Soy Cuba...

Soy Cuba, a 1964 film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, presents the country of Cuba leading up to the revolution. Kalatozov divides the film into four unique stories to illustrate his revolutionary message. The first two stories depict the progression of the Cuban revolution, mainly focused on anti-American imperialism.

In the first story of the film, Kalatozov emphasizes the anti-American/ anti-capitalist sentiment in Cuba through his portrayal of the Americans. In John Charles Chasteen’s book Born in Blood in Fire, he points out that throughout the revolution Cubans wanted to deal less and less with Americans. Chasteen states that “ in Cuba, as in Latin America as a whole, 1950’s anti-imperialist attitudes focused almost exclusively on the United States, and nowhere were anti-imperialist feelings stronger than  among Cuban nationalists” (Chasteen 266). The Americans in the film were portrayed stereotypically. The men came to the city for business, stayed for pleasure, and took what they wanted at whatever cost. For example, in the film, one American comes to the city of Havana and while enjoying the nightlife meets a young woman named Betty (also named Maria). He is intrigued by her crucifix. He has no regard for the sentimental value she places on it, and purchases it from her without care. The crucifix represents the natural resources of Cuba, which the Americans sought to take. This is an example of pre-revolutionary imperialism by the United States. After the American took what he wanted, he fled through the slums of Havana, while the children of the slums cried out “money mister.” As he flees, the narrator asks the American did he get everything he wanted, and why he was running away.

The second story of the film continues the metaphor of imperialism in Cuba. The setting is a sugarcane farm run by Pedro. During the scene, Pedro is notified that his farm has been sold to an American fruit company, United Fruit. The injustices can be seen through Pedro’s actions toward his children. Pedro gives them the last of his money, to go into town and buy Coca-Colas. They are now paying for what once was free to them, sugar water. The Cuban response in this story was an escalation of first story. Instead of Pedro giving in to the Americans, he attempts to retaliate by burning his farm down. He retaliated in a passive guerrilla-like way, destroying the United States’ investment. Susan Eckstein sheds light on these circumstances in her article The Impact of the Cuban Revolution: A Comparative Perspective. Cuba was looking to move away from single crop production, and move towards agricultural diversification and industrialization. Eckstein states, “The revolution… ushered in a government more committed to economic expansion” (Eckstein 504). Che Guevara “had been foremost among those insisting that the sugar-heavy Cuban economy must diversify and industrialize” (Chasteen 271). Unfortunately, they were dependant upon trade (Eckstein 504) with the United States, and Russia was not about to lose export revenue in order to fund the industrialization Cuba. (Chasteen 271).

The last two stories depict the active rebellion of the Cubans. In the third story, there is Enrique who stops the American sailors from manhandling Gloria. This represents the Cubans finally stepping up to the Americans. In the fourth story, a farmer claims his hands are not for killing. However, by the end of the film he finds himself a part of the rebellion, killing. This represents the change in the Cuban attitude. It changed the revolution from being just an ideal, to being a part of their life. This turned something that everyone was talking about, into and idea finally being put into action. Finally, there was revolution.