Rafael Matacena Ferrara on his horse, Alazan, at his Estate
Mercedes Sugar Mill, Matanzas, Cuba
Orestes Matacena's father

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May 20, 2009, the “Macha Theatre/Film Company” in West Hollywood, California sponsored an event commemorating the liberation of Cuba from the Spanish Colony at the beginning of the 20th Century.
A breathtaking documentary entitled “This Is Cuba,” by extreme liberal, Chris Hume, showing the destruction of a nation by the Castro brothers’ Tyrannical Communist Government that has ruled the island for the last 50 years.
Macha Theater Producing Artistic Director/Founder, Odalys Nanin, gave a beautiful speech.
Actor Ernesto Miyares staged a reading of selected Jose Marti’s poems.
Odalys Nanin assembled a panel actors she called “Cuban Artists in Exile”: Ruben Rabasa, Willy Marquez, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Alina Cenal, Gustavo Rex and myself, Orestes Matacena.
Odalys asked the following questions:
What has it been like to be a Cuban artist in exile in the USA and how has this affected you as an artist?
The following is my answer (Orestes Matacena)
Before I answer the question I want to say that the day Cuba is liberated from Communist Tyranny an avenue in Havana must be named after Chris Hume.
You might be wondering why I, a bald guy, am dressed in a suit and tie here in California. It is to honor that small Caribbean island named Cuba.
Odalys, the question you want me to answer is an important one. You emailed it to all of us before hand so I wanted to provide a thorough answer, so I took the time to prepare it in writing.
You probably are saying why not just answer the question without reading it? Well, if our President, President Obama, can read everything he says using a teleprompter why can’t I bring my written pages?
Here is my answer to the question.
I have to admit with great regret that I believed in the Cuban Revolution. For the first three months. From that moment on I joined the Cuban resistance for the next five years. I was able to escape Cuba thanks to the Cuban Communist Government Third World Incompetence. The last four days and nights that I spent in Cuba I had to sleep in different places. I escaped on a plane to Mexico. My last image of my dad was of him dressed in a blue suit, waving goodbye to me with a white handkerchief.
No friends or family knew that I was in the resistance until April 15, 1961, when a B-26 flew over my home at ten minutes to six in the morning and bombed Colombia Air Force Base. I looked my dad straight in the eye and told him – “I am in the resistance, Dad.” He looked at me for a few seconds with no expression in his face and without blinking and said – “Cuba is your homeland. Do whatever is necessary to keep it free. It’s your duty. I am proud to be your father.” From that moment on he was the only person who knew about me being in the Cuban Resistance. I escaped Cuba in 1964.
This is how I became a Cuban Exile in the US.
As an artist I started as an actor in the theater. Then, I found my voice in writing, where I could tell stories drawing from personal experiences. I discovered that film allowed me to combine many skills including directing, editing and producing to express my ideas.
Living in the United States gave me the opportunity and the freedom to develop my creative skills. I could have stayed in Mexico, or moved to South America or even Europe like many artists. But I chose the US because of the “American Dream.” When I set foot on American soil I knew I was no longer a Cuban in exile. I belonged somewhere.
Together with a friend of mine in Miami, Miguel Ponce, we started a theater company in the living room of my apartment and put on shows. The company grew and moved to New York. It’s the American spirit that drove me to persevere as an artist. If I considered myself an exile, I would be living with loss. But that is not where I come from.
My Granduncle, Orestes Ferrara, left Italy when he was 20, in 1896, to go to Cuba and fight against Spain for Cuba’s freedom. My friend, Virgilio Campaneria gave his life to free Cuba, and he was put in front of a firing squad and shot. My teacher and Bay of Pigs Invasion Commander, Jose Perez San Roman, put his life on the line for Cuba’s freedom. My friend Fernando Marquet risked his life as a soldier in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. The mother of my friend Emiliano Diez spent years in a Cuban prison just because she disagreed with the Cuban Communist government.
The ultimate example of who I am as an artist and former Cuban exile in America is epitomized by my Aunt Flora, whose home was seized by the Nazis when they occupied Italy. While under house arrest she got in the Nazi General’s face, she spit on him, she cursed and yelled at him, she even slapped him a few times. Nothing happened to her because I think the Nazi General was in shock. Aunt Flora did not live with loss. And she lived more than 100 years!
We risked our lives for freedom, many died, but I made it to America. I don’t live with loss. I don’t take “NO” for an answer. I say what’s on my mind. I come up with an idea, and like the Nike slogan, I just do it. I have no limits. And, for me, that’s the essence of being an artist and an American. A Cuban-Italian-American.
The following two questions were provided in the email, but Odalys wanted to adhere to a schedule so we did not have enough time to include them.
Here are the questions and my answers.
What do you think would be different in you if you had not been uprooted from Cuban soil?
Nothing would be different in me. I would have been shot or I would have been thrown in jail for the rest of my life.
If you had stayed in Cuba would you have still chosen to be an actor?
If I stayed in Cuba, I would not have any choices . . . and I would have suffered the same consequences: quick death by firing squad or slow death in jail.
  The following are some email responses to my answers:  

