Latin America – A love story
I landed in Latin America ten years ago for the first time with an empty luggage made of good reading and a movie that, above all others, had inspired my journey: The motorcycle diaries (inspired from the book written by Che Guevara).
For all those who turn up their noses at this point fearing another nostalgic article about the Cuban revolution, I want to reassure you: the love for this film was born only because it relates a travel adventure, lived by its protagonists through an exceptional scenography and photography.
My idea of Latin America was not yet formed at that time, but I knew in my heart of the existence of a wonderful land, so close to our culture because of colonization, yet so distant in its past, traditions and geography.
A land so vast in which to speak, however, a single idiom: Spanish. The love for this language helped me in the integration process, so simple and immediate for us born in the boot of Europe.
Buenos Aires was the city where I spent the first weeks as a traveler in South America, there I learned Spanish – so that all the native speakers think of me as an Argentinian when I open my mouth – and from there I began my infinite journey: in fact, I will return to Latin America for all my life.
In the movie I was referring to, the main character, Ernesto Guevara, an idealistic young doctor, finds himself having to give a public speech in front of some doctors and nurses of the leper hospital in which he and his companion in adventure, Alberto Granada, work temporarily as volunteers.
Ernesto, now full of reflections and experiences from the travel, indulges in an inspired speech about the unity of Latin America, from Mexico to Patagonia, and the illusoriness and imprecision of the borders drawn between the various countries.
I was twenty-three when I listened to it for the first time and the idea of a world divided only by illusory borders touched a chord of my imagination which has never stopped vibrating since then. I have crossed many borders in my journeys, some made only of tents and barbed wire, and many times I thought how illusory they could be, but especially in Latin America I had the impression that they were made only of air and political calculations.
Before and after each border, a single mestizo race populates the streets and lives in the houses of a continent where for five hundred years abuses, tensions and violence have dictated its political and economic history; yet, surprisingly, Latin Americans are enthusiastic, full of dreams and with a vital humor.
Their philosophy of life, their affable and genuine ways have left a deep mark on me so much that once I returned home I knew I was no longer the person who had left a few years earlier.
After my first trip to South America, which lasted a little over six months, life took me to Mexico, shortly thereafter, where I moved there for almost a year and a half working as a photographer and calling brothers the people surrounding me.
More and more fascinated by an impromptu lifestyle and culture, I then traveled to Central America with its Caribbean and revolutionary streaks.
My knowledge of the countries I traveled to have not been always the same, but if I close my eyes and think about my travel and life experiences, a colorful and seamless image takes shape in my mind, through the looks and the conversations I had. Aromas, flavors, accents mix, each story always returns to a common denominator: Latin America.
How this spiritual unity was built in a continent so diverse from a geographical, ethnic and economic perspective is a mystery. Some good anthropologists or historians will certainly have dedicated entire volumes trying to give a complex explanation, but it does add nothing to the incredible feeling of living and traveling in a deeply united world, despite different traditions and customs.
In the veins of the campesinos in the rural regions, with their faces baked in the sun and their hands molded by the sand, dressed in torn and dirty clothes, as in the veins of Santiago de Chile working class managers, busy to live a Western life, flow a fragile and life-hungry humanity, trying to free itself from structures and rules whenever the opportunity arises.
The South American continent, so submissive and mistreated, has never forgotten what freedom is and, although the capitalist dream has also arrived there, it has never taken root as in Europe; thanks to a complex geography and a simple spirit, Latin Americans have always preferred the joy of the moment instead of planning their happiness with a calendar and they have always shown a lack of foresight; but this is their life, lived without safety nets, so wonderful and tragic at the same time.
It’s not for everyone, but neither is South America. Have a good trip.