For Vanessa García, there are few, if any, stories that cannot be told. This U.S.-born Cuban comes from a lineage of travelers, exiles, and adventurers. Her family’s story is the first she knows and knows how to tell.
Through writing, Vanessa has managed to record and illuminate her world and the world around her.
“I believe in the power of storytelling to change the world… with my whole heart, I believe in it,” Vanessa told BELatina in an email interview. “I believe in recording and illuminating the world around, especially shedding light on the stories that have been veiled.”
From local to global
Vanessa García is a multidisciplinary writer who works across multiple media and platforms. Her content takes the form of novels, articles, essays, journalism, and even television and theater.
Like that of so many other Latinos, her inspiration is her family’s history.
“My grandparents are Cuban; my parents are Cuban. When you ask me what I am, I say: I’m Cuban, I’m American,” she told us. “I take pride in both of those things. My grandfather was from Spain and fled from Franco, Hitler, and then Castro (Spain, France, and then Cuba) – so I am anti-tyranny down to my last fiber. That’s who I am and what I fight for – for a world without tyranny.”
With her pen (or keyboard), Vanessa strives to tell the stories of her people, archive them and bring them to light.
“I’m a traveler, someone who believes it’s important to see the world. I have lived experience in the stories I tell and also a doctorate – I believe in the merger of experiential learning with research.”
Family as a Source of Inspiration
Vanessa García lives in Miami with her husband and two children, a four-year-old and an almost-two-year-old. The writer describes her city as “magical,” and says she can talk about it forever.
“[Miami] isn’t what you think she is. She’s not just South Beach and bikinis – she’s un potaje, and she’s Little Venezuela and Little Havana, and Little Haiti. She’s my parent’s Spanish, and the second generation’s Spanish, which some call crooked, but I call Swagger. It’s home. I’ve lived in LA (five years) and New York (seven years), but Miami’s got something special.”
In fact, her relationship with her mother has been the inspiration for one of her most recent projects.
Listening to her mother talk about “never the empty nest” for a long time, Vanessa began to reflect on the possibility that, for some Hispanic families, the concept of an “empty nest doesn’t exist because there’s always someone in it.
“We have a particularly blended, loud, rowdy, mish-mash of a nest, and we love it,” she explained. “But we don’t get to hear stories from these nests often, so we decided to start this podcast to voice ideas about family and generational nesting both within the ‘biological’ family and completely outside of it (the nests we choose and make outside of family) from our POV, as ABCs.”
Thus, the idea for the podcast “Never the Empty Nest” came to life; a family conversation about the different types of “nests” that was inspired by the reflection of mourning following her grandfather’s death.
“He was our mamma bird, and when he left, we felt the “emptiness” that my mom had never felt. Except he was everywhere, in our hearts and actions. Hence, once more: Never the Empty Nest,” Vanessa explained.
“We decided to do the podcast, my mom, my sister, myself – as the trio we’ve always been, and it seems to be working. Different people connect to each of us differently, and that’s been really, really fun to watch. My mom gets a lot of fan mail! She’s the best. We call her Yoda Mom.”
The importance of opening the conversation
Knowing the communication problem in Latino culture, it’s no wonder that, like so many other creatives in the community, Vanessa García has put conversation at the center of her work.
“I come from a place where the government hides the truth, bans people from coming to light. The Cuban regime is continuously covering up its human rights violations – which are now public as of last summer when the people on the island took to the street to protest and give voice and share it on social media. It’s impossible to come from a place like this and not use my voice, our voice (my sister and my mom likewise) to bring light,” she explained.
But the conversation is also a tool for identity building.
“My main struggle has been battling the idea other people have of me and who I am and the reality of that,” Vanessa told us. “What it means to ‘be Hispanic’ in the media or in movies, or in plays, is vastly different than the reality. The idea of ‘own voices’ is sadly a new one. How many times did I see a completely non-Cuban person play Cuban – it was always a thorn to me, an insult to who I am/my true story, my history. And so, these two things together make it my responsibility to tell these kinds of stories in my community. Plus, and I’m not just saying this, we are serious – but we have a hell of a lot of fun too! Joy is so necessary!”
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