Soy Cuba

Soy Cuba is a unique movie telling the story of the Cuban Revolution. It begins by portraying the large, tourist city of Havana. Initially, it appears to be a thriving city with few problems. The issues of poverty and neocolonialism begin to prevail as the first part of the movie comes to an end with the tourist walking through the destitute parts of the city. Fidel Castro and his new government attempted to fix the economic situation with the distribution of land, goods and income, but the U.S. embargo and other post World War II issues hindered these efforts.

Susan Eckstein discusses many of these issues in her article, “The Impact of the Cuban Revolution: A Comparative Perspective.” One of the problems Eckstein brings is up is how Castro attempted to industrialize the economy domestically. However, by the mid 20th century this was practically impossible to accomplish. Cuba needed capital to produce goods for export. Chasteen reports in chapter eight of “Born in Blood and Fire,” that the U.S. focused most of its efforts after World War II on helping to reconstruct Europe. Much of Latin America felt betrayed by this after they helped supply many goods to the world market during the war. Chasteen states that only two percent of U.S. foreign aid was given to Latin American countries between 1946 and 1959 as the U.S. focused its efforts on the Marshall Plan. Eckstein writes that Cuba was even farther burdened by its relationship with the Soviet Union after World War II. As the U.S. attempted to squash the communist revolution in Cuba, the Soviet Union swooped in attempting to undermine its enemy. They supplied large amounts of aid to Cuba, but demanded in return that Cuba buy their inferior, cheaper goods. The Soviet Union took advantage of Cuba while the U.S. enforced a trade embargo that kept the country from growing at a faster rate under Castro.

As Americans, we tend to see communism as a threat to our individual liberties. It more than likely is, but as Chasteen writes in chapter 8, Marxism appealed to many Latin American countries because they feared the U.S. would only begin efforts of neocolonialism. This is somewhat of an understandable thought to consider, seeing as most Latin American countries had only recently gained independence from foreign powers. Eckstein writes that even though the Castro regime was not able to perfectly achieve its initial aspirations due to outside influences and factors it was unable to control, it was successful in creating schools, providing healthcare, and keeping the overall gap between rich and poor closer than most of its neighboring countries.

The important lesson from the readings and the movie is that a country must consider how it will deal with factors from outside influences when attempting to industrialize the country. As the hegemonic state, the U.S. was going to be able to effect the Cuban economy in one way or another. It is likely the new regime in Cuba did not consider these effects when it began to rule. Much of its future was dependent on the survival and strength of the Soviet Union. Even though the Soviet Union was competing with the U.S. as the world superpower, it continued to have its own economic problems until it was finally defeated not long after Eckstein wrote her article. After watching Soy Cuba, it is interesting to ponder what kind of state Cuba, and the rest of Latin America, would have been if Castro had not been able to successfully come to power.