Acting – StoryCorps
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“Optimism Never Failed Me:” Former Child Actor and Cuban Refugee Tells Grandson to Keep Dreaming

Growing up in Havana, Cuba, Mario García was a child actor who was featured in commercials, telenovelas, and the 1961 film El Joven Rebelde.

Mario García on the set of the Cuban telenovela, Esta Es Tu Vida. Courtesy of Mario García.

That all changed when he had to flee as a refugee during the Castro regime, along with 14,000 Cuban children under Operation Peter Pan. In February 1962, he boarded a plane to live with his aunt and uncle in Miami, where he went from learning his lines to learning English.

Mario went on to start a family and become a successful journalist and though he had to put his acting career aside, he never gave up on returning to the screen. Now in his early 70s, Mario continues to audition and was an extra in the film In the Heights. Mario’s grandson, Maximilian García, has inherited his grandfather’s passion for acting.

At StoryCorps, Max asked his grandfather about how he got his start on screen.

Top Photo: Dr. Mario García and his grandson, Maximilian García. Courtesy of Mario García.

This interview is part of the Tapestry of Voices Collection through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired July 30th, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.