Continuing the Cuba: re Guantanamera

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at
Mon Oct 11 17:15:39 MDT 1999

Continuing the Cuba theme. . .

I remember a while back someone (Mac?) posting something on the movie
'Guantanamera" and being really keen about it.

I saw the film last year, here in Christchurch, and my interpretation of it
was totally different.  Indeed the picture it painted of what is happening
in Cuba now was far from inspiring.

The hero of the movie was a rugged, virile young petty-bourgeois male who
was a gung-ho entrepreneur, whose activities skirted the law.  The villain
of the movie was the party official, who at the end is totally humiliated.

Basically the movie dealt with the opening up of the market within Cuba,
and was incredibly cynical about the established 'socialist' order which
was presented as being pretty much the same as the Stalinist set-up in
Eastern Europe.

It glorified this young entrepreneur, who also had an affair with the
middle-aged wife of the party official.  She had previously taught
economics at his university and had been forced out because she had
criticised the old 'socialist' economic model.  But now, she has been
vindicated, and even gets to make whoopee with this young student who is
the personification of the 'new man', not the 'new man' envisaged by Che,
but the 'new man' as personification of the market.

He husband is a bureucrat, a bore and a bully.  He even assaults her in one
scene.  He is the personification of the old 'command economy', bossing
people around, even his wife, and riding roughshod over all human feeling.
Indeed, like the bureaucracy, he lacks any real human feeling, and is more
like a machine that spouts rhetoric and orders.

In the end, he gives a funeral oration to some luminary whose corpse is
part of the main story - and which I took to personify the corpse of
socialism.  This apparatchik climbs up a ladder to make the funeral oration
from the top of a big gravestone.  No-one is interested in listening, it
starts to rain.  But still he pompously drones on.  The people leave,
someone even takes away the ladder and he is left standing on the top of
the gravestone, making a speech to himself in the pouring rain.  This is
the final scene of the movie.

Given that this was made by one of the top Cuban directors, someone
obviously quite close to the regime, I took it as a very clear indicator of
the way things are going in Cuba and of the attitude of the powers-that-be.
It was an extraordinarily cynical film, out with the old command economy
and in with the market.

I have seen a string of Cuban films, all of which were critical of things
within Cuban society, but from a standpoint which was very much *within*
the Cuban Revolution.  'Guantanamera' was completely different.  It was one
of the most cynical films I have ever seen, of any type, from any country.
In the place of the old command economy, personified by the hack left
talking to himself on a gravestone in the rain, it romanticised and
idealised the rugged young petty-bourgeois entrepreneur.  He was offered up
as the way forward.

Philip Ferguson

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