Hi Orestes!

Wow, thanks for sharing . . . gave me the chills.



Thanks for the wonderful summation of a very dire and sad situation that you've endured.

We Americans are spoiled in some ways, but we learn from our own failings and mis-guidance. You guys are tougher and that gives you guts that most of us have to fall on our faces a few times for.


Hey Orestes!! I really enjoyed your speech at the Macha Theatre. Very interesting and I thank you for forwarding it to me.

Besos y Abrazos, (Hugs & Kisses)


Thanks for representing all of us with such fervor and patriotism for our country of birth.

Gracias por acordarte de mi y de honrarme con tu amistad.



Wow! That's a tough way to see life. I think you gave a very realistic answer. I would try to run away even if the risk could be death.

Dan (from Israel)


Do you have a link to this on your website so I can link it in facebook to 300 of my friends?



Beautiful, Orestes, you touched me, I was crying.



Love it, love it, love it.



Well done.


Hi Orestes,

I am very impressed by your story, and also proud to know you! I didn't know you had been involved in the resistance against "el tirano." I'm glad God has given you this moment in time to tell your story! And I did enjoy it. THANKS.




I am NOT against Castro. Viva Che!


BERNARD (From France)

Oye, I'm proud to call you my friend. Hablaste mas bien que el carajo! Bush should've hired you as a speech writer. I'm not kidding.

Un abrazo,



Dear Orestes:

You were right on the money!!! Your answer got me all teary eye. Bueno, un poco llorona.

Just Love it!!!

Tu amiga,



Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!



  Very nice. Thanks for sharing!



Good for you, Orestes.



Very nice . . .


You may not believe this, but I always admire your commitment and your passion.

Un beso,



Thanks for sharing , Orestes!

Spas (From Bulgaria)


Bravo! What a great response.



Dear Orestes,

Congratulations on an excellent story.



Very amazing.



Beautifully said, Orestes. You and your extended family are a great example to all of us that freedom is worth fighting for!

Un abrazo y Viva Cuba Libre,



I enjoyed reading. Did not know the story about Flora. It's funny how you miss people that are dear to you.



Gracias, bro!



Leí con detenimiento tus respuestas en el acto realizado en el Macha Theatre en conmemoración por el 20 de Mayo. Me sentí orgulloso de tu cubania, de tu amor por la libertad y la democracia, pero muy en especial por contarte entre mis amigos. Las palabras de tu Padre aquel lejano 15 de Abril de 1961 al enterarse de tu participación en la resistencia, tienen un gran valor, mucho más si se toma en cuenta que eras su único hijo. El recuerdo de tus amigos, que perdieron su vida luchando por la libertad, demuestra que como hombre justo no olvidaras a los que lo dieron todo. Te felicito y te agradezco también.

Un abrazo,



Hola Orestes,

Muchas gracias por compartir este email tan interesante de tus experiencias en Cuba, y comienzos en EEUU. Te comunico que Virgilio Campanería fue también muy amigo mío y compañero de escuela en Havana Military Academy (HMA). