they befriend the rest of the medical staff and the nuns who work in the colony. (full context)
41. El Día de San Guevara (Saint Guevara’s Day)
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Medicine, Politics, and Helping Others Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Ideology Theme Icon
During his stay at the leper colony, Ernesto turns 24. He sees this as a big milestone, because he’s been alive for... (full context)
43. Querida Vieja (Dear Mama)
Growing Up Theme Icon
...written from Bogotá, Colombia. He gives a brief account of his visit to the leper colony and the generous hospitality they showed him, noting wryly that he made a “quintessentially Pan-American... (full context)