JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

El Brigadista
page 2

from Jump Cut, no. 35, April 1990, pp. 37-49
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1990, 2006

In this film, as Shoshana Felman has described the dynamic in literature, identity is

"...conceived as a solely masculine sameness, apprehended as male self-presence and consciousness-to-itself. The possibility of a thought which would neither spring from nor return to this masculine sameness is simply unthinkable."[9][open notes in new window]

EL BRIGADISTA's coming-of-age format endorses masculinity by resolving the fearfulness of Mario's figure, a fear deriving from character deficiency or immaturity. Such immaturity seemingly is intended to suggest the nation's need to move away from underdevelopment. Yet these very terms depend on an ambiguity in the film's treatment of gender. Mario's placement within "immaturity" compels a textual query as to the adequacy of his manliness, thereby indicating his sexuality is something which the film must resolve. In order to depict Mario's sexual ordering according to the terms of gender division firmly established from the outset, the text must make use of its zone of feminine designations (mother, wife, virgin, whore, homosexual). And in delimiting this feminine zone, the film's narrative resolution, on the level of sexuality, problematically positions women.

As I have pointed out, within the film's systems of opposed ideological polarities, the "feminine" has become implicated in a homosexual association with counter-revolutionaries. Thus, the feminine can never have the same value as the masculine. Along with counter-revolutionary disorder, the film must narratively renounce and structurally sever itself from the feminine. In depicting both the feminine and the counter-revolutionary sectors, the film diverts their respective signifying capacities to the major theme of revolutionary vigilance cum masculinization.

On behalf of the counter-revolutionaries, the defector Juan bears exaggerated insidious connotations associated with the disorder he personifies. He seems to represent an element with infiltrating tendencies, on the model of an infectious disease. The importance attached to "eradication" refers then directly to some healthy, stable, normative order. This order of "health" remains anchored in the narrative by Mario's desire to study and practice medicine. In the text the homosexual implication will be eradicated via the socially therapeutic elimination of the counter-revolutionaries. It is hardly coincidental that the text works out its homosexual component in this way, since the cultural paranoia within Cuba surrounding this issue repeatedly gets expressed in terms of such an assumption: that homosexuality is a kind of disease, given to dispersing infection.[10]

Within the sphere of the "feminine," the central component of the text's feminine paradigm is to present the virgin as the core value against which figures of mother and whore will be assessed. This paradox of "types" of women typifies its Hispanic cultural context. In the sexual economy of Hispanic machismo, virginity carries the use-value of edification. Virginity allows the culture to place motherhood and prostitution on opposite sides of the same coin, signifying submission to the order of masculine sexuality and proprietary dominance. Within such an order, virginity must be cultivated since it alone can signal the field of unstaked resources open to masculine appropriation.

"Sexually, man is the whole entity, and woman the incomplete one, whom it is man's duty..to make complete. But he makes her whole by possessing, penetrating, breaking her; and she then becomes the despised la chingada,..the broken one. He is the breaker, she, the broken and because she has allowed him to break her, to her incompleteness, as against his wholeness, she has added the quality of 'brokenness.'"[11]

Each of the film's female figures has a measurable value only in relation or tie to a man. Thus, that Mario should have a romantic bond with a virgin is by no means coincidental. Mario-plus-virgin is neither an innocent nor a naturally self-evident pairing. Rather, the couple's attachment comes from a structural design where Mario must inevitably encounter the feminine. Such encounters in the film will be qualified precisely by the cultural assumptions informing the social designations of mother, virgin, and whore.

In the film, we have but one representation of the virgin, and the fact that there is just one compels the text to confront the very paradox of Hispanic femininity: How can a woman be at once constant and temporary? How can the film reconcile the virgin woman's prescribed feminine fate, to be possessed, against needing to maintain the virgin's single index of value, namely her availability. Indeed, the film makes the "feminine" credible only to the degree to which the codes of feminine sexuality prop up the textual movement of masculinity (that movement concomitant with the extra-textual linkage of revolutionary identification). And this credibility of the feminine hinges substantially upon the continued status of virginity as its single highest unit of value. Thus, the film confronts the problem of how to submit virginity to the markings of Mario's conquering destiny (masculinity being the sole primary signifier of that destination) without eliminating the signification of the feminine (e.g., virginity) altogether?

