Great Novel, Great Film
The novel by Oscar Hijuelos and the film "The Mambo Kings" (1992) both made me feel that I was born in the wrong time; in the wrong country. The novel [The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989] , of course, was well-received--Hijuelos won the Pulitzer Prize for it in 1990. But I also think the movie, directed by Arne Glimcher and a bit of a departure from the book, is vastly underrated. I particularly liked Armande Assante's work in the difficult (and not always sympathetic) role of Cesar Castillo.
The film's soundtrack (with Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and Arturo Sandoval, among others) is amazing.
Yes, that is Antonio Banderas singing.*
The character of Nestor Castillo (Banderas in the film) is very much Orpheus, at large in the world after the loss of Euyridice (Maria of the song-title, who is left behind in Cuba). As James Hillman wrote of Orpheus, "[A]s he looked back because she was letting go, did he see that it was not her he desired but the longing inspired by her image. It was her image he needed to hold on to rather than her hand."
The answer, of course, is "No," he did not see this, and that failure is his downfall.
* An English-language version of this song, "Beautiful Maria of My Soul," recorded by Los Lobos, is also on the soundtrack.