My parents are Cuban. I only spoke Spanish until I was six or seven, around the time when I went to school and learned English. My best friend at the time was Lebanese. She would speak to me in Arabic, and I would speak to her in Spanish. Sometimes it would work out. I realized that not many people can speak multiple languages, so I gained this magnificent ability from my upbringing — communicating with people in many languages as a translator. It feels kind of like this superpower that I have, to connect with people.
My dad eventually left Cuba through Panama. He got on a short airplane journey, and lands in Panama. There are four men in black suits with black ties waiting for him. They grab his papers and sit him in the back of a black car. My dad has no idea where he is because the terrain in Panama looks exactly like the terrain in Cuba. In those days, if they caught you leaving Cuba, you were considered a traitor. They drove him through the countryside and then he sees a Coca-Cola sign. He knew immediately he wasn’t in Cuba.
It turned out that a friend of the family pulled him out of Cuba as a favor to his mother. This friend said he could stay as long as he needed, but made my dad call the woman he had proposed to in Cuba to beg her to come with him, all expenses paid. The man said he would pay for everything. He said, “The only payment I need from you is to make sure that I am the godfather of your first child.” So some stranger is now my brother’s godfather.
If Patricia and I hadn’t met each other, I don’t think I would have gone nearly as far with my art as I have. I wouldn’t be here doing what I’m supposed to be doing, my art. It is a big part of me, and it has gotten me everywhere I’ve been in life. In this studio space, most people are either painters or illustrators. I thought being here around them would help me get back into my art – and it has, even more than I thought I would. Patricia makes my art so much better. Her input helps me so much.