For clarification of this issue, we must first consider a scene halfway into the film in which Mario stands in the lumber field with surrogate father/lead patriarch Gonzalo. Here Mario promises to teach Gonzalo to read and write, in return for which Gonzalo will show Mario how to defeat the "sickness" of fear, a task later begun at a wild animal hunt. This scene begins to show the men increasingly
impinging on "nature" for the extra-textual delivery of "masculinity." Ultimately, this impinging will target the homosexually suggestive, counter-revolutionary disorder. Counter-revolutionary containment depends on harnessing that space posed as harbinger of the disorder, "nature," (i.e., the untamed, uncharted swamplands).

As the men organize against the counter-revolutionaries, the connotations attached to the patriarchs' lumberjacking function, in opposition to the sacred tree, gain increasing significance. At the sacred tree the counter-revolutionaries torture and hang two comrades in a scene heavily encoded with homoerotic sadomasochism. Later at the tree Mario gains insight into the facts behind his comrades' untimely deaths (the knowledge that authorizes his direct gaze at the camera). Finally, Mario hoists atop the tree a flag of the Literacy Campaign; this act signals the transition to the film's closing documentary section. These events of the sacred tree coincide with a parallel increasing masculine conquest of "nature," especially with Mario's triumphant performance during the wild animal hunt. This hunt foreshadows and essentially mirrors his later victory during the counter-revolutionary hunt that takes place in the same "natural" swampland space.

Following this presentation of Mario in "nature," we have a specific moment where Mario passes through latency. In an innocent courtship ritual, Mario and the virgin sit at the seaside. Previously they had been together in a number of scenes in which they had exchanged words and/or furtive glances amidst group settings. Only in this sequence are the girl and Mario seen alone together. We know they feel mutually attracted to each other, so they have an opportunity for consummation. That is explicit. Yet visually the two remain genitally inactive. At the same time, the scene has a structural dynamic that indicates a profound level of seduction.

The scene had been preceded by Gonzalo's pledge to help Mario defeat fear. The seaside setting reactivates the reference to a natural zone, yet only here does the sea figure in the film. We see something of an alien "natural" terrain, estranged from the established filmic space. It is not the nature already well marked by contradictions between revolutionary access and counter-revolutionary harboring. The sea carries conventional lifegiving symbolism. Here it suggests a poetic respite, where the lovers' action will unfold well above the mire of textual conflicts. Yet such a romantic reading would overlook the narrative "seduction."

The girl pleads to share in all of Mario's knowledge. Mario answers, "Won't you study sewing?" She asks, "What will you study?" He answers, "Medicine." She responds, "Then that's what I'll study". In this sequence, not only does Mario settle upon an appropriate choice of attraction, but the previously unclaimed virgin, although narratively not made love to, has now been structurally appropriated via Mario by the revolution's agenda.

This structured seduction — the structural convergence of virginity's textual significance with the film's overall masculine design — parallels the girl's narrative bonding to Mario. The way the narrative works out her virginal textual positioning punctuates her figure as less of a character and more literally as a prop. Superfluous as the geography of this scene may seem, innocent as this romantic encounter might appear, all the components here support the way the narrative edifies masculine privilege. Toward this edification, the key structural element becomes precisely the virgin. Never granted a name in the text and never seen in relation to a familial context of her own, her figure circulates throughout as a solidly objectified prop.

In fact, the extent of the young woman's objectification seems to exceed that of the sacred tree and of the counter-revolutionaries. For at least they find elaboration on the level of material history. They can assume identities which suggest potentials for transgressing the limits of narrative containment. Undeniably, Cuban revolutionary history testifies to the fact that unchecked superstition and counter-revolution signify respective levels of social disorder. However, within the same cultural context, the very evocation of virginity (unqualified by considerations of female desire and choice) indicates order, or more specifically, signals the "Order" of male privilege. Thus, the girl here remains a thoroughly anonymous and ahistoricized cue. Her figure bears reference only to virginity. That invariable "purity" reduces her textual function to being available to Mario. Her "availability" creates the structural dynamics of this scene.

