Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Just Andy García

April 3, 2009 The Day I met Andy García

And there I was, listening to Andy García speak smooth and slowly, like spring water coming down a stream, while I sat among the audience of young college kids and thought about my family and cousins back in Cuba, to whom I wanted so bad to tell about what I was experiencing. "This is unbelievable" I told myself. I remembered being 10 and watching him back in Cuba in the movie The Godfather III. I remembered how proudly my father had said he was Cuban and how unbelievable that had seemed. A Cuban famous in a Hollywood movie; that was like wow, wow, wow. Now, Andy was in the same room as I, standing behind a podium, speaking to a large audience of students from all parts of the U.S and I was one of them. That was one of those proofs that everything, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, is possible in life, always a startling realization. "I can't wait to share this with my parents and family in Cuba. This will give them hope," I thought. "The kind of hope that if they were to leave Cuba, they know they'll succeed and even if they don't, they'll hope that Cuba will have a good Human capital to rebuild itself."

Fotógrafa Arlena Amaro

Andy spoke of the importance of high moral standards, staying true to oneself and never, under no circumstances or reasons, jeopardizing one's integrity, which to others might have sounded like an unpopular topic to talk about with a young audience; yet, I found it appropriate and extremelly necessary in this time and age. At the end of his speech, he mentioned that his, if any, only advice to us was to stay true, true to who we were and where we came from. He also told us to remember that persistance substitutes genius or talent. This thought I'll keep in my mind and soul to gather strength and continue pursuing this complicated career of mine.

It was beautiful to listen to someone, who values his parents, his wife of 26 years and the four children they've had together like Andy, speaking about the importance and beauty of having and maintaining a family. I looked at all the young faces around me, none of them older than 26, and thought that Andy was giving us important lessons of life. The types of lessons schools didn't teach us, but life required.

I didn't know he had a brother and a sister, with whom his parents and him had left Cuba, relocating to Miami Beach in the 1970s. I didn't know his mother had realized they needed to flee the island and raise their children somewhere else, when she heard him in the house's portal humming a communist song. He said he had just been there, looking at the soldiers passing in front of his house on their way to the military cartel right across the street, which Andy admitted, looked very impressive to a 5year old boy.

Jose Marti picture

"Freedom is not negotionable. A human being has to be free" Andy Garcia said and added "Like Jose Marti said, you strive for freedrom even if you have to pay for it with your life". It surprised to see him speaking so passionately about Cuba and Jose Marti. He wasn't reading, or anything. He was speaking to the audience. Instead of a speech, it was a real and honest conversation. After saying that, as if reflecting on it, he said that the Castro brothers were not going to be there forever and that it was specially up to the youngsters, who had a whole life ahead of them to build a better future. And then, Andy said something that made us all laugh:
"I doubt about coming to these things. I've always wanted no political involvement. I care more for my art, to the detriment of my fellow drivers, than I do about politics" right there we all laughed. "I'm more of a dreamer than a political person. Sometimes people come up to me and tell me, hey soy cubano. Yo soy cubano, cubano como tu. And I tell them, hey buddy, you didn't have to tell me. I could tell, just by looking at you from far." We all laughed again and he added: "My parents like most of yours came to the U.S. and sacrifice everything for me and when I told that to producers and directors in Hollywood, I must tell you that mine wasn't a popular answer. And for that, I have created fans (and pointed to the audience) and enemies, who take it upon themselves to criticize me whenever they get a chance."

"My wife is Cuban. My children are Cubanamericans. And all my personal art has to do with the Cuban theme, to the dismay of my personal agent, who tells me, Andy what we now least need is another Cuban film. And I question; what's the difference between a historic drama like The Lost City and Schindler's List? Why personal historic dramas like Schindler's List strike more interest for the general public than the Cuban theme? Than The Lost City?"

Andy went on to explaining the distorted notion that intellectuals and movie directors in Hollywood have about the Cuban Revolution and how he has to explain all the time that: "it wasn't a peasants' revolution. It was an intellectual revolution, not an economic revolution. In 1959, Cuba's economy was the third in the Hemisphere" and how Cuba was a very dear subject to his heart and that's why his latest project is also about Cuba. It'll have to do with Hemingway's last years in the island he so much loved and adopted. He's writing the project himself with Hemingway's niece, to the dismay of his agent.

And then he said something that moved me, that brought tears to my eyes: "It attracts me 'cause I have a void in my heart. How do you fill that?" And he stayed quite. He looked down. He seemed to be genuinely moved. I interpreted his words as if by capturing Cuba in his movies he was rediscovering it and filling the void in his heart.

Then, he went on mentioning the Cuban protesters now on youtube. How they were all young and courageous and added: "I'm honored to be here today. I'm moved by the fact that Cuban generations are interested in nonnegotionable freedom and human rights".

We all clapped and I felt proud of Andy being Cuban. Proud of being Cuban myself. Proud of being young and a member of Raíces de Esperanza. Proud of belonging to this generation of Cubanamericans that we'll see actual changes in Cuba, unlike my grandfather's, who wanted to see them very badly and died without being able to.
As if reinforcement was needed, Andy added: "Like Marti said, I feel that if I wasnt Cuban I would need to be Cuban. People from all over the world have fallen in love with Cuba and adopted that country. There's something about that woman with that cigar (and he pointed to a photograph of a black woman on the wall) over, looking at you, that attracts you to it. There's something about Cuba. I remember I would carrry Cachao's music in little cassettes and take it to parties, parties I wasn't even invited to, play them and notice how people started moving to its rhythm. People who weren't Latin, or Cuban. People who didn't even know, or hadn't heard that music before, reacted to it. They started moving, dancing to its rhythm."

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