Guaguasi (1983) 




Director:     Jorge Ulla. 

Starring:     Orestes Matacena (Guaguasi), Marilyn Pupo (Marina), Raimundo Hidalgo-Gato (Moya), Marco Santiago (Raul), Rolando Barral (Cmndt. Jorge Montiel), Clara Hernandez (Isabel), Jose Bahmonde (Flor), Oswaldo Calvo (Col. Acosta), Mercedes Enriquez (Elisa), Griselda Nogueras (Monica), Luis G. Oquendo (Perdomo), Velia Martinez (Rosa), Manolo Coego (Vidal), Raquel Bardisa (Gloria), Ruben Rabasa (Father Sagredo).

simple country man leaves his village to join the rebels, in Havana he falls in love, but he also falls apart, changed by the revolution


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

Havana, Cuba.  Two sisters drive a Chevrolet to a dance hall.  One gets out of the car and after a little while she returns and gets in the car.  Shortly afterwards, a terrific explosion goes off and the dancers start panicking.

A wealthy woman tells Father Sagredo that her son has gone up into the mountains to join the rebels.  She says she is in favor of change, but:  "I'm for the revolution, but not when it wrecks my house."  She gives the priest a wad of money and says it's her contribution to the cause. 

The two sisters in the Chevrolet drive to another location.  The sister on the passenger side tells her sister to be careful with the pipe bomb she is arming and gets out of the car.  As she walks on the street, there is a tremendous explosion.  The Chevrolet is completely destroyed and on fire. 

A funeral for the deceased sister takes place in the mountains with an escort of Cuban rebels.  The procession goes right past a small farm house where Alberto lives with his mother.  The rebels ask him why he doesn't join them.  He has no real answer. 

Alberto brings some coffee to the rebel camp.  He stays to joke around with the rebels.  One of the men makes a joke using the vulgar term "guagua" for a bus.  Even though he laughs at the joke, Alberto is so naive he does not really understand the joke.  So they place another word with it and name Alberto "Guagausi". 

The Colonel interrogates the boyfriend of the young woman killed in the Chevrolet.  The interrogator knees the boyfriend in the mouth.  The fellow spits blood onto the face of the interrogator.  Angry, the interrogator calls his tough guys in and they beat the hell out of the boyfriend.  With a big smile on his face, the Colonel calls a woman named Marina. 

Father Sagredo goes to a hotel where he gives a briefcase of money to some men.  One of the men ask the priest where the boy (the son of the wealthy woman) is.  Father Sagredo says he is in the Escambray Sierra. 

In the rebel camp, Isabel receives a letter.  Inside there is a copy of a newspaper article entitled "Medical Student dies in Strange Accident."  (This most likely is the boyfriend of the bomber girl.)  Isabel is upset about the news and cries.  She is consoled by the rebel Major.  In the evening, Isabel tells the Major and some of his men that the urban guerillas are stepping up their operations.  Raul (probably Raul Castro) writes a letter to Fidel Castro complaining about the naive levels of understanding the rebels have of what the revolution truly requires.  He writes that once they get rid of Batista, they will have to fight the Eisenhowers and the Rockefellers of the imperialists.  Father Sagredo pays a brief visit to the rebels. 

Batista's airplanes attack the rebel camp, but only inflict minor damage.  The Major needs a man to check out the military situation in Crespo.  Moya tells the major that he will send Guaguasi to find out.  Guaguasi has some trepidations about doing the assignment, but Moya reassures him.  So the farmer rebel rides his burrow down the mountain to check out the roads.  He finds two tanks and a jeep below.  Guaguasi reports back to the camp with his information.  Moya tells Guaguasi that Perdomo is in big trouble.  Guaguasi saw him talking to the soldiers and Moya concludes that Perdomo is working with Batista.  Moya and Guaguasi walk to Perdomo's place.  They hold a shotgun on him and tie him to a tree.  Moya then forces Guaguasi to shoot the man to death. 

A policeman knocks on a hotel door.  An effeminate  homosexual named Flor comes to the door.  The policeman tells Flor to tell the Colonel that Batista wants him at AFHQ (the Air Force Headquarters).  Flor knocks on a bedroom door and tells the Colonel the message.  The Colonel tells him to buzz off, but soon comes out with an escort (the woman named Marina who he called earlier).

 Havana has exploded.  There is fighting in the streets and cars are burning.  Batista leaves.  The rebels take over.  At a Havana night spot named Cabaret Capri, Flor is the host of a floor show and Marina and her friends are the show girls.  On the floor watching the show are Lt. Moya and Sgt. Guaguasi.  After the show Marina and her friend "entertain" Moya and Guaguasi.  Moya does well, but it turns out that Guaguasi is a virgin who is terribly shy and awkward around women.  Marina tells Guaguasi that the guaguasi is used in witchcraft.  When Marina comes back from changing her dress, she finds that Guaguasi has already gone back to the barracks. 