Mario's encounter later with the "whore" allows him an Oedipal resolution. The visual terms of the sequence where that occurs resolve a highly condensed theme about castration. Mario is invited into defector's wife Olga's house. He sits with her on the bed. As he begins to inquire as to why she does not go to his Literacy classes, she silences him by saying that she can teach him something. She embraces and kisses him. In turn, he reciprocates. As they lie down, she assumes the "dominant" position over him. He opens his eyes, catching an off-screen sight, and he expresses fear. After that, in a reverse shot we see a tight close-up of a disapproving black and white face of defector Juan gazing directly into the camera. As the camera pulls back we see it was a photograph. Then Mario pushes Olga away, runs from the bed, and exits. Here the film cuts back to Juan's image.

Childless and sexually promiscuous, Olga exists in the film only to reinforce the antisocial designs of her man, Juan, her counter-revolutionary and possibly homosexually inclined husband. This scene depicts the loss Mario would be threatened with, should he submit to the perverse disorder which Olga signifies. Olga is not only shown as perverse by her association with her husband, but by her total "availability" as woman within the accepted economy of masculine sexual behavior.

The film, in fact, devalues all the women characters' sexuality. Those characters seem amorphous and have a shifting quality in which their narrative roles collapse according to the overriding structural imperative to fight counter-revolution. The film gives us the surrogate mother and the virgin on the plane of redeemability, and the biological mother and the virgin on the plane of irredeemability. Even the whore functions as a mother-figure with whom Mario explicitly plays out both the Oedipal and Primal scenes.

Whatever "characters" these female figures were to play, in fact they primarily exist to mark the text as sites for Mario's possession and renunciation. They merge into the composite of the text's motive to nurture the hero's masculinity. They condense to a single referent of "the mother." Thus, the text's feminine paradigm can be seen in terms of a single functional design. "Mothering" acquires a collective dimension that conforms to the film's social agenda and into which even Olga's morally disqualified character is allowed to figure.

By these terms then, the scene with Olga is semi-incestuous. Its negation unfolds along the lines of a moral imperative that has no immediately apparent narrative logic. Mario knows full well that Olga's husband is the defector. This knowledge itself marks Olga's sexual availability as more or less permissible since the film thus implies that her moral character remains beyond salvation. Furthermore, prior to Juan's defecting, Mario personally encountered that man's abuse, so that just a close-up of Juan's photographic image here should not elicit such a weight of moral regard for his wife's honor. Yet, by the terms of this scene, it is exactly Juan's photograph that stands as the locus of prohibition, the point at which extra-textual authority, the law of the father, enters.

Beyond that, this image of Juan's black and white photograph is the only time such a visual document is used within the fiction. As I pointed out earlier, in Cuban film practice, documentary codes signal extra-textuality. As such a code, Juan's photographic image matches and morally contrasts only with the closing documentary bracket structured around the central governing image of Fidel Castro. Juan's image here thus draws for its reading upon the spectator's experience of documentary form.

The scene's configurative dynamics indicate a displaced Oedipal resolution. The scene matches the theme of correct masculine libidinal orientation to that of correct social organization, so that the right thing to do as a man becomes synonymous with the right thing to be within the revolution. The scene resolves the implication of incestuousness and resolves anti-sociality. It severs off counter-revolutionary disorder. Olga had figured within the generalized maternalization of the text's feminine paradigm. In severing with her, Mario's detachment from the maternal guarantees that he will submit to the order of paternal authority, here structurally encoded in the very space of disorder as a "documentary" photograph.

By virtue of this scene, the narrative assures that Mario's masculine organization will develop away from the influence of the counter-revolutionary disorder. His ideological affinity is established. In a later scene depicting Olga, he functions explicitly on behalf of revolutionary order, monitoring counter-revolution from the narrative vantage of opposition.

