JoAnna Garcia's own IMDb message boards contain a thread where American fans debate: "Is she white or Hispanic?" – apparently unable to reconcile these two. However, rather than become frustrated, Ms. Garcia met the issue of skin color with a good-hearted laugh: "If you think about it, what is really 'white' anymore? No one is pure blood and things have been created from Cuban culture. I really believe in the melting pot of this country." We are truly living in homogenous times. Martin Sheen is half Spanish, yet played the American president! Ang Lee, a Taiwanese filmmaker, first became known to Americans for directing a Jane Austen novel! Alfonso Cuaron, a Mexican filmmaker, has directed a Harry Potter film (and it is often considered the best one)! And the next time you're singing the words to "Flashdance" in this world made of steel, think of how you are singing a song by Irene Cara, who is part Cuban – as well as French and African!
Yet amid all this mixing to create a homogenous whole, for Garcia, Cuba is more than just a womb. "I definitely am proud to be from a Cuban family and have this in my roots. I'm very close to my abuela, and Christmas at my family's house is always in Cuban style." No matter what role one plays during the day, or what identity others project on him or her, Cuba is always at home. Professionally, many may not wish to admit this.
In his essay "A New Latino Face In Hollywood," filmmaker Moctesuma Esparaza writes: "What is unrecognized is that since the film industry was born and nurtured in Hollywood, Latinos have always been the backbone of providing support services. Not particularly the glamour jobs. But Latinos laid the bricks; they poured the concrete for the industry."
Unrecognized, yes, but why? Not because it's some sort of hidden secret. It's there for anyone to discover if they do some research. The truth is that Americans do not feel a reason to recognize this contribution; the Hispanic presence is something skipped over, and there is political baggage behind this. Dominican cinematographer Victor Garcia said: "Fidel Castro didn't just close the door between the United States and Cuba, but between the United States and all of Latin America. Before the revolution there was a greater exchange of interests with these cultures. Now no one is interested. Instead people are asking me if I speak 'Mexican.'"
Ms. Garcia stars on the sitcom "Reba," where she plays a member of a Texan family. Texas, of course, used to be part of Mexico, and is sometimes stereotyped as a symbol of American imperialism and oppression against Hispanics. That a network program would allow a Cuban to play a daughter to a Texan can be seen a positive union for the times; these two groups have linked to play a "family" in the name of entertainment for others. Now I began this paper by discussing how a Cuban is responsible for how sitcoms are filmed, yet we are now at a time when the multi-cam format is on its way out and being replaced by single-cam sitcoms, as seen in shows such as "My Name Is Earl." With this change, we can say that one era of television is ending, and furthermore we can appreciate this era by putting "I Love Lucy" and "Reba" as bookends on each edge.
That Cubans should come to have been involved on both shows is strangely telling. In the vast period between "Lucy" and "Reba," the art of the sitcom can claim a large body of work, chronicling the changes on one of many American landscapes. And at the dawn of a successful medium of the industry, and again at one of its renaissance periods, there was a Latin presence. In fact, it never left.
So, what of the next era? While "My Name Is Earl" is serving as one of the heralds of the new sitcom, ironically this show has been criticized for stereotyping Hispanics. Is this a bad omen for the new age? Perhaps the best way to prepare for an uncertain future is to consider everything that has helped Cubans in the past. Andy Garcia concludes his film "The Lost City" by reciting one of the many verses of Cuban hero Jose Marti. A rough translation:
I grow a white rose
In June as well as in January,
For the sincere friend
Who shakes my hand frankly
And for the cruel person
Who would want to break my heart
I grow, not thistles or thorns,
I grow a white rose
This may have to be the song of the immigrant: accepting all encounters, friend or foe, to make it in one place because the Native Country is always with you at home. And ultimately, if you can make money, Americans will come to love you, even if you have purple skin. Of course leaving one's country will always be a traumatic experience, but for many, coming to the United States is the beginning of the new success story. Ms. Garcia shared this positive view of the possibilities of the American system: "These are all my opinions and not everyone agrees with me, but that's a good thing. It's good for everyone to have an opinion. That's what's great about this country!"
The United States is a mixed bag. It is a difficult place to succeed, and there will always be forms of racism and ignorance, as well as what many would call "a history of imperialism in Latin America." But the sheer number of opportunities and individual forms of freedom that each citizen ultimately has is staggering. Forget the American dream: The values of this country are the human dream. It is absolutely true that despite all the flaws of the United States, Cuban Americans have been one of the most fortunate groups. It is amazing what immigrants and their children have been able to achieve in this system. Yes, they are doctors and attorneys, but perhaps most impressive of all, elected officials of the U.S. And they are certainly no longer strangers to Hollywood.
What is the future? For this new era in entertainment, we grow a white rose.
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