We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Garcia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa, what role has risk played in your life or career?
My entire life has been a risk. I don’t feel that you can make change without risk. It’s scary, it makes your stomach turn sometimes, but with that turn comes a turn in your life and that makes all the difference. I’ve never had a 9-5 and sometimes that has meant walking instead of being able to take the subway in New York for lack of fare, back in my twenties. Sometimes it’s literally meant going hungry. Later, it meant leaving behind a secure and steady income as a full professor because I needed to write full time. I’ve always been committed to what I consider my life’s mission and sometimes the things I do in order to stay on that mission are full of risk. I also realized that because I had very little money growing up, because I was raised in a tiny little 450square foot efficiency with three other people, for a big chunk of my life, there was a sense of drive to move up, rise up, and train, so that I could run up the path I’d set for myself and still consider myself to be creating every day.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a multidisciplinary artist – I’m a screenwriter, playwright, novelist, and journalist. I work in all those mediums because what I believe in is the power of the word. The power of sentences structured in such a way that they build toward change on both a micro and macro scale. I’ve always believed in the power of language and communication and story to change the world when it needs to be changed. It has not been easy to get people to care about the stories I have always felt the need to tell. There was a time when I would get editors telling me: “Nobody cares about Cuba.” And, “I don’t have space for Cuba right now.” Well, Cuba’s history is linked to the history of the United States and my little island is important. It’s been a challenge to bring her to the surface. I tell stories about her and I won’t stop. I also, of course, tell other stories, and that’s also part of the challenge – not getting pigeonholed. One of the things I’m most proud of is the creation of Abre Camino Collective, a company I opened with my creative partner, Victoria Collado. Our goal, just like our name: to open paths.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First of all, I love the Grove (Coconut Grove), I feel so at home there, probably because I spent every school day there from the time I was three to the time I graduated high school. When I have visitors we eat there a lot (or order if we’re talking quarantine days)– Ariete, Harry’s, Chug’s, Fireman Derek’s. Plus there’s a Books & Books there now to browse through (always fun). We’d probably go on a bike ride — definitely. Miami is so beautiful, we forget that when we live here. That gorgeous blue, open sky, the warm, tropical wind while you ride: the best. Let’s just say, I’ve been known to take people on very long bike rides. Last time a friend visited for a week, we rode from the Grove all the way down Old Cutler and straight to the Deering Estate. That way you get to pass by gems like Pinecrest Gardens and Fairchild. And, heck, why not go a little further south and end up in the Keys! I love taking people to Key West, that’s another place that makes my heart sing. That 7-mile bridge is worth the trip itself. Watch the sunset, go to a Bloody Mary Bar (Blue Heaven!), dip your feet in the water, swim out into the sea.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mom, Jackie Diaz-Sampol. She taught me unconditional love and that’s really all you need as the backbone and heart of any dream. There are others: I would say I owe a lot to Caryl Phillips, who mentored me; Mitch Kaplan who has given so much to me personally and to the city of Miami; Mary Gordon, who told me: You’re a writer, keep writing. The list goes on. So many people to thank along the way, but my mom, as I said — she gave me the stuff to keep on keeping’ on and to love in return.
Other: We are building our Youtube for Abre Camino Collective, but in the meantime, here’s an interview on Youtube that features our company through Miami New Drama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfVlJCBDv48
Diego Texera (the first one with the camera) Roberto Chamorro (the one labeled Theater 2). Dexter Fletcher (headshot)