The film, Soy Cuba (1964) was made to depict different aspects of Cuban society before the 1959 Cuban revolution. The movie uses the disconnected symbolism as in Que Vive Mexico, to represent problems that arise from political oppression. This movie is very Marxist, and is critical of Batista’s willingness to cooperate with American Business owners and the American government. As Chasteen explains, Cuban’s believed that Marxist ideology could dismantle neo-colonialism by the United States in Cuba (264). Chasteen also explains that, “if the imperialist United States hated and feared Marxism, many Latin Americans found that simply a further incentive to study it” (264). The peasants, workers and college students in Cuba disliked the amount of influence the United States had in affairs of Cuba. Echstain explains that Cuba was dependent on the US for trade and economic development and that “foreign capital, above all United States capital, played a major role both in agriculture and in industry” (503, 204).
The most obvious portrayal of neo-colonialism the movie is the story of the Peasant farmer in the movie. He was a farmer all of his life, but he did not actually own his land, he just simply worked the land. He needed to grow a huge crop of sugar cane in order to support his family. He finally grew a huge crop, but his landowner sold his land to the United Fruit Company. He end up revolting by selling what he could of his crop and then burning the land, so that it would be unusable. United Fruit Company, a US corporation, is a prime example of economic imperialism in Latin America. They mainly monopolized banana industry in many Latin American countries. This ruined business for peasants that sold bananas, which furthered poverty in Cuba. In the movie, the man who wants to marry Maria sells bananas for a living, but he is still impoverished because he cannot compete with large business.
Soy Cuba also depicts the race issues of Cuba before the revolution through the story of Maria. Maria is a black Cuban, who essentially lives on the margins of society as a prostitute to rich American business men. Maria likes the man who sells bananas, but she does not want him to find out about her profession. She feels what she does is immoral; this is obvious in the scene where she delicately takes off her cross before getting in bed with her client. However, she feels trapped because she has no other options. When the man leaves the next morning, he gets lost within the slums of the black Cubans. This is one of the most profound scenes in the movie. The camera shows up-close images of the distressed and troubled black Cubans. When comparing the way Maria lives to the college kids and even to the peasant farmer, the black Cubans are clearly the most shunned in society. De la Fuente explains that race relations were not exactly at the forefront of the revolutionary agenda, but after the revolution black Cubans received a little more equality. He explains that institutional reforms benefited blacks by giving them access to “schools, beaches, and social clubs. [But] Other redistributive programs, although addressed to the poor irrespective of race, disproportionately benefited the black population, given its high concentration within the lower strata of society” (De la Fuente, 61).
Soy Cuba could definitely be considered a propaganda film. The movie gives the message that the revolution that began in the city could benefit all members of society, from the college kids that were the driving force behind the revolution, to the peasant farmer and even the black Cuban—being the most disadvantaged in society. The movie portrays the college students getting beaten by cops, blasted by water hoses, and even murdered in order to create a better Cuba. The revolution itself was seen as a success in the eyes of Cubans. Cuba may not be as economically prosperous as it was when the US had more influence, but it does socially provide well for its citizens. However, the Castro family has been in Cuba since the 1960s which makes it an authoritarian government. Even if socially Cuba is doing better, politically the regime can be portrayed as oppressive.