Iván Acosta (born 1943) left Cuba in 1961 and settled in New York, where he now works as a playwright, filmmaker and publicist.
Below are excerpts from statements Acosta made when interviewed on the subject of Amigos (1985), the first full-length film he completed as director and screenwriter. The film conveys the experience of Ramón, a fictional refugee who arrives in Miami by sea with the Mariel exodus.
I happened to be in Miami when the Mariel exodus started. Early May 1980. ….
Speaking with my friend Marcelino Miyares, who was the C.E.O. of WBBS Channel 60 in Chicago, I told him it would be great to film a documentary about the Mariel experience; Marcelino asked me, why not a movie instead? …. We created a company, … and [began] filming in July. It took us 8 weeks to film Amigos. We filmed 80% of the film in Miami; the rest was shot in South Carolina, Washington DC, Union City, New Jersey, and New York City. ….
The Cuban community in Miami had a very negative attitude towards the new refugees. So, to me, it was very important to tell the human story of the Marielitos. …. I wrote the script as a bittersweet comedy drama. …. Of course, the Cuban ultra conservatives or extreme right of Miami … didn’t like some of the things said and denounced in Amigos. ….
We all know Cuban machismo; I have seen it and experienced it all my life. You see, the revolution was the greatest promoter of machismo. All those bearded, sweaty, cigar smokers and trigger- happy militiamen impregnated the macho image—an image the maximum leader always projected and demanded among revolutionary militants. Hundreds of homosexuals were sent to prisons and to hard-labor concentrations camps, las UMAP, just for not being macho enough for revolutionary standards. Cubans, pro and anti Castro, somehow tried to imitate the Máximo Líder. I have always disliked the extreme machismo, not only among Cubans, but among all men …. We do know machismo exists, and in many societies it is celebrated and even rewarded. That was what happened in Cuba after 1959. The men wanted to be more manly than ever before, and that influence came with the exiles. I tried to ridicule the absurd machista behavior throughout different scenes in the movie. ….
To me, machistas, racists, and homophobics go hand in hand. Unfortunately, that mentality exists among some Cubans, in exile and in the archipelago. ….
I love Miami. I have never lived in Miami, although I visit it at least once a year. ….
You see, I’ve lived all my 50 plus years in exile in New York City. They always say Cubans in New York think different than Cubans in Miami, even than Cubans across the Hudson River in New Jersey. It is true, Cuban New Yorkers think and have a different perspective of the Cuban situation in general. We always hear about “Cuban Success,” which is real for some, but we never hear about a majority of hard-working Cuban exiles: in factories, restaurants, mechanical shops, construction, farms, etc. Those represent the real Cuban exiles, the working men and women who, in several cases, risked their lives to escape from Cuba to live and work in freedom. But some people consider successful those who accumulated several millions of dollars and have a luxurious yacht, a big mansion with 5 or 6 expensive automobiles. In Amigos, I tried to show that balance without criticism, the gap between the Cubans who have a lot and the unsung heroes who built the Cuban Miami and don’t have as much.
“AMIGOS and Miami Post-Mariel“, Carolina Caballero talks to director IVAN ACOSTA, Cuba Counterpoints, 1 August 2016.
Carolina Caballero was born in the United States to Cuban parents. She lectures in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, at Tulane University in New Orleans. The questions she asks Mr Acosta, more of his answers, and stills from the film Amigos, can be downloaded at the link above.