Mario and another male community member approach Olga's house and look in through a hole in the wall. Through their eyes, we see Olga and Juan on the bed. Juan has returned with a message for Olga from his counter-revolutionary team. She must secure a boat for their escape and meet them at a certain time and place in the swamps. Olga resists and is threatened with death if she does not comply. We see a shot of the eyes of Mario and his peer looking in. Inside, Juan moves to have sex. Olga resists, warning Juan that he should leave, but then she submits. Mario and his friend turn and leave.

While this scene seems to refer to revolutionary vigilance, its spatial properties suggest the configuration of the Primal Scene. For the male, the significance of the Primal Scene rests in part on the boy's misperception of feminine sexuality, understood in terms of connotations of paternal violence and possession. How do these terms translate here? First, that men can appropriate female sexuality already indicates the scene's reliance on the cultural economy of Hispanic machismo. Add to this the way the scene depicts female sexuality as the passive site for masculine sexual performance, and we can see the scene's dependence on a notion of aggression.

In fact, the film narrative shows that Mario's ideological sexual development depends on his initiation into an escalating order of aggressive masculine performances. This scene sets up a fundamental confusion and displaces all the Primal terms of sexual difference onto the issue of counter-revolution. If Olga is a maternalized figure, here her depiction only pulls the text's feminine paradigm further into the space of "disorder." Confused by its textual alignments with counter-revolution, the "feminine" ultimately suffers divestiture from the very arena of Cuban revolutionary history.

By displacing Primal sexual dynamics altogether onto the space of disorder, the text strategically relegates to that disorder male competition and rivalry. This scene bears no formal ruptures directly invoking extra-textuality, as with the photograph that had a structural relation to Castro's image. This scene unfolds strictly according to the narrative terms of established ideological oppositions, with Mario by now figuring firmly in the interest of revolution. In fact, with the knowledge about the counter-revolutionaries gained by this scene, the narrative can move to showing their defeat, which operates as the film's climax.

The climax itself signals the effective termination of Mario's fictional significance. In the narrative moments around Mario's departure, we can find cues to his by now extra-textual significance. In a classroom farewell scene Gonzalo leads the community in bestowing praise upon Mario and best wishes for his future medical career. Here the young girl figures for the first and last time since the seaside sequence. A shot/reverse shot places the girl into the text's direct gaze pattern. The significance of her entry into that pattern derives from the extent to which Mario here has been delivered inextricably into the masculinized revolutionary order. We could read her narratively as the rejected sweetheart. Yet structurally she is more like the abandoned mother. Furthermore, her sustained virginal value prefigures the film's closing shot (to be discussed shortly) by which the female spectator is urged to reconcile her extra-textual positioning according to culturally prescribed terms of sexual honor and availability.

Then, in a surrogate-family farewell scene, Mario takes leave of the parental figures as his farewell gestures draw into the familial configuration a broader spectrum of community members. Finally, he appropriates the sacred tree. Riding away from the community with other Literacy volunteers, Mario commandeers their hoisting of a Literacy Campaign flag atop the tree. As we see the tree with flag, accompanied by voice-over group chant of the Literacy Campaign anthem, the film cuts to a close-up of Mario looking up to the flag and then dissolves to black and white documentary footage of Havana streets crowded with returning Literacy volunteers, accompanied by same voiceover anthem chant. Viewers then see an intercut shot of Che Guevara followed by footage of Castro. This is followed visually by shots of children and parents embracing, closing on a freeze-frame of a mother-son embrace.

The closing cinematic scheme seems deceptively obvious. Parallel the fictional narrative with documentary substantiation and suggestively validate the artifice through its capacity to be reflected in documentary evidence. However, there is considerable artifice in the documentary form itself.

Generally, the dynamics of New Latin American documentary raise challenging questions about representation. In Latin America the cultural flow of knowledge and information is usually regulated according to bourgeois, strictly hierarchical, social systems of State and economic privilege.

