Architectural Digest - Dec 03 (Spanish)
Architectural Digest - Jan 2002
Casa Estilo Internacional - Jan 1995 (Spanish)
Florida Design - Dec 2000
Florida Architect - Apr 1990

 

"And The Beat Goes On" (Joint interview of Tessi with brother Andy Garcia & Family Photos) - Jul/Aug 2001
Miami Herald - Sep 1997
Residencias Jade en Brickell Bay - May 2002 (Spanish)
Florida Architectural - Jan 2004

 
 
Florida International Magazine - Jul/Aug 2001
And The Beat Goes On

Author : Lori Capullo

 
     
 

Exiled 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.

The 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 not afraid.

But 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.

Andy 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."

But Castro didn't fall, and the family didn't go back.

"When 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.'"

The 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."

Even 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."

Given 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.

Hitting their mark

In 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.

Three 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.

"It's 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."

And 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."

And 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.

Waiting For Cuba

Like 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."

Whether 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."

Odds 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."