How accurate is Fresa Y Chocolate as a representation of the treatment of homosexuals by the Castro Regime?
The 1959 revolution brought about perhaps the most considerable change the island of Cuba has ever seen in its recent history, causing a complete remodelling of everyday life. Under Castro’s rule, the new regime challenged old politics of the state and people by tackling issues such as race and gender. Though it may have taken a while for the government to successfully implement considerable changes, most got their starting point under the revolutionary wave due to the need to eradicate Cuba of its backwards thinking policies. One controversial topic however that should have been confronted yet was perhaps even supported to some extent, was homophobia. There are numerous theories as to why discrimination against homosexuals lasted so long whereas discrimination against black people for example, was an issue tackled immediately by the revolution. Twenty years later however and homosexuals in Cuba were still experiencing the discrimination from the state and its people. A film which attempts to portray this experience is ‘Fresa y Chocolate’ (Strawberries and Chocolate) which does so by touching upon topics of employment, culture and education regarding homosexual lifestyle in 1970s Cuba. This essay will discuss through examination to what extent is ‘Fresa y Chocolate’ an accurate depiction. ‘Fresa y Chocolate’ was directed in 1993 by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío; both of whom were familiar to the post-revolution Cuban film scene. The film centres around two main characters: Diego and David. Diego, played by Jorge Perugorría, is a gay individualist with a passion for the arts who falls in love with David, a stubborn but curious revolutionary, portrayed by Vladimir Cruz. The film is a story of acceptance between two men overcoming the limitations of society with David accepting Diego’s homosexuality and understanding the constraints which come with the lifestyle. The film was produced in 1993 but set in 1979, thus the film has the advantage of a retrospective view of the era and its past, and is able to set the stage for the coming decade which began the movement to legalize the status of homosexuals starting with the decriminalization of homosexuals in 1979.1 Homosexuals have been legally oppressed since the 1938 Public Ostentation Law effectively prohibiting all public homosexual acts.2 There are numerous theories as to why homophobia was and still remains a part of Cuban society. Lumsden states “historically, machismo, the Latin American variant of patriarchal sexism, has been more socially punitive towards deviations from traditional male appearances and manners than toward homosexual behaviour in itself”3 indicating the traditional ‘family values’ aspects remain strong in Cuban households. Other theories include economic reasons, varying from attempts to eradicate sex tourism (an attraction for foreigners thus naturally associated with all gay men) to disruptions to producing a disciplined labour force (since homosexuals embody disobedience). Lillian Guerra even mentions “according to studies conducted in 1965 by the Cuban Ministry of Public Health [homosexuals’] alleged condition of ideological weakness and vulnerability to imperial propaganda were socially contagious”.4 As a result ‘Fresa y Chocolate’ is able to portray a homosexual man’s life in Cuba after more than three decades of legal oppression and harassment. Diego’s character in ‘Fresa y Chocolate’ is depicted as being discriminated against in numerous ways, one of which is his work place stating early on that “they’re after me” referring to his employers. Diego works as an art critic and photographer and is also involved in setting up art exhibitions, such as his friend’s controversial sculptures. In the film Diego becomes frustrated when an art exhibition he attempts to set up is turned down by the authorities. This provides an accurate...
Bibliography: Alea, Tomás Gutiérrez and Tabío, Juan Carlos (Directors). (1993). Fresa y Chocolate [Motion Picture].
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