To live in Miami is to be immersed in Cuban culture, but how many of us really know the tale of our neighbors, our ancestors, and ourselves?
José Enrique Pardo had enough of romantic Hollywood depictions and took matters into his own hands. With only two short films under his belt, he set out to document what drove millions of Cubans to leave their home, to send their children more than 90 miles away -- perhaps never to be seen again -- and to answer the equally important question of what these first-generation immigrants have done with their freedom.
What gives him the right? It's his story too.
See also: Cubamerican: Moving Documentary on the Cuban Experience in America, Debuts in Miami
"I think the most important thing that came out of the film is that we as Cubans were able to tell our own story with our own words and our own characters," Pardo says. "It's the story of our exile, the truth of our exile, as we perceive it."
Cubamerican will make its television debut on PBS Thursday, September 4, at 8 p.m., and all Miamians, Cubano or not, would be wise to tune in. It's incredibly enlightening for people of all backgrounds. It sheds light on the revolution and the big waves of immigrants in a way that's never been portrayed. But it's also incredibly personal as we watch Pardo and 21 other first-generation "Cubamericans" journey through their souls and put into words the struggle of families torn part, histories lost, and a people stuck between two nations.
"I always had in the back of my mind that what we were doing was something that was going to gain value over time," Pardo says. "I wanted to create this visual record so that in the future, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren can appoint themselves with the story of their ancestors and their coming to the United States and under what circumstances."
It's a tale that mirrors the experience of anyone who's been forced to leave their home, a classic tale that each and every American family can relate to at some point in its past.
"It's happened to many, many people; still happening to many, many people; will continue to happen to many, many people ," he said. "I've had Iranians, Palestinians, Jews all come and tell me 'this is my story, too.' It happens in a microcosm, told in the form Cuba, but it's really the same story."
Yet it's also incredibly timely. With so much controversy surrounding immigration reform and constant headlines of parentless children crossing the Southern border, it's hard not to draw parallels.
"We see a lot of immigrant bashing going on and we wanted to tell a pro-immigration story," Pardo said. "We wanted to say 'look, this country was made great by immigrants, and here we have people that have won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Arts and Humanities Medal, the National Book Award. Look at these contributions they've made to American society. How can you say that immigration is a bad thing for the United States?' These people started from scratch. They realized the American dream in one way or another. The film is really a testament to freedom, the privilege of living free and that anything is possible when you have freedom."