Week 6- Soy Cuba

Soy Cuba  was released in 1968 and directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. It shows pre-revolution Cuba through four different situations found on the island. The first situation shows American visitors to Cuba having raucous parties in Havana and having sex with the prostitutes of Havana. The second situation is a sharecropper who had his land and home taken from him when the owner of the land sells out to an American company. The third situation is when students take up the revolutionary cause and run afoul of local police forces. Eventually the students win out and the revolution begins. Finally, in the last situation, a farmer is caught in the cross fire between Cuban state forces and the Revolution forces. This conflict eventually forces him to choose sides and he sides with the revolutionaries.

While the movie has obvious Communist overtones due to the time period it was made, there can still be truth found within the movie. The first situation included three American men in Havana having a party and taking prostitutes to have sex with. While this does paint Americans out as bad people who only come to Cuba so that she can whore herself out to them, it is actually fairly accurate. In Alejandro de la Fluente’s Race, National Discourse, and Politics in Cuba: An Overview he points out how Cuba “did promote the massive immigration of white workers and their families” (Fuentes, 48) but in the end “the immigration of entire families, which is what the Cuban state had encouraged…had failed.” (Fuentes, 48) Thus Cuba ended up with large numbers of white males, but no families with them. As such these white men were free to run rampant in Cuba and enjoy whatever they could afford. This view of white men in Cuba was also expressed during the third situation when American sailors chased a young Cuban woman who was subsequently saved by a young Cuban man acting as the hero for that part of the movie. While the historical accuracy of that situation cannot be corroborated by the readings, it is not hard to imagine it happening.

During the second situation a rather dubious scene occurs. It depicts a fictitious American company buying the land that a sharecropper owns sugar cane on, thus leaving the farmer without land and without a home. First, at the time of the revolution “only a relatively small portion of the island’s agrarian labor force was employed in subsistence farming.” (Eckstein, 503) Furthermore it seems even less likely that an American company would be buying the land because by the time of the revolution America was switching away from sugar cane production and moving into industry. (Eckstein, 503)

It is no surprise that this type of cinema came in vogue around 1968 due to the fact that by then Cuba had become a Communist country. It is even less surprising that Soy Cuba was such a hit because, as Chasteen says, “The Marxist view of capitalism, highlighting class exploitation, seemed an apt description of Latin American experience.” (Chasteen, 264)  With this in mind Soy Cuba achieves historical accuracy in major parts, but drops the ball and loses part of its historical legitimacy to try and get its message about the pitfalls of capitalism across while promoting Communist values.