as young children Andy and Tessi Garcia grew up with an unbreakable
family bond and a drive to succeed. The only wish that has yet to
come true for both is one for a free Cuba.
boy was only four years old, but he sensed that something was amiss.
In the neighborhood where his family lived, tension hung in the
air like a fog. Rebels troops marked their territory. Still of that
blissful age when one is too young to know better, the child was
his sister knew better. At age nine, she was more aware of the fragile
political climate. When, in early spring of 1961, that tension culminated
in a brutal gust of violence that dragged on for days, she and her
brothers took cover beneath their beds. Eventually, when quiet returned,
her little brother wandered into the aftermath and, with typical
childlike fascination, gathered up the empty casings that littered
the streets as though they were seashell on a beach.
Garcia is no longer that little boy, but he remembers him well.
Three month after the invasion on the bay of pigs, Rene Garcia,
a lawyer and prosperous farmer in Cuba, informed his young son that
the family would be leaving their home in Bejucal for a little vacation
in Miami Beach, just until the things quieted down in their homeland."
My parents didn't want to overload the children's sensibility with
the truth, " Andy says solemnly, his voice thick and deep.
" So I never felt any fear. We just hoped that Castro would
fall and we'd be able to go back." He pauses." To this
days, the exile community still hopes that will happen."
Castro didn't fall, and the family didn't go back.
Castro took over, we lost everything. Our land was confiscated,
our assets were frozen, and we came to Miami Beach only with what
we could carry," recalls Tessi Garcia, Andy's sister. "
I was always very hands-on, making sure my brothers were OK, because
my father stayed behind for a few months to see if he could get
some funds together. My mother was sick, so I was in charge."
Her emotions overwhelm her, and she begins to cry." But I never
saw my parents depressed, and I never heard them complain. We were
always kept in positive, happy situations. And both of them taught
me the same philosophy: Nunca para atrás, ni para coger impulso.
That means' Never take a step back, not even to gain momentum.'"
Garcia Children took that philosophy to heart. At 19, armed with
a degree from Miami-Dade Community College but void of any professional
experience, Tessi launched her own interior design business, opting
to go it alone rather than apprentice at an established firm. It
didn't occur to her at the time that she was taking on the world
with three strikes already against her: she was a teenager, she
was a woman, and she was Cuban. "In order to achieve,"
she says simply," you take risks."
if brother and sister didn't have in common their sultry Latin Looks-
raven hair, soulful brown eyes, smiles that flash instantaneously
and you look twice - there's a sameness in their way of thinking
that is a testimonial to the values instilled in them by their parents
and courageousness that one imagines must flow in the Garcia blood.
Like his sister, Andy left home at a young age to embark on his
career; like his sister, he didn't consider failure a possibility.
"As a young man, you have yearnings, you have dreams, "He
explains of his decision to move west shortly after graduating from
college." It's a difficult journey to go to a city you've never
been to, where you have no relationship, but it happens. You know,
you don't pick your calling- it picks you."
the career trajectories of both siblings, that would seem to be
true. By the time Andy had left Miami, Tessi had leased her first
office space in Coral Gables and was way to building a portfolio,
thanks to recommendations from some satisfied first customers. She
had also married, given birth to a son, Jose, and amicably divorced
the child's father. " Andy left right around that time,"
she says, her voice cracking, "which was very hard because
I was just becoming a single mother and he was going so far away,
and I didn't have the money or the freedom to travel. Plus I had
always been so protective of him because he was the baby of the
family." Still, she was persevered, drawing strength from the
words her father had drummed into her consciousness: never take
a step back.
