Thousands of people gather in the annual Cuban festival entitle “Presencia Cubana” taking place in the grounds of the metropolitan centric Echo Park, were a standing monument of Jose Marti was first erected 1976. The Cuban born sculptor was Sergio Lopez Mesa. The City of Los Angeles has named that intersection “Jose Marti Square” after the Cuban poet. “Cubans in Hollywood” will be the theme of the May 20, 2006 Presencia Cubana Festival.

   Presencia Cubana Festival

E-mail: Cuban Crocodile


1. Program description.

"Cubans in Hollywood" is an institutional project of the Afrocuban Research Institute acting as "independent research library" sponsored by Stage Of The Arts, Inc. for documenting and presenting to the general public the Cuban stories from the Hollywood community.

Nature of Request:

Stage Of The Arts, Inc requests your participation to support a research and consultation with a curatorial team of humanities scholars, cultural bearers and storytellers with the following goals:
- To explore Cuban American settlements in Los Angeles, California, through oral history and testimony of visual arts, film, music and literature.
- To prepare for a public program presenting reading and discussions, interactive exhibition and a website about the Cuban contribution to American life. An opening event will be conducted in the frame of the 11th annual Presencia Cubana Festival to be celebrated on Saturday May 20, 2006.

The program CUBANS IN HOLLYWOOD will be conducted in both original versions in English and Spanish languages.


Theme statement:
Through the entertainment industry, Cubans have made substantial contributions to American life.

April 2006 to October 21, 2006 (to explore Cuban American settlements):
Themes and issues will be defined by research on Hollywood archival, reference bibliography and actual documentation compile at academic library collections as well as personal memorabilia and oral history. Revision and final call for a gathering of the curatorial team are to be made Saturday October 21, 2006 on the anniversary date of the birth in 1925 of Cuban American singer and cultural icon Celia Cruz. See the website of Celia Cruz at the Behing Center for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History at

April 2006 (to examine public programming):
A curatorial team will convene to examine conservation standards in the region and making recommendations for interpreting presentations and exhibition venues. Recommendations may include the establishment of permanent collections, recording and digitalization of testimonial records.

The project director for “Cubans in Hollywood” is Maria Esther Ortiz (Editor of the Afrocuban Research Institute) and Jorge Luis Rodriguez (Director) is the program administrator. During the first three months of our humanities program these staff of two working along with another two key storytellers will create a database of available resources. Interviews are to be conducted by two trained professionals, Jesus Hernandez and Jorge Luis Rodriguez, when considered imminent to collect new data from entertainment and community sources as identified during the preliminary research (October 2005 to May 2006).

“Cubans in Hollywood” focuses in the geographic area of Hollywood, nevertheless, the scope of this research goes beyond the area and reach for the impact and the legacy of Cuban Americans in the entertainment industry as well as cultural dimension. Also there are other cultural issues to explore, including the visual arts and the presence of artists, performers and writers in contemporary collections and filmmaking (Example: “Sworn to the Drum”, a film by Les Blank about Francisco Aguabella).
Cuisine, nightlife and the mass media communications revealed a whole community identity around the actual image of “Cubans in Hollywood”. Hollywood is also an international set of media values developed for over a century of show business, television and photojournalism; the broad public appeal of this subject should not be taken lightly. Example: Historic shows in the Palladium theater landmark became stage setting for the West Coast influence of singers like Benny More and Celia Cruz.

These luminaries of Hollywood inspire the extended revival of Cuban music, a contribution that continues to have an impact in nowadays American music and musicians. These humanities issues have a fresh print stamped in Los Angeles, including today actors and musicians…
The ventures of percussion performers like Francisco Aguabella who immigrated to the City of Los Angeles in the late 50’s, can still be traced nowadays when this Afrocuban master drummer continues performing live in popular stages and nightclubs.
The presence of Afrocuban traditions in contemporary Hollywood illustrates the development of the Afrocuban transnational communities in the current conditions of national life.
Prior research completed so far include the paper “Transnationalization in the Afrocuban Cabildos” (Jorge L. Rodriguez and Maria E. Ortiz) presented at the Fifth CRI (Cuban Research Institute) Conference on Cuban and Cuban American Studies. Florida International University on October 30, 2003. The study is published at the 2003 Summer Edition of the Afrocuba Anthology (

