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Posted March 21, 2011 by publisher in Cuban American Culture

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Thirty Years Later, the Voices from Mariel are Strong and Vibrant

On April 1, 1980, five political dissidents seeking asylum crashed a bus through the gates of the Peruvian embassy in Havana, Cuba. In the following days, 10,000 people stormed the embassy grounds, signifying wide-spread disdain for Cuba’s dictatorship. Fearing that continued civil unrest might cause further violence, Fidel Castro proclaimed that any Cuban wishing to leave the country could board a boat at the nearby port of Mariel.

For the vast majority of those who left Cuba, this was the beginning of a costly journey to freedom. Exile would mean leaving behind personal possessions, friends and family. Many jumped on boats without the opportunity to say goodbye – looking at a separation that could last a lifetime. But for the Marielitos, the cost of their mass exodus was outweighed by something previously unimaginable: a chance to pursue their dreams.

Dr. Jose Garcia had always felt his life was divided into the before and the after. He was a boy of 13 when his family fled Cuba. When they arrived in the United States, Garcia’s family was assigned a small apartment in New York and a harsh stigma. Because Castro had emptied his prisons and mental institutions during the boatlift, many Americans assumed all Marielitos were escaped criminals. Films like Scarface (1983) reinforced this image.

Thirty years later, Dr. Garcia and the Voices From Mariel film crew interviewed Marielitos who settled in America. Many spoke of the land they left behind and the land they adopted: the Miami soprano who received a Diva Award from the New York City Opera; the artist who was awarded the Lorenzo el Magnifico medal at the Florence Biennial; the man whose father was killed trying to overthrow Castro, and many others. Garcia returned to Cuba with a camera crew in search of the loved ones he was forced to leave behind.

The World Premiere of Voices of Mariel will be held at the Gasparilla International Film Festival on March 26th at 7pm at the Muvico Centro Ybor, 1600 East 8th Avenue, Tampa Florida.

Technical Specifications

Filming locations: USA, Cuba, Peru
Language: English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 78 min, Color

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