Fidel Castro has been speaking publicly for some four hours now.  Moya leads a firing squad that eliminates Batista allies.  But Moya has Guaguasi do the dirty work of having to shoot the condemned in the head after they have been shot by the firing squad to make sure the condemned is actually dead.  Guaguasi does not like the job and later has nightmares about it.

Marina and Guaguasi go upstairs to her apartment.  She takes his clothes off and then she gets undressed.  She gets into the bath tub and tells Guaguasi to get in.  He goes in alright, but in his boxer shorts.  She laughs at the sight of the boxers.  Her plans are interrupted by a telephone call that turns out to be just an obscene call.  When the two are in bed she gets another telephone call.  This times it's her photographer who wants her to come down to have her pictures taken with some other show girls.  She declines saying she is busy now. 

The next day we see a different Guaguasi.  Now he has loosened up.  He dances while kissing Marina.  He asks Moya to use the Chevrolet, but Moya keeps putting him off.  Guaguasi tells him that he wants to get married.  Moya laughs. 

Carlos, the son of the wealthy woman, with his girlfriend walk with his mother and Father Sagredo.  His mother is not happy with the revolution:  "They've taken over the Catholic schools. ...  It's back to barbarism.  Beasts!  They're taking over everything." 

A huge Soviet ship is in the harbor.  The revolutionaries says that now they are being attacked by the Yankee imperialists.  They also say:  "We're with Nikita (Krushev, the Soviet leader) all the way."  At the nightclub, the floor show takes place under a banner that says "Venceremos".  The songs now have a socialistic and patriotic flavor.  Guaguasi gets very drunk and starts yelling for Marina to get off the stage.  He is developing a really bad alcohol problem.  Marina tells others that she cannot stand it any longer. 

The former rebel Isabel is leaving for Miami.  And she is leaving the Major behind.  The Major is at the airport to see her off. 

The wife of prisoner Mario Vidal comes to see him.  She is informed that he cannot be seen; last night he killed himself.   He was to be put on trial this morning.  But the trial against the Major goes forward.  He is accused of having connections both to Mario Vidal and the US CIA.  The Major is found guilty. 

Guaguasi has a bad nightmare about  facing a firing squad and of killing the executed men.  At the beach with Moya, Marina and her friends, Guaguasi gets drunk and makes a jerk out of himself.  And then he gets in a jeep and starts chasing people down with it.  When he backs up quickly, he knocks a woman over and breaks her leg.  Later Marina tells him that she is through with him and his drunkenness.   She says that the revolution has changed him for the worse.  He used to be naive, but also very sweet and tender.  Now he is drunk and mad.  Guaguasi tells her:  "You're not leaving me."  He slaps her around.  She tells him:  "I'll get you for this." 

Moya tells Guaguasi that he is going home and that's that.  The problem is that Guaguasi is always in trouble.  He later tells Guaguasi that he is not coming back:  Havana is over for you. 

Fidel Castro says that money flows from Latin America to the United States at the rate of $4,000 dollars a minute; $5 million dollars a day; and $10 billion every five years.   

Guaguasi looks for Marina in her apartment, but he can't find her.  He then decides to check the terrace.  There he sees Moya and Marina kissing.  When Moya sees Guagausi staring at him with hateful eyes, he jumps back and pulls out his revolver.  (Guagausi also has a revolver, but he does not pull it out of its holster on his hip.)   There is a three-way struggle for Moya's pistol.  In the struggle the pistol is fired twice.  One bullet kills Marina and the other kills Moya. 

Guaguasi is getting a shave at the barber shop.  An officer tells him that they are giving him one last chance to redeem himself.  In the next scene we see Guaguasi driving a jeep escorting Soviet officials around the sugar cane fields of Cuba and acting partly like a tour guide. 


Pretty good film.  I guess that the character Guaguasi, who is corrupted over time by his revolutionary experience to become a man involved with murder, is a symbol for what happened to the revolution in Cuba.  There was a lot of idealistic and hopeful enthusiasm among the young revolutionaries.  But over time the revolution became corrupted and ended in a dictatorship that denied freedom of speech in Cuba and used excessive force to stay in power.  It seems when leftist movements come to power as a result of revolutionary violence, there is a great tendency for the result to be dictatorship of the left.  For instance, the French Revolution ended up in a dictatorship; the revolutionary movement in Russia ended up in dictatorship; and, of course, as presented in the movie, Cuba does too.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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