2. Audience and outreach

Thousands of people gather in the annual Cuban festival entitle “Presencia Cubana” taking place in the grounds of the metropolitan centric Echo Park, were a standing monument of Jose Marti was first erected 1976. The Cuban born sculptor was Sergio Lopez Mesa. The City of Los Angeles has named that intersection “Jose Marti Square” after the Cuban poet. “Cubans in Hollywood” will be the theme of the May 20, 2006 as agreed with the Cuban Cultural Foundation (producing/presenter organization).
Jose Marti lived 15 years in the United States were he promoted a whole humanistic program inspiring the birth of a Cuban Republic at the beginning of the nineteenth Century. Considered together with Ruben Dario the key author of Modernismo, he wrote while in the US fictional literature, founded a newspaper and a children’s magazine and covers the end of an American Century reporting for newspapers around the World. Humanities were for Jose Marti the fabric to re-define a Century of politics and philosophical values.
Based on the preliminary research conducted 2005 a multimedia interpretative symposium may be presented July 2, 2006 (45 commemoration of the death of Ernest Hemingway) in partnership with The Ford Theatre Foundation (Latino Audience Initiative) toward a youth audience. The working title of this symposium is “The Old Man and the Sea”.

3. Outcomes

The “Cubans in Hollywood” program wish to develop an interpretative plan to portrait the historical contribution of Cubans to the United States of America, taking the geographic frame of the City of Los Angeles as a mirror to reflex those values and stories.

An interactive exhibit may convey the poetry and literary journalism by Jose Marti (1853-1895) with the recreated image of Jose Marti as sculptured by sculptor Sergio Lopez Mesa (1918-2004). There may be a multimedia installation connecting several times in several layers of humanities and presenting then to the audiences at the Cuban festival of Los Angeles (XIX annual “Presencia Cubana” festival of May 20, 2006).

The creation of a content-rich interactive website (sponsored by Zoltis Technology) is also a format proposed to present the contemporary relation between places and community spaces in Los Angeles, mapping the virtual territory of Cuban American happenings, the peoples, the stories and the music, film and images that make up the dynamics of this community in today’s West Coast.
A Survey and a Guess list will be use to evaluate the project goals achievements and participation.

Project personnel:

It is our understanding that a database of events and peoples will help to guide and focus the discussions from a curatorial team applying the standards of the Oral History Association, therefore a preliminary research must be completed during 2005 prior to convene a core group to move into the second stage of the project consultation.

Staff from the Afrocuban Research Institute:

Maria Esther Ortiz is the project director to prepare for conducting this public program from consultation to Implementation. Since 2000, she is the editor of the Afrocuban Anthology, a humanities journal publishing the work of prominent scholars from the international community, the Anthology can be seen at the website of the Afrocuban Research Institute ( were Maria Esther is Editor and writer. She has a Master Degree in Business Law of University of La Habana, Cuba, in 1998. Lawyer, writer, editor and art critic, she was a Professor of Roman Law at University of Matanzas during 1993 and 1994. As a researcher, she is co-founder of the Afrocuba Research Institute, in 1976. She presented lectures about Cuban culture at California State University at Los Angeles, California, 2002 and at Florida International University, Miami, Florida during the 5th. Conference of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies of the Cuban Research Institute in October 2003.

Jorge Luis Rodriguez is joining Maria Esther to lead the preliminary research and also facilitate for the continuation of the research and consultation program. Rodriguez is the director of Stage Of The Arts, Inc., the sponsor organization of the Afrocuban Research Institute. He has a Master degree in Journalism from the University of Matanzas, Cuba. He has two decades of experience working as a professional journalist in the City of Los Angeles, were he has an active relation to the cultural leadership and the entertainment and academic communities. As academic researcher, he is author of essays and studies like “The Death of the Cecilia Girl”, “The struggle of Palo Monte -Regla Bruja- again racism and poverty” and “Munanso Ungundo (House of the Ceiba): Afrocuban syncretism of Palo Monte -Regla Bruja-“ in collaboration to the Western New Mexico University, first presented at the American Association of Behavioral & Social Sciences Second Annual Meeting in February 2-4, 1999 and “Transnacionalización de los cabildos afrocubanos” (Afrocuban transnational communities) presented at the Fifth CRI Conference on Cuban and Cuba-American Studies, October 29-November 1, 2003 at Florida International University, Miami, Florida.

The preliminary research will be supported by close collaboration to the actual work and expertise from two cultural bearers: Adolfo V. Nodal and David Sandoval:

Adolfo V. Nodal is author of the recently published reference book entitled “ Memoria: Cuban Art of the 20th Century”. He also completed a book on the role of Public Art in the fields of community development titled “MacArthur Park: How The Arts Made A Difference” (Hennessey & Ingalls Press). Adolfo V. Nodal held the position of General Manager of the City of Los Angeles’ Cultural Affairs Department from 1988-2001. In 1972, he was awarded a Masters of Arts Degree in Contemporary Art by California State University at San Francisco. The Art Museum Management Institute awarded him a certificate in Museum Management in 1981.

