Cuban-American actor and producer Leo Oliva chats with #SOSCUBA


With so much surrounding the current situation in Cuba and the viral #SOSCUBA, we sat down with award-winning Cuban-American actor, writer and producer Leo Oliva to explain firsthand his experiences with the island, which didn’t is not all. cool cars, cigars and beautiful women that Hollywood often portrays.

Can you explain your connection to Cuba?

I am a first generation Cuban American. I was born and raised in a Cuban family in Little Havana, Miami, Florida. My first language was Spanish, my first meal was Cuban, my first coffee was Cuban. I was raised by parents who fled Cuba with my grandparents in search not only of a better life, but a possible future. I grew up knowing that it was because of Castro’s communist regime and the continuing dictatorship that my family could never return to Cuba. That I could never see the land of my ancestors. The land and the life my family sacrificed to give my brothers and I the opportunity to live freely. Cuba is my heritage, my identity. Cuba is the cradle of all that lives in me.

How was your father preparing for this trip?

There was a feeling of nervousness and excitement, further driven by my brother and myself. A sense of hesitation and uncertainty also clouded our thoughts. We had planned to visit Cuba not only to see where we came from and where my father grew up, but also to provide assistance to a relative who had recently had surgery and needed antibiotics and adjustments. food. Were we going to get by on the drugs and the fruits and vegetables? Or would it all be considered “contraband” and discarded immediately upon arrival? Would my father have a problem getting in and out of the country since there was a trace of him as a Cuban exile? We did what we could to allay our concerns. Yet nothing would prepare us for the emotional and eye-opening experience that awaits us.

Can you explain your experience in Cuba?

The best way I can describe it is “Beautifully depressing”. If someone has visited a third world country before, maybe they can compare their experience to ours. The only difference being that this country was not always a third world country, and this is evident at every turn. In royal architecture but in ruins. In Frankenstein cars, many people admire. But above all, in the nostalgic and nostalgic eyes of the generations who knew Cuba before the current dictatorship. What Cuba was will never be again. But what it has become, should never have happened, and should never have continued to happen for more than sixty years. When we arrived in Cuba, our vegetables, fruits and vitamins were found to be contraband and thrown in the trash. During our visits, we stayed with relatives and in “casas particulares” which belonged to the citizens. We explored tobacco fields owned by farmers who had just been caught by the government at 80% of their yield without payment. We have been approached by girls so desperate to make ends meet that they offered themselves to us for a price. Overall, as everyone always says, the people were amazing, helpful and giving of their care, limited resources and love. But the hardest part was feeling that there wasn’t enough to give back. Enough we could do to make their lives a little better. Because the only thing they needed was freedom. Something we couldn’t give them.

Can you share your perspective on the current situation of #SOSCuba?

Cuba is asking for help. Not the government, but the Cuban people. I don’t know what we can do, but I know what I wish it was possible. A path to freedom and democracy in Cuba. One that is not dictated by those in power at the moment because that is not their goal. It is not their vision of what Cuba is. Cubans do not ask for water, food, health care, although they desperately need all of the above. They are asking for help to achieve what we take for granted in this country, the freedom to choose for ourselves, to elect our officials, to say what we think without risking death or incarceration. The way we get there is above my pay grade. But now is the time to act. Cuban citizens are fighting unarmed and without resources, against a government that hides everything from them and that, for more than sixty years, has prevented them from reaching their true potential.

After surviving Fidel Castro, why do you think Cuba has yet another dictator in power and what can be done to change that?

A dictatorship does exactly that, it dictates. The Cuban people did not have the opportunity to choose another leader. Choose freedom. Also, if you keep a people poor and focused on where their next meal is coming from, their next glass of clean water, they are unable to focus on anything other than survival. Until the dictatorship is lifted, they will be unable to decide for themselves who they want to lead them. And without the means and the support necessary to eliminate the dictatorship, it will continue as it has done for more than sixty years.

As an actor, you played the role of Cuban. How does this make you feel?

To be honest, the only time I portrayed Cuban was on stage. The film industry struggles to distinguish between Hispanics / Latinos, hence the generalization of all of us as “LatinX”. I’ve played more Mexicans and Colombians than anything else because of the fact that there aren’t many roles for specifically Cuban characters. I am working to change that by developing multiple projects that embrace and show the diversity of Hispanic culture.

How can we help Cubans with what is happening today?

We need to look at what the real problem is and not stick to what we traditionally think of as humanitarian aid. It is not about food, water and health care. It’s about freedom. There are countless petitions and calls to action from the US government. I think the most important thing to do now, for the government and those who have the resources and the ability to help, is to think that if this is your family and your country, and you see that they had no way to defend themselves while they fought for freedom, what would you do?

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