In Cuba, cinematic documentary has been privileged with an authority that derives largely from shared social assumptions that its images reflect a reality of social experience. Cuban viewers agree that the State itself and its cultural institutions are invested with a mandate for collective social reconstruction and the rewriting of history. Thus, in Cuba the appropriate authority for new documentary form seems to come from the democratized expanse of social participants, who are then film viewers. Hence, the filmmaker assumes an immediate, identificatory trajectory between documentary and spectator.

In Cuban cinema's frequent formal conjunction of fictional narrative and documentary, this readership system may obscure the extent to which the documentary footage must submit to the terms of the fiction in order to effectively mirror the fiction's meaning. In this practice the filmmakers manipulate documentary's otherwise socially authorized "reflective" capacity. That is, the extra-textual significance of documentary representations must be reshaped and re-edited to correspond to highly mediated terms of fiction. In EL BRIGADISTA, while the inclusion of documentary form sets up for the audience an all important extra-textual linkage, that linkage becomes compromised. The documentary footage must have a close structural bond with the way the film necessarily manipulates its fictional design.

On its own, the terms of the film's closing documentary bracket seem clear enough: the celebration welcoming home to Havana of hundreds of young male and female Literacy volunteers and their reuniting with friends and family. However, when we trace these terms to their fictional correspondents, the reading becomes problematic. The fictional narrative thread to this extra-textual tracing comes from Mario's character development. The celebration here is then about his delivery to revolutionary commitment via his masculinization.

Finally, the fiction assures that viewers read this documentary footage in terms of the fiction's particular sexual politic. Consequently, the spectator's identificatory trajectory — what one would take away from this documentary bracket ending this specific fiction — becomes informed according to that version of sexual politics. The documentary bracket's design for a specific social stance now rests on the film's overall textual scheme of sexuality and gender identification.

The closing mother-son freeze punctuates the familial configuration. A father, visually absent, becomes functionally present via the central agent that authorizes the documentary segment, namely Castro's image. According to the text's narrative terms, the family must not suggest private self-containment nor nuclear isolation. Rather it must serve as a catalyst for socialist collective consciousness and nationhood. In this sense, the familial configuration suggested by that closing freeze-frame takes on an unsettling religious connotation at the same time that it corresponds to the film's sexual politics. The Cuban family has been reduced to a symbolic configuration of omniscient father, redeemed son, and virgin mother.

The spectator's own sexual positioning must fall in line with the moral positions represented by this edified triad. In fact, such conformity is familiar from the Oedipal economy of machismo. The male son is the most rewarded product as he competitively emulates the father. The young man performs upon and appropriates the field of feminine availability. Consequently, the mother as "taken" must constantly emotionally provide and deny availability so as to maintain her value. She stands in opposition to that other side of the "feminine paradox" occupied by the whore and male homosexual. However, in the interest of masculine sexual privilege, both sides of the feminine are equal game.

Thus, we can ask, "Where in the trajectory of extra-textual linkage does this film position the female spectator, especially in relation to the male?" I propose that the film problematically invests this placement in endorsing a culturally specific, patrocentric order of sexual difference. The key positions in this text's Oedipal scheme are the collectivized ones. The narrative offers a structural economy of zones or types of discourse: historical voice (father), fictional artifice (mother), and textual imperative (masculine delivery).

These sexualized zones supersede any actual father, mother, child designations fictionally enacted. The diffuseness of such a system accounts for the text's scrambled Oedipal aspect — a scramble whose decoding calls for a critical mapping of the unique positions claimed by State and tradition.

This film's Oedipal dynamic suggests an inconsistent parallel with a certain social effect of the Cuban revolution itself. The unifying affective bonds between child and parent have often been displaced onto the bonding of youth with the State. This displacement's strongest impetus originally came from the Literacy Campaign.

One of the Literacy Campaign's most important contributions to restructuring Cuban society was the opportunity it provided for young women's politicization. The Literacy Campaign broke down the kind of confinement which young women endured (and continue to endure in other regions of Latin America) within the traditional Hispanic family. It is important to regard this cultural development in terms of displacement. It, too, seems to have shifted the focus of Oedipal signification from the individualizing ideology of "Capitalist" familial practices to the collectivizing ideology of "Socialist" community.

