The rise of Nationalism in “Soy Cuba”

Following the end of WWII, a forming polarization of pro and anti-US capitalism was taking root in South and Central American countries. As US and Europe attempt to recover from the war, less developed countries of Central and South America are pressured to take up their old role of subordination and dependency on foreign countries, namely US. Cuba stood apart as many middle class and poor Latin Americans began to strongly favor socialist government over a democracy they feel had failed them. The film, Soy Cuba,  demonstrates some of the growing contempt and even hatred for those who symbolized and supported capitalism. In this film, the director Mikhail Kalatozov, used the montage format to show Cubans as a whole who suffered together and together united to oust the governmental controls rooted in capitalist ideals. At its 1964 release, Soy Cuba was likely propaganda for socialist governments but this does not take away from the realities it portrays of the struggles suffered by the Cuban poor.The film makes it impossible to ignore the appalling human suffering that accompanied urbanization for those who lived in the cities and also those who lived a rural Cuba.This film gave real insight into the motivations for war and revolution. As Chasteen wrote “Latin American economies had expanded…but not enough to meet the basic needs–much less the hopes and dreams–of the added millions”(249). 

Soy Cuba demonstrates the state of the poor prior to the revolution in the first two chapters of the film. The first scene demonstrates the power of wealthy Cuban elites aboard a cruise ship mingling with wealthy white Americans and later shows US buisness men weilding the power to purchase Cuban prostitutes in a local night club. In both scenes the Afro-Cuban culture is made accessible to the white Americans as a form of entertainment, music and dancing. According to Alejandro de la Fuente’s article, this acceptance of Cuban-African roots was a sign of a growing national cultural identity for Cuba (61), however the downside is that this portrayl was used by wealthy elites to mask the poverty of the majority of the Cuban population. The film captures the true Cuba when the camera takes you through the shanty towns of Havana. As found in Chasteen’s book, shanty towns (common to impoverished South Americans) were constructed on top of garbage piles (265) with homes made out of scraps such as ”used lumber, cardboard, and flattented tin cans”(249). 

Another depiction of the film was the sharecrop holder robbed of his right to grow his sugar cane due to the landowner selling it to The United Fruit Company, a US owned company. As a mostly single export economy at this time, this shows a true example of Cubas dependency on US and other foreign companies for sustaining their way of life. This relationship largely benefited  the US,while the Cuban farmers were not able to sustain themselves or their families. Many farmers were forced to move to the cities where they were forced into even deeper poverty with even less opportunites. 

The film’s final scenes depict how Cubans of all walks of life: peasants,workers, and university students alike, made up most of the revolutionary movement. The ideals of Nationalism were shared by revolutionaries: a want for economic independence and social equality for all. The Nationalism attitudes were lumped together to include anything opposing democracy: Communism and Marxism to name two of the biggest opposing ideals. However, the united front of the revolution found solidarity in Nationalism. The price of the revolution seems worth it as depicted in the end of the film as the revolutionaries are victorious with the fall of  Batista and the rise of Fidel Castro.The film having been released only 10 years after the revolution, cannot show what would be the next chapter of the Cuban story, post Revolutionary Cuba.