Guantanamera (1995) was the last movie by the master of Cuban film, director Tomas Gutierrez Alea (who already had lung cancer when he started this film). He also enlisted the help of his young protégé, Juan Carlos Tabio, who co-directed the movie with him. Tomas, also called Titon, was probably most famous for his 1994 film Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate).
In the mid-1990s, Cuba was deep into her "special period." Marking this special period was shortage, disillusionment, and deep social change. Many who grew up right after the "Triumph of the Revolution" were starting to question, albeit quietly, the path of Fidel Castro and the revolution.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost her major supporter and her main source of commodities. This inevitably left the population with major shortages. This created a need for hard currency, something Cuba did not need under her Soviet benefactors. Tourism fast became the answer and Cuba opened her doors to the world again. Made in Cuba during this special period, Guantanamera reveals an interesting view of socialism and human frailty.
Guantanamera, which means "a woman from Guantanamo," starts out with Gina, played by Mirtha Ibarra, awaiting her Aunt Yoyita in Guanatanamo. Yoyita is a famous singer living in Havana who has not been to Guantanamo in 50 years.
While she is in Guantanamo, Yoyita meets up with her childhood sweetheart Candido while attending a ceremony honoring her. After 50 years, Candido and Yoyita swap stories and Candido announces his undying love for Yoyita after all this time. All this reminiscing takes its toll on Aunt Yoyita, and she soon keels over, has a heart attack, and dies.
Gina is a former economics professor married to Adolfo, a government official (a Fidelista) who has fallen from favor in the communist party. Adolfo, as the head of a committee on burials, is trying desperately to gain some recognition and favor with the party faithful.
Adolfo, away in Havana, recently hatched a grand plan to save both money and resources. Cuban law states that when someone dies the burial occurs in whichever city the will states. For example, if someone dies in Guantanamo and wants a burial in Havana, the province of Guantanamo has to transport the body to Havana.
Adolfo's grand plan was to have each province transport the bodies only as far as the next closest funeral parlor in a neighboring province. This would save the precious quota of gasoline that each funeral director received. Of course, the regional directors hated the plan.
As fortune would have it, Adolfo recognizes a chance for greatness with the unfortunate death of Aunt Yoyita. Hers would be the first casket transported under this new directive and Adolfo would personally go on the trip to supervise.