Azcar amarga (1996)




Director:  Leon Ichaso.

Starring:   Ren Lavan (Gustavo), Mayte Viln (Yolanda), Miguel Gutirrez (Dr. Toms Valdez), Larry Villanueva (Bobby), Luis Celeiro (Mr. Garca), Teresa Maria Rojas (Belkis), Orestes Matacena (Claudio), Caridad Ravelo (Soraya), Jorge Pupo (Yiyo), Victor Checo (Yolanda's Father), Augusto Feria (Security Guard at the Hotel), Flix Germn (Security Guard at the Beach).

a young supporter of Castro becomes disillusioned



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Gustavo Valdez lives with his father and his wild brother Bobby.  Bobby wants to be a rocker and is a bit of a hippie.  Gustavo's dad is disillusioned with Castro and his mother is dead.  Even his girlfriend, Yolanda, does not support Castro.  Gustavo is the only one in the family who is a gung-ho supporter of Castro and the communist revolution. 

Yolanda and Gustavo agree to not discuss politics since they are of different views.  Gustavo sees himself as the "new man" of communist Cuba.  He even attended the Lenin School and has received a scholarship in aeronautical engineering to the University of Prague.  His father throws him a graduation party. 

Bobby calls himself a revolutionary.  He is very bitter that he cannot protest against injustice in Cuba as young men and women can do in other countries.  He and his friends have a little protest on the streets and get jailed.  Bobby is given a bad beating before his father and brother can get him released. 

Gustavo and Yolanda have a day on the beach.  Gustavo decides to walk over to the off-limits foreign visitor section of the beach.  He is told to take his girlfriend and get off the beach.  A older man named Claudio sees what happened and gives the couple two beers and apologizes for the unfortunate occcurrence. 

Gustavo's father is a psychiatrist but only makes around $3 or $4 dollars per week.  He contrasts his situation with that of his former internist who now makes $300 a week in tips from the foreign tourists.  So dad has decided to take a job as a piano player in one of the night clubs. 

Yolanda becomes upset about Gustavo leaving for Prague.  Her mothers throws Gustavo out of her home and tells Yolanda not to see him again.  Yolanda is fed up with Cuba and wants to go to Miami.  Later Gustavo sees Yolanda going out dancing with the man who gave them the beers, Claudio.  He confronts her and she tells him that it was nothing.  (But on another occasion, he sees her with Claudio again.)

Along with some of his buddies, Bobby shoots blood tainted with AIDS into his arm.  He sees it as a protest against the lack of freedom in Cuba.  Later the authorities forcefully remove Bobby from his home and take him to Los Cocos, the AIDS camp, where all the patients are isolated from the larger society.

Gustavo is starting to become very disillusioned.  He says that nothing makes sense anymore.  And one of his worries is the behavior of Yolanda.  She tells Gustavo that her father had left her family very early and she only saw him once after that.  She tells Gustavo that she is confused and he says: "Me too."

At his father's job, Gustavo sees Yolanda eating dinner with Claudio.  He walks over to her and there is a confrontation.  Gustavo is forcefully taken from the room and told that he has committed a great sin: he virtually attacked a foreign investor.  He is also told that only the tourist is important, not him.  Furthermore, he is informed that Yolanda is little more than a whore who has been seen many times hanging out with different men at the club. 

Gustavo's father is fired from his job because of the actions of his son.  Dad talks to Gustavo and tells him that the revolution has become a joke, a clown's act.  He adds that "I'm in exile in my own country."  He believed in the revolution, but is now deceived and frustrated.  He spits on Castro's picture.  He then taunts Gustavo saying he should call the committee and turn him in. 

Gustavo watches as the Cuban police open fire on a crowd.  He goes to see the teacher that helped him get the scholarship.  The man tells Gustavo that he is out because he attacked a foreign investor.   But Gustavo had already realized that the Cuban government never really had a scholarship to go to the University of Prague for him.  He is angry with the teacher for deceiving him, but the teacher tells him that he had to deceive him  -- he has to play the game in communist Cuba. 

Gustavo pretends he is an Italian tourist and gets into the foreign bar where Yolanda is hanging out.  She leaves with Gustavo.   She tells him that Claudio asked her to marry him and that, no, she did not love him.  But he would provide one way out of Cuba for her.  Gustavo talks with his father who has gotten a new job as a piano man.  Dad negatively comments that Cuba has returned to colonial times, that the revolution is for sale.  He then tells Gustavo that his mother, who had originally supported the revolution, had wanted to flee to Miami.  But Dad had said no and so she stayed with him in Cuba.   

Gustavo asks Yolanda to marry him and she says yes, but only in Miami.  She is escaping with her parents to Miami and she begs Gustavo to come with them.  But Gustavo hesitates.  Gustavo is there to see Yolanda and her parents off as they get into a boat to head to Miami. 

Gustavo attends a Castro public speech and tries to shoot the dictator with his pistol.  Instead, Gustavo is shot dead by a Castro bodyguard. 

Yolanda and her family were picked up by the US Coast Guard.  They were sent to Guantanamo, but were admitted into the US in August of 1995.  They lived in Union City, New Jersey. 


Good movie.  I must say that Yolanda's behavior made me quite upset.  She was heading down the path of ruin before her parents were able to get her and themselves out of Cuba and into the United States.  Yolanda seemed incapable to being faithful to the financially poor Gustavo and was greatly tempted to marry the Italian investor Claudio when he asked her to marry him.  Gustavo was pretty much a fool.  He was completely naive about the nature of the so-called communist revolution of Castro.  He slowly became more and more disillusioned.  But then the poor lad went from one extreme to the other: from complete obedience to trying to kill the dictator Castro.   The young man should have gone to Miami with his girlfriend, but that was not to be.  I must also say that I did not see the ending coming.  I thought Gustavo might go to Miami later as his disillusionment further increased.   Sad ending, but it was a true story, so I can't say it would not have happened.  Sad ending, but good movie.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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