The preliminary research will be completed in consultation to David Sandoval, whose credits include “Guadalupe” and “Una Nacion Bilingüe” for the national PBS “Reality” Series. Mr. Sandoval is presently the Director of Educational Opportunity Program at California State University Los Angeles, combining his media talents with his concern for community values by writing and producing short video and film documentaries. David Sandoval has a Bachelor’s Degree in Chicano studies and a Master’s Degree in Education from California State University at Los Angeles. He also attended UCLA taking graduate course work in motion picture and television production. He has completed all coursework in Educational Management at the University of La Verne, California.

The Curatorial team:
Lead by Adolfo Nodal and David Sandoval.

Rosa Ileana Boudet is a critic and researcher; founding director of “Tablas” performing arts magazine in Cuba. Author of many books and publications, recently “En Tercera Persona” (Cuban theater chronicles 1969-2002) published by Department of Hispanic and Portuguese, University of Irvine, California; 2004. She was awarded a Master in Journalism by University of La Habana, Cuba, in 1971; Professor of Theatrical Criticism at Facultad de Artes Escénicas, Instituto Superior de Arte, La Habana, Cuba from 1985 through 1998. She was Director of the Theatre Department and editor of Conjunto magazine at Casa de las Américas, La Habana, Cuba (1991-2000).

Tim B. Wride is currently the Executive Director of the “No-Strings Foundation” based in Los Angeles. From 1994 - 2004, he was the Associate Curator of the Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has curated 17 permanent collection focus exhibitions and is the author of many catalogues among which are: Retail Fictions: The Commercial Photography of Ralph Bartholomew, Jr. and Shifting Tides: Cuban Photography After The Revolution as well as the catalogs for one-man shows by Donald Blumberg and Robert Flick among others.

Jesus Hernandez Cuellar is the Publisher and Editor of Contacto Magazine, who worked with Spain's international news agency EFE between 1980 and 1990. Hernandez has been also Metro Editor with L.A. Spanish-language daily La Opinión, and Instructor with UCLA's Department of Journalism and Public Relations. Cuellar is the author of the play “Winter in Hollywood” staged and studied at the Theater Department of California State University Los Angeles. He was granted a special recognition by the Greater Los Angeles Press Club for "his outstanding dedication during the L.A. riots", 1992.

Darrell Couturier is the curator and owner of Couturier Gallery, American and Latin American Art founded 1987. He has a personal knowledge of contemporary Cuban art and artists from public to private collections in Cuba and in the USA. His Cuban art traveling shows are visiting Washington D.C., Chicago, Baltimore, Portland, Seattle, North Dakota and several states of Mexico.

Aurelio de la Vega trained in diplomacy in Havana, he served for a time as cultural attachè at the Cuban Consulate in Los Angeles. After studying with Ernest Toch in California (1947- 48), de la Vega occupied significant positions in his native Cuba (Dean, Escuela de Música, Universidad de Oriente; Advisor, Instituto Nacional de Cultura; Vice-president, Philharmonic Orchestra of La Habana; Director, Music Department at the University of Oriente, Santiago de Cuba; Music Advisor to the National Institute of Culture). He toured the United States as lecturer (1952-59) and settled in Los Angeles in 1959, where he has been very active as composer, lecturer, and professor.
He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of California State University Northridge.

5. Sponsoring organization

"Cubans in Hollywood" is an institutional project of the Afrocuban Research Institute acting as "independent research library" sponsored by Stage Of The Arts, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) California Educational corporation founded 1982.
Stage Of The Arts, Inc operates the Eco Maya program from our location at Los Angeles Eco Village on Bimini Place of Central Los Angeles. There are also the programs of the Afrocuban Research Institute with location in Hollywood, California (
There is an on-going summer public program named “El Patio de Maria” where local artists and humanities scholars gather to re-creating informational programs based on humanities interpretation of critical studies. The multimedia experience of El Patio has been documented since April of 2004 and continues to explore local communities and cultural manifestations from Central America and the Caribbean (
The California Council of Humanities sponsored from December 2004 to April 2005 the “Hunab Ku” program documenting and presenting the California stories of the Mayan people
A “Teacher’s Resources Guide” is available at

6. Work Plan and Project Timeline:

The “Cubans in Hollywood” consultation program will be conducted from April 2006 to Saturday October 21, 2006 (to explore Cuban American settlements) taking place at the offices and meeting rooms of the Afrocuba Research Institute open to the public and located at 4423 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Preparation and release of the working agendas for up-coming meetings occurs Wednesdays April 12 and May 17, 2006.

The first Saturday of every month the staff from the Afrocuban Research Institute in collaboration with the two key consultants will facilitate for a meeting to collect and present public testimonies and oral stories of the Cubans in Hollywood. Multimedia presentations and lectures may be working tools of these gatherings on Saturdays, May 20 at Echo Park and June 17, 2006 at “El Patio de Maria”.
A symposium untitled “The Old Man and the Sea” presented July 2, 2006 at the Ford Amphitheater.
Archival resources, projected transcription of recorded stories and informational data processing takes place on Saturdays July 22 and August 19, 2006.
The curatorial team review and prepare for final discussion and preliminary conclusions during the month of September 2006.

