Scarface - The Rise and Fall of a Cuban Drug Dealer

In 1980, Fidel Castro allowed one hundred and fifty thousand Cubans to leave Cuba and join their respective families in Miami, Florida. However, twenty five thousand of these Cubans were convicted criminals. The immigration officers discovered the status of these criminals and they were detained in Miami in a camp pending their legalization. The film “Scarface," opens with actual footage of this chaotic event. The main character, Al Pacino, is among the masses and runs into trouble at US immigration. He and his friend are held in custody. Soon enough, the two find a connection and commit a murder in exchange for green cards. Their freedom is granted on account of a man named Frank Lopez, a cocaine dealer. The men form an alliance and the two Cuban criminals begin their life in a cocaine haze. The pair’s hurried rise to the top leads to their inevitable demise. My decision to view this film and write on it was because I feel that the quality of its images are extremely stereotypical. The film clearly deals exaggerated images of Cuban immigrants living in Miami. My interest in this period of time has led me to believe that my former judgments about the Cuban immigrants need to be looked at with a more informed objectivity. So, it is here that I decided to look at “Scarface” again. I wanted to study the film’s representation of the Cuban immigrants and compare it to my surmised judgments. The main character, Al Pacino fits a stereotypical image of a Latin American man. He has tanned skin, dark hair and eyes and wears multi- colored flowered silk shirts. His attitude is definitely one rooted in machismo as he demonstrates characteristics of pride, aggressiveness, and superiority. I feel that the most realistic display of his machismo is when he sees his little sister dancing in a restaurant with an unfamiliar man. His eyes grow as does his anger. He is distracted by another man whom he holds a conversation with all the while intently watching his sister. Eventually, he sees her go into the men’s restroom with a man and he follows her in. He throws her to the ground, curses at her, and beats her badly. Pacino then storms out of the restroom, sits at his table and smokes a cigar. This display of machismo is very significant. Pacino had been out of his sister life for numerous years, yet his tendency to control her was unstoppable. There are several others such as Pacino’s macho tone towards his wife, Manny’s desire to sleep with every American woman by merely showing them his tongue, and the pride and success shown in the numerous murders. All the males in the film carry themselves in the light of machismo. Especially the way they talk to each other, one slightly demeaning the other. The few women in this film certainly do not portray marianismo. Michelle Phifer, Pacino’s wife is an American and marries for the money and drugs, not for the man. Through his marriage he climaxes in his journey to the top. He gains a new American way of life with a beautiful, blonde on his arm. As for Pacino’s mother, she made a life for herself and her daughter in Miami, without her husband or son. When Castro sent over the boats from Cuba, the notion in the USA was that Castro merely emptied his prisons. The fact that this movie was made in 1983, only three years after the immigrants came, is significant because there was still much hostility among US citizens. The filmmakers had to deal with the rise of cocaine and its primary causes delicately. Throughout the whole movie you are introduced to one American man who is involved with only indirect dealings of cocaine. He is the banker that handles all of the money from the dealings. This is extremely important when you think of the intended audience. This American made and viewed film solely deals with Cubans and other Latinos. These characters tell the story of the Latino involvement and monopoly of the cocaine billion dollar industry. It is Al Pacino who makes the first big deal in the movie with a Colombian man named Saucer, and his only competition in the movie seems to be a group called the Diaz brothers. Also, Pacino’s workers are all of Latin descent. The group of Latinos rise to the top and make millions of dollars off cocaine shipped in from Colombia. This is completely a negative stereotype. Anyone that is unknowing of the Cuban population in Miami at this time would quickly surmise that all Cubans are drug dealers. The movie does not show the rich addicts from the US that were buying all of this cocaine. Of course they show Pacino’s and his crew snorting coke every chance they get, however a million dollar industry does not just go up a few noses. One way the film demonstrates Cubans that are not in Miami for the benefits of cocaine is through Pacino’s mother. Upon Pacino’s arrival to Miami, he visits his mother and sister. They live in a middle class home that his mother has worked to maintain. She makes her money working in a factory and is ashamed that her son is a “bad Cuban” and makes his money through drugs and killings. She throws him out of her house and his sister runs after her only prospect at a preferred life. She desired a life of money, power and freedom through it all. This portrayal is crucial in that it shows the audience that some Cubans came to Miami for a chance at a better life. Nevertheless, it is a small part of the movie and Pacino and his sister end up disrespecting their mother by falling into a cocaine clouded world. In the end both of their lives are taken violently. Also, the film does not show any beneficial factors of cocaine for example, its monetary benefits for local Latin economy, or its spiritual uses in the Latin American countries. It only portrays cocaine as an evil brought into this country supposedly by Latinos. The fact that Cubans and other Latinos benefited from cocaine dealings in the US, does not eliminate that fact that some farmers in Latin America raise families on the sale of the coca leaves. Considering the time that this movie was released, I feel that it makes a radical statement about Cuban involvement in the cocaine industry. While the macho image presented in the movie is not positive, it is accepted and known somewhat universally. It is appropriate when portraying any drug dealer. I consider the only positive image the film portrays is that of Pacino’s mother. This projects a subtle portrayal of a hardworking, dedicated Cuban woman. However, this portrayal does not overcome the strong image of the cocaine affiliated Cuban. Pacino becomes one of the richest dealers in Miami and sets himself and his wife on a cocaine pedestal. Their addiction grows as their relationship and world deteriorates around them. Pacino states that he wants to own the world, and ironically in the end the world of cocaine is seemingly what he owned and obviously what killed him.