24 January 2019

Cusco, Peru

While touring South America on a motorbike, Ernesto "Che" Guevara (Gael García Bernal) and Alberto Granada (Rodrigo de la Serna) visited Peru in April and May 1952. In the film THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (original title Diarios de Motocicleta), based on the diaries that Guevara kept, they visit Cusco, Machu Picchu and Lima (see Lima, Peru).

The Motorcycle Diaries, 1:00:33
The moment when the two arrive in Cusco (spelled Cuzco in the film, also showing the date of arrival and the height), was filmed in Ollantaytambo. This town is located in the Sacred Valley, about 45 miles from Cusco. Many tourists start their trip to Machu Picchu here. The narrow streets of the old city center must have appealed to the producers of the film. Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granada also went to Ollantaytambo and visited the ruins of the Inca terraces.
Although Cusco has grown considerably since 1952, the historic city center has not changed much and a few scenes were filmed here.

Ernesto and Alberto meet Félix (Gustavo Morales), a boy who guides them through the city, including eating coca leaves. These scenes are improvised, Gustavo Morales offered the film crew to show the city after which they filmed his tour. The street where the first meeting takes place is Calle Inca Roca. As its name indicates, the street was founded by the Incas. The walls were built on the foundations of what probably once was an Inca palace. The stones fit seamlessly without the use of cement.

The Motorcycle Diaries, 1:00:50
Calle Inca Roca, Cusco, 1 July 2018
The Motorcycle Diaries, 1:00:54
Calle Inca Roca, Cusco, 1 July 2018
The Motorcycle Diaries, 1:00:57
Calle Inca Roca, Cusco, 1 July 2018

Félix takes Ernesto and Alberto to Plaza de Armas, the central square of the city. They pass the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús ('Church of the Society of Jesus'), built on an Inca ruin between 1576 and 1668. The cathedral, located on the same square, dates from the same period. Both churches are examples of Spanish baroque architecture.

The Motorcycle Diaries, 1:01:15
Cathedral, Cusco, 1 July 2018
The Motorcycle Diaries, 1:01:22
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, Cusco, 1 July 2018

When Ernesto and Alberto visited Plaza the Armas in April 1952, they made this photo of the church. The tower on the right was still in scaffolding after it had been damaged by a severe earthquake on 21 May 1950.

Cathedral, Cusco, April 1952
Photo made by Ernesto Guevara or Alberto Granada
Cathedral, Cusco, 1 July 2018

The movie ends with a series of portraits in black and white of people of all countries that were visited. Gustavo Morales poses at Hatunrumiyoc ('Street of the big stone') in front of the twelve-angled stone, a remarkable example of the precision of Incan architecture. The stone cannot be missed, there are always tourists and souvenir vendors nearby.

 The Motorcycle Diaries, 1:55:34
Hatunrumiyoc, Cusco, 1 July 2018

Screenshots © Focus Features/FilmFour