Based in the recollection of data and testimonials a research database will be made available to a curatorial team invited to convening October 07, 2006 to examine public programming opportunities open to the general public at the Celia Cruz Square on Saturday October 21, 2006, and the XIX Annual “Presencia Cubana Festival” to be celebrated Saturday May 19, 2007 sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Los Angeles


1. - How Cuban entertainers has influence American life?

REFERENCE: Pop music celebrities of Cuban origin are very well known. The late Celia Cruz, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Willy Chirino, Albita, Paquito D'Rivera, Israel Lopez (Cachao), Arturo Sandoval, and Juan Pablo Torres are only a few Cuban singers, composers and instrumentists living in the United States. Hollywood also opened its doors to Cubans like Andy Garcia, Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Pena and Steven Bauer, among others. The late Nestor Almendros, a cinematographer who was born in Spain but considered himself a Cuban, has been the only Cuban American who has won an Academy Award. Mr. Almendros won the Oscar in the late 70s for Best Photography.
Desi Arnaz and his American wife Lucille Ball were pioneers of the U.S. television with their "I Love Lucy" show. Mr. Arnaz was also a successful TV producer and businessman. Many TV stations even today are airing “I Love Lucy”.
Bob Vila, the Sears' spokesperson for years, is also a Cuban American.
A number of Major League baseball players like brothers Orlando and Livan Hernandez, are of Cuban origin.
When you go to universities and concert halls, you will also find Cubans in outstanding positions. Composer Aurelio de la Vega has been Emeritus and Distinguished Professor at Cal State/Northridge. His profile can be read in two American encyclopedic books. Dr. Enrico Mario Santi, a writer and a scholar, has been a professor at Georgetown University and the Kentucky University. Playwright Nilo Cruz became the first Latino who has received a Pulitzer Prize in the category of Drama. Mr. Cruz won the Pulitzer in 2003 for his play "Anna in the Tropics." Cundo Bermudez is currently the most important Cuban painter alive. In the 60s he lived in Puerto Rico as an exile, then he moved to Miami.

According to the 2000 Census, Cubans enjoy the highest levels of education among U.S. Hispanics, with 23% of those who are 25 years old graduated from colleges and universities. Central Americans show a 17.4%, Puerto Ricans 13%, and Mexicans 6.9%. (© CONTACTO Magazine. Published on October 6, 2004)

2. - How American entertainment has portrayed Cuban life?
REFERENCE: “The Old Man and the Sea”, a novel by the American writer Ernest Hemingway, was first published entirely in the September 1952 edition of Life Magazine (5,300,00 copies sold).
The novel is based in a true story of a poor Cuban fisherman that portrays man’s struggle for triumph in a world that seems designed to destroy him.
“The Old Man and the Sea” was awarded the 1953 Pulitzer Price and American academy of Arts and Letter’s Award of Merit Medal for the Novel and played a significant role in Hemingway’s selection for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
Spencer Tracy stars as the fisherman Santiago in the 1958 Warner Bross’ adaptation of the literary work.
The Virgin of Caridad del Cobre is the patron saint of Cuba. Build in 1927, the “Ermita de la Caridad del Cobre” in Santiago de Cuba gather pilgrims from the entire island in the basilica. Hemingway, as for him, deposited there its gold medal of the Nobel Prize.
Hemingway was calling Papa Hemingway (Father Hemingway) by the people from the Cuban streets.

3. - How has or has not the Cuban culture been stereotyped by the Hollywood entertainment industry?
REFERENCE: Al Pacino stars as the Cuban Marielito Tony Montana in “Scarface”, the 1983 Universal Picture, which also starts Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Robert Loggia. It is produced by Martin Bregman and directed by Brian De Palma from a screenplay by Oliver Stone. The director of photography is John A. Alonzo, A.S.C., and the music is by Giorgio Moroder. Louis A. Stroller is the executive producer.
In May, 1980, Fidel Castro opened the harbor at Mariel, Cuba, to let some of his people join their families in the United States.
Most of the 125,000 "Marielitos" who streamed into Florida were honest, hard-working people -- eager for a new life in a free land.
But not all. Castro seized the opportunity to play Samaritan while exporting Cuba's crime rate to the United States. Hidden among the newcomers were the dregs of the island's jails, criminals considered beyond redemption. They, too, saw America as a land of opportunity.
Among the most ambitious was Tony Montana, the one called "Caracortada"...Scarface.

©2005 Stage Of The Arts, Inc.