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Roger L. Simon

Forever Fighting Fidel: In Praise of Andy Garcia

March 31st, 2010 - 12:44 pm

Not all Hollywood stars are knee-jerk “limousine liberals,” “Cadillac communists” or “Penthouse Bolsheviks” (to use a term coined in the Thirties to describe the excessive admiration many chic New Yorkers had for Stalin). And one of those exceptions is Andrés Arturo Garcia Menéndez, known to the world as Andy Garcia.

Of course, Andy – who has been a friend of mine for about ten years – had good reason to wander off the Hollywood liberal reservation. He was born in Cuba in 1956, just before the revolution, to a family opposed to Fidel Castro. They left the country when Andy was five and he has been fighting for his people against the Comandante/Caudillo’s totalitarian rule practically ever since.

When I first met Andy, I was a lefty myself, so we didn’t discuss politics much. We came together over a screenplay I had written called The Gardener, about an illegal alien living in LA, that Garcia wanted to star in. We never found the money, but remained friends, staying in touch often in an attempt to revive the movie that never got made. I also had an interest in things Cuban, having gone to see the seemingly-heroic, at least at the time, Castro speak in Central Park when I was thirteen-years old. Later (1979), I was a delegate to the first festival of the “New” Latin American Cinema in Havana. It was one of my first brushes with communism from the inside and some of my early disaffection with the left (yes, it took a long time for me to divorce myself) must stem from that trip. Cuba was like an island-sized jail to me then and, despite its beauty, I couldn’t have been more eager to leave.

But I maintained my interest in the subject and when I read last week that a demonstration was planned – led by Andy Garcia – in LA’s Echo Park in honor of Cuba’s Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White who fight for the freedom of family members incarcerated by the Castro regime), I phoned Andy to tell him I would like to come for PJTV. Not that it would have mattered. When the cameraman and I arrived at Echo Park on Sunday, we were surrounded by Cuban-Americans eager to tell their stories.

You can see that all on PJTV, but I would like to underscore how politically aware the Cubans at this demonstration were. And how sick they were of Hollywood, especially the love affair many of my colleagues have with Fidel Castro and Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. That love affair is reminiscent of the attraction those “Penthouse Bolsheviks” referred to in my opening graph had for Stalin, as in Steven Soderbergh’s endless encomium to Che and Oliver Stone’s semi-sexualized crush on Castro, not to mention on Hugo Chavez.

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