1988, despite bids from competitors around the US, Tessi's design
firm was awarded the commission to renovate the Freedom Tower. "that
was our Ellis Island," she says. "As soon as we arrived
here from Cuba, we used to go once a month with my father to get
our supplies and get medical assistance. It had become a hall for
social events for the community, and for me to be able to restore
it back to its original state- even better than before- and bring
my parents there in a limo, and black tie, and see them walk through
those halls, was such an emotional experience. Not only for my family,
but I felt that I represented so many Cubans who went through those
doors." As if the personal and emotional satisfaction weren't
enough, Tessi won a National Design Award for the project.
thousand miles away, Andy's career, too, had taken flight. He had
already logged notable performance in a number of critically acclaimed
movies, among them The Untouchables, with Kevin Costner and Sean
Connery, and Internal Affair, as a tough-as-nails internal affairs
investigator in a leading role written specifically for him. But
it was his 1990 star turn as Vincent Mancini, the illegitimate son
of Sonny Corleone, in The Godfather Part III that got audiences
and Hollywood buzzing; the portrayal earned him a Oscar nomination
for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe nomination.
disconcerting to experience that wave of fame, because you're not
used to dealing with it, nor do you necessarily crave it,"
he says, then laughs." Well, some people do crave it, but my
natural reaction to it was to shy away from it. I always felt it
was important, for longevity in the art that I shose to pursue,
to maintain a reserve and an enigma in order for people not to get
tire of me, and to be able to suspend their disbelief when they
watched a performance."
while he maintains this theory today, he does believe strongly in
promoting the projects in which he's involved. " It's important
to honor the people who put up the money to hire you. It's not my
nature to self-promote, but I like to talk about issues."
the issue that comes up quite often is Cuba. In fact, Andy formed
his production company, CineSon Productions, because he wanted the
freedom to make pictures about people and topics that strike close
to home. It's a small company, and he runs it himself with the help
o one assistant. The first production to come out of CineSon was
feature length documentary concert film, Cachao: Como Su Ritmo No
Hay Dos (Cachao: Like His Rhythm There IS NOT Other), about the
renowned Cuban bass player and composer Israel Cachao. Last year,
he produced and starred in For Love or Country, the story of a famed
Cuban trumpet player Arturo Sandoval, for HBO.(mention the Musical
motif and his amused response is , "well, I am Cuban.")
He's so into music, in fact, that he produced, sang backup vocals
and played percussion on Cachao master Sessions Volume I, which
won a Grammy award in 1994, and Cachao Master Sessions Volume II,
Which was nominated for Grammy the following year: His latest musical
project with Cachao, Cuba Linda, is nominated for Latin Grammy;
the awards ceremony will be held in Miami this September.
her youngest brother, the rhythm of Cuba beats loud and steady in
Tessi Garcia's hearts. Just as she restored the Freedom Tower, she
is itching to get her hands on Little Havana and the Latin Quarter
in Miami." I believe it will the next South Beach," she
says adamantly.' I witnessed firsthand the renaissance of South
Beach. I saw it come alive. I was a prodigy Barbara Capitman; I
worked with her on the renovation of the Victor Hotel on Ocean Drive.
In 1986, I designed South Pointe Towers from ground up. I just finished
the Savoy hotel. I saw South Beach come alive. And I fell Little
Havana and The Latin Quarter area can be and will be next."
or not she will get the chance to realize her most ambitious project
of all - helping to restore the original beauty of her native country-
remains to be seen." I remember enough about it to know what
I'm missing," she says." I'd go back in two seconds- never
with Castro in power, but is there was a chance to get involved
with the reconstruction of Cuba, that would be part of my life,
and my family would have respect that."
are they would. Despite all of his professional and personal achievements-
he is married to the girls he began dating in college, Maria Victoria,
and the couple has three daughters - Andy, too, Pines for Cuba.
Though he has a spate of films either in progress or making the
rounds with distributors - the remake of Ocean 11 with George Clooney
and Julia Roberts; the man from Elysian Fields, about a down-and-out
writer who becomes a male escort to provide for his family; and
unsaid, and independent film which he co-produced --he keeps a wish
list of historical figures whose stories he logs to tell, among
them Jose Martí and Cuban freedom fighter Antonio Maceo.
Such labors of love serve as his catharsis while he waits, with
the rest of the Cuban exile community, for Fidel to fall. When that
day finally comes, the entire Garcia family's happiness will be
complete. Andy's three girls have all expressed to him their desire
to visit the land their father holds so dear." I know that
that's one of their dreams- a free Cuba. They've told me that,"
he says. And then he adds, referring to the man he need not bother
to name," when he goes, we'll go."