"In Socialism the family acquires great importance as the natural cell of social development and the basic nucleus within which a community education must begin, so that children and young people may develop solid and permanent habits of mutual aid, collectivity, love for the Socialist homeland, for study and for work, for social discipline and strength of character."[12]

However, this shift to collectivity has not clearly amended certain patriarchal tendencies derived from Cuba's more or less typical Hispanic sexual culture. For example, the cult of machismo has attached itself readily to the national cult of revolutionary personalities (e.g., Martí, Guevara, Castro). Additionally, issues of feminism have tended to emerge as matters for state legislation. This model differs, for example, from Nicaraguan revolutionary experience in which women have consistently tried to develop a feminist agenda affecting the social fabric at all its institutional and social levels. Furthermore, while the issue of homosexual rights may not be high on the Sandinista agenda, it is evidently within the realm of popular dialogue to consider homosexual liberties on par with a host of remaining social inequities still to be addressed in Nicaragua.

In Cuba, social considerations of women's issues have been limited mainly to terms affecting family and workplace. Official considerations about women's sexuality did not figure early in Cuba's revolutionary history, outside of the State's prohibiting prostitution and placing high moral value on motherhood and traditional domesticity. Yet, because the country needed economic, industrial, and cultural reconstruction, this initial ascription of maternal value soon gave way to a series of legislation designed to promote the workplace as the viable space for women's social contribution. Only well after this effort was made toward labor equality was the domestic-labor-sharing law enacted, requiring male spouses to contribute to domestic chores and childcare if the wife was also working. At the same time, a considerable amount of legislation has taken place designed to reform the traditional and religiously informed dictates of family practice, now taking marriage out of church jurisdiction and recognizing the equal rights of women in such matters as divorce, child custody and alimony, and community property.

Finally, since the emergence of "Western feminism," an underlying assertion accompanying Cuban feminist policy has been calculated to differentiate the Cuban motives informing their policies of gender equalization from "Western feminism." That distinction follows from a theoretical assumption that certain dynamics of "Western feminist" sexual politics reflect basic interests which are not particularly socialist.

A significant result of such policy has been effectively to countermand any move that might resemble the trend of "Western" left-feminist-gay aligning the defense of homosexual rights with political agendas affecting women. In Cuba women's social organizing still restricts any discussion of feminine sexuality to issues serving the procreative family. Thus, sexuality can be discussed politically only insofar as that discussion supports such service, that is to say, only insofar as it is heterosexually informed.

Meritorious as these initiatives have been to equalize the status of women in Cuba, they still operate in conjunction with a cultural framework that takes as unquestionable the normative values attaching to heterosexuality. Cuba subscribes to this sexual order on interlocking levels: on the level of tradition (machismo), of social institutions (this film analysis as a case in point), and of State apparatus (legislation privileging heterosexual bonding and outlawing homosexuality). To deny an expanded theoretical and political vision of sexual practice functions to enforce the continuance of power imbalances which necessarily derive from such rigid stagings of prescribed gender identifications and sexual relations.

POSTSCRIPT

Six years after originally analyzing EL BRIGADISTA, I find it important to place my critique in context. While I stand by my textual analysis of the film, I must, at the same time, recognize the passing of the historical movement within which I undertook that analysis. In 1985 this project sought to offer a direction in textual analysis that might contribute to the lesbian and gay critique of media culture. Most notably, at that time Lourdes Arguelles and B. Ruby Rich put forth positions regarding the state of sexual politics in post-Mariel Cuba.[13] In an important way, Arguelles and Rich's critical intervention clarified terms for a debate that could constructively promote dialogue between all parties involved. Among the most significant parties involved in the debate around Cuban sexual politics were the U.S. lesbian and gay communities which had mobilized tremendous concern and resources to assist hundreds of gay Cubans exiled to the U.S. in the Mariel Flotilla of 1980.

