Soy Cuba -- I am Cuba (1964).

A friend gave me the special boxed edition for my birthday (in the shape of a cigar box... very clever) and the images have haunted me since. This is a film made by Soviet-Cuban collaborators at the height of the Cold War, only a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Detractors in the US will claim that it's communist propaganda (as if any piece of media didn't convey a message). Detractors in the USSR complained that it wasn't harsh enough in its depiction of pre-Revolution bourgeois Cuba and that it wasn't orthodox enough in its Marxism.

The film is stunningly beautiful and has these lovely long tracking shots which tour through Havana. As any piece of worthwhile art, its meaning changes through time. The misery of grinding rural poverty in the midst of comfortable corporate excess that set the stage for a massive social upheaval in the 50s, the inaccessible luxuries of hotels and rooftop bars, the racial inequality. These themes are reconstituted from today's gaze where the grinding rural poverty has been largely eliminated, but luxury hotels are still inaccessible to Cubans, and the racial inequality has morphed. Those Cubans lucky enough to work in the tourist industry (where they can make the dollars useful in the black market/dollar economy) or with family in the exterior that sends remittances are the whiter ones.

At the Night Club.

The Procession.

These visuals are part of a struggle to get to determine what the "authentic" Cuba of the 1950s was and thereby to condone or condemn what came afterward (i.e. Castro). Compare with this recent New York Times article (and especially the video) where the attempt is to go back in time and recreate the Cuba from the 50s. This raises the interesting question of memory... how much time and how much life lies between the experience of the Revolution and the lives of exiles here in the US? What does nostalgia and remembering a Cuba from the 50s mean to people who've never been to the island?

Posted in . Bookmark the permalink. RSS feed for this post.

One Response to Soy Cuba -- I am Cuba (1964).

Julie said...

Yes, I agree that the visuals are beautiful. The result of the film is a nostalgic glimpse of Havana (definitely not the purpose intended).

I VERY strongly disagree with the following sentence: "where the grinding rural poverty has been LARGELY ELIMINATED". That is simply a line taken from Castro communist propaganda.


Swedish Greys - a WordPress theme from Nordic Themepark. Converted by