Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"The Lost City," history and politics in Cuba

Humberto Fontova takes on what he sees as political snipes at Andy Garcia's recenlty released "The Lost City." Set in Havana on the eve of Castro's takeover of the island nation, Garcia portrays the plight of a Cuban middle class family during the revolution. Garcia plays the lead role and directs the film.

Fontova contends that mainstream media critics fail to appreciate the political history of "The Lost City" because of their "fantasies and hallucinations of pre-Castro Cuba, Che, Fidel, and Cubans in general." Instead of a destitute island of simmering rage and despair, Fontova pulls out a UNESCO report on pre-Castro Cuba to highlight the critics' ignorance:

Here's a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) report on Cuba circa 1957 that dispels the fantasies of pre-Castro Cuba still cherished by America's most prestigious academics and its most learned film critics: "One feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class," it starts. "Cuban workers are more unionized (proportional to the population) than U.S. workers. The average wage for an 8 hour day in Cuba in 1957 is higher than for workers in Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. Cuban labor receives 66.6 per cent of gross national income. In the U.S. the figure is 70 per cent, in Switzerland 64 per cent. 44 per cent of Cubans are covered by Social legislation, a higher percentage then in the U.S."

Fontova directs much of his criticism of the critics toward Stephen Holden of the New York Times:

The New York Times' Stephen Holden also sneers at Garcia's implication that "life sure was peachy before Fidel Castro came to town and ruined everything."
In fact, Mr Holden, before Castro "came to town," Cuba took in more immigrants (primarily from Europe) as a percentage of population than the U.S. And more Americans lived in Cuba than Cubans in the U.S. Furthermore, inner tubes were used in truck tires, oil drums for oil, and styrofoam for insulation. None were cherished black market items for use as flotation devices to flee the glorious liberation while fighting off Hammerheads and Tiger Sharks.

I haven't seen the film and don't know if I'll get around to checking it out. However, Fontova's article points out the many misunderstandings of Castro's take over of Cuba. It was probably time for Batista to go, but the Cuban people certainly deserved a better future than the one delivered by Fidel and Che.

BTW: Garcia has maintained an above the fray attitude toward politics when it comes to "The Lost City:"

In my movie, I try not to validate, preach or take sides in an old fight. I prefer to recapture a time when Havana was the “Paris of the Caribbean,” a vibrant, elegant and cultured city threatened and subverted by violence and social injustice, then torn apart by a revolution that became misguided and, finally, betrayed.

Here's Holden's review.


Anonymous Brent said...

I think we as Americans get the shaft not being free to go to Cuba. So the government doesn't see things our way. If we pump some money into the economy, the capitalists will take over.

Blogger Glenn said...

I support the US stand toward Cuba. Castro was willing to allow the Soviets to point nukes at us. That should not be easily forgiven. The problems Cuba face are the result of totalitarian rule, not an American boycott.


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