What Arguelles and Rich directly confronted in the mid-1980s was a tendency within the gay community to allow its sensitivity toward sexual oppression in Cuba to accommodate a categorical Cold War condemnation of the Revolution. The mid-80s represented a pivotal moment in U.S./Caribbean/Central American relations. With U.S. invading Grenada and escalating military aggression in El Salvador and against Nicaragua, this period proved to be a highly strategic threshold whereby the Reagan government consolidated its "disinformation" apparatus. This was also a pivotal period in the rise of responsible AIDS awareness. Let's not forget that one of the earliest misconceptions about AIDS was that it entered the U.S. from the Caribbean by way of Haiti and Cuban refugees.

At that time, Arguelles and Rich opened up a forum for interrogating sex, gender, and cultural politics in Cuba while remaining sensitive to North American myths surrounding Cuban history. For an inquiry into Cuban sexual politics to be truly constructive, Cuba had to become a party to the dialogue. If the critique of sexual and gender-related, Cuban policies were to be more than a pretext for the propaganda war against the Revolution, the historical record of the Revolution itself had to be evaluated while measuring Cuba's social policy directions. That is, what can reasonably be expected from a society seeking to emerge from a history of extreme underdevelopment while being relentlessly pitted as a pawn in the Cold War geopolitical apparatus? Critics must acknowledge those instances, however minimal by Northern standards, where Cuban doctrine and policy have yielded to demands for gender and sexual empowerment and dignity. Furthermore, in the interests of debate and dialogue, critical perspectives from the U.S. must invite the perspectives and interpretations offered by a broad spectrum of Cuban popular experience and "official" leadership regarding the state of sexual and gender liberty in Cuba. It is in the spirit of Arguelles and Rich's complex challenge in the mid-80s that I wrote the above critique of EL BRIGADISTA.

By 1985, the Cuban Film Institute, ICAIC, had built a significant film tradition of' feminist" themes and texts. Such films as LUCIA (1968), PORTRAIT OF TERESA (1979), or PATAKIN (1983) can be critically interpreted as reducing the social practice of gender to issues about labor and productive national economy. Still, they do take part in that ongoing discourse within Cuban revolutionary culture which problematizes gender representation by placing it in a certain textual forefront. These texts threaten to shake up certain narrative and formal conventions and offer more pro-active frames for representing women. In contrast, EL BRIGADISTA has a conservative, patriarchal posture about women's social position within the Revolution. And in looking at the film's overall gender representation, the possibility of a homophobic subtext begs to be addressed. That is the objective of my analysis.

As the world enters the 1990s, there should be more room than ever before for interrogating Stalinist political chauvinism and puritanism. Unfortunately, Cuba is no less a pawn in U.S. foreign policy's rhetoric and no less a target of the symbolic and material arsenal which the U.S. deploys toward the goal of hemispheric domination. In addition, AIDS' spread defies the marginalizing borders of officially designated "high risk groups." Societies worldwide, the U.S. no less than Cuba, recoil from responsibly confronting the crisis due to the cross purposes of "morality" and life-affirming social policy.

Finally, among George Bush's initial executive actions was to authorize funds to, develop and implement Television Martí to supplement the broadcast transmission of Radio Martí. While much of the world mobilizes and struggles to realize cultural and political self-determination, we have no indication that the Bush administration has understood the 1989 revolutions, much less wholeheartedly endorsed them. In fact, to an alarming extent, we have evidence that the Bush government is moving in a concerted direction toward an unyielding program of Big Stick diplomacy and Monroe Doctrine resolve. It's a direction that threatens to make Reagan's Caribbean/Latin America policies seem almost "humanitarian" by comparison. Thus it is as crucial as ever for us to understand and appreciate the Cuban revolutionary experience if we are to responsibly assess Cuban gains and setbacks in the realms of gender and sexual liberation. And the challenge for such an understanding is as beset as ever by the complexities and contradictions which Cuba poses — a society ever under the shadow, the image, and the guns of North American colonialism.

Notes continued on page 3