Cuba had a history of violence and revolts before it finally became an independent and stable country. They were at first colonized by the Spanish but following the Spanish-American war of 1898, the Spanish lost and had to grant Cuba its independence (Chomsky 15). America took this opportunity and occupied Cuba; in addition, the U.S. also forced Cuba to incorporate the Platt amendment into their constitution; this amendment gave the U.S. the right to intervene freely in Cuban domestic politics and Cuba was also made an American protectorate. However, people opposed American presence in Cuba; there were many rebels who rose to call for a socialist revolution (Chomsky 16). The U.S. tried to control the people by installing puppet presidents such as Fulgencio Batista. Despite the efforts of the U.S., people still revolted and Fidel Castro attempted a military assault against Batista’s regime in 1953 but failed; however, he still came back to Cuba and became its next president (Chomsky 17).
As we can see, Cuba succeeded against all odds to become an independent nation; the country had been coveted by major powers but often it was influenced and dominated by the power and proximity of the United States. As such, the country became a symbol of anti-American sentiment (Skidmore 112). During Castro’s administration, some Cuban elites seemed to be imitating the American style by watching U.S. films and listening to their music. Also, they copied Americans when they used English words in their local language and dressed in the American way (Skidmore 121). Local Cubans were outraged by the behavior of these Cuban elites since they believed imitating the American style was ridiculous. Also, native Cubans disliked the Americans since they did not get paid as much as the American working class and they were also treated with racism (Skidmore 121). Through the use of long scenes full of conversation and well shot scenes with perfect lighting and photography, Tomas Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío in the movie Fresa Y chocolate (strawberry and chocolate) shows the Cuban lifestyle as it was in 1979 in order to demonstrate the resentment that people had for the American culture as well as the various social and economic issues that affected the Cubans including the discrimination of the LGBT community as well as the high poverty and illiteracy levels during this time.
The movie Fresa Y chocolate revolves around two characters, David, and Diego; David is a university student while Diego is a gay artist. David befriends Diego with the motive of exposing him as a gay person; such people were at the time seen as dangerous towards the communist cause of Cuba (Deane 1). For the purposes of our study, we will use the scene beginning from the 9th minute of the movie to the 25th minute. This is the scene detailing the time when David first met Diego.
The scene is shot in an open air restaurant; there is good lighting as well as a colorful background which easily captivates the audience. Diego is carrying flowers and also he chooses to eat strawberry instead of chocolate which was readily available in Cuba. The actions of Diego clearly show that he is gay; the gay character of Diego can be seen to represent the American lifestyle that elite Cubans were trying to adopt (Hart 168). Also, the action of eating strawberry instead of chocolate can be interpreted as Diego trying to show that there are better things out there than what the Cuban government gives them. This is proved by the statement that Diego made; “it is the one good thing made in Cuba, but they export it. Diego was trying to insinuate that the Cuban government did not give the best to its people (Hart 168).
The scene is long and full of conversation; both Diego and David make unique comments that vividly show the way of life of the Cubans. For instance, Diego says that people should fly on the wings of imagination as it is the only thing that they can; in this statement, Diego is trying to show that people should be given the freedom to adopt any culture they please. However, David makes a statement that he does not visit strangers; this can be seen to represent the fact that most Cubans were reluctant to accepting anything American (Hart 168).
Later, David is tricked and he is lured to Diego’s apartment. They take a taxi to Diego’s home; the taxi is old and full of people hence signifying the poverty levels in Cuba. Also, the walls leading to Diego’s apartment are old and worn out which further shows poverty. Once they get to Diego’s apartment, David is wowed by the unique collection of Cuban art that Diego has; also, Diego offers David exotic tea served in unique cups that do not represent the Cuban culture (Deane 1). As such, we are able to see the diversity that Diego had; David, on the other hand, becomes simultaneously attracted as well as repulsed by Diego; we can interpret this as the luring power that the American culture had on the people of Cuba (Bradshaw 1).
The scene in Diego’s apartment is long and the shots are taken up-close to show the details of each action. Further, the scene is slow paced and has a rhythm that is easy to follow. Such slow paced action is perfect for the movie since most of the scenes are full of conversation (Bradshaw 1). We see up-close shots of the artwork in the apartment as well as up-close shots of Diego and David as they engage in conversation. Also, there is a good use of costume where Diego wears a shirt that seems to embrace the American lifestyle in addition to making him look gay (Deane 1). David, on the other hand, is in a shirt and a trouser representing the average Cuban guy.
More quotes mentioned in the scene include one where Diego says, and I quote “civilized people take tea but not us, we prefer coffee.” Another quote still by Diego says that, and I quote “how can a country move forward when its youth don’t know John Donne or Cavafis.” The final interesting quote by Diego is made when they are listening to music; Diego remarks, and I quote “why can’t this island produce a sound like this, we need another voice so badly.” These unique remarks vividly show the society in Cuba as it was. The first quote reveals that most Cubans were uncivilized while the second quote shows how widespread illiteracy was in the country. The final quote serves to show that Cuba had been facing the same problem for a long period of time and it was now time for a change. The scene ends when Diego tries to engage David in a conversation about sexuality but David is uncomfortable so he leaves.