Propaganda through film has always been a significant tool for political leaders since the beginning of the film industry. By highlighting the proper material and degrading the opposition, an audience can be easily influenced. In Soy Cuba (or I Am Cuba in a simple Spanish to English translation), the Russian director, Mikhail Kalatozov depicts the pre-revolutionized Cuba as a capitalist-centric economy, heavily manipulated by the United States. After viewing the distinct chapters of the movie, the nationalist and communist visions for Cuba become apparent to the audience.
According to John Chasteen in Born in Blood and Fire, Cubans’ ideologies were centralized around the notions of nationalism and Marxism, which were in opposition of the America’s presence of capitalism. With the frequent appearance of Marxism in the majority of the Cuban population that did not benefit from the capitalist economy, the Anti-United States attitude began to increase while Fidel Castro slowly gained power through his promises of reform.
While the movie depicts Americans as collecting all the wealth on the island, Susan Eckstein makes note that Cuba was not a poor country. On a ranking system, Cuba is a highly competitive economy in the Latin American region due to the sugar cane production and the budding tourism industry. However, Eckstein clearly states that, “foreign capital, above all United States capital, played a major role both in agriculture and in industry.” The role of the United States in every day Cuban life was borderline dominant before the revolution.
Kalatozov utilizes his movie for a call to nationalism and the removal of capitalism. With the title, Soy Cuba, a sense of citizenship is developed, declining the boundaries of wealth and race. Everyone that felt oppressed by the government regime of the current leader of the time, Batista, should unite in order for Cubans to progress into an independent nation, instead of relying on the United States to dominate the land. According to Alejandro de la Fuente, a sense of unity was a common goal for Cuban reformers, rather than attempting to overthrow the government in individual groups. The idea of unity gave Castro popularity he needed to gain a popular majority favor with Cubans.
The influential material in the film also provided several symbolisms for the case of anti-United States and anti-capitalism. In the first chapter, a young woman would earn her living through entertaining American men. At the climax of the chapter, after she sleeps with the tourist and unwillingly sells her crucifix to the man (due to her small understanding of English), the scene could be interpreted as the United States taking advantage of Cubans. In the final portion of that chapter, the tourist is faced with the reality of poor Cubans, having to search through an underprivileged neighborhood for a way out. However, he turns a blind eye, ignoring the beggars in order to find his own way, symbolizing how the United States was aware of the condition of Cubans but turned a blind eye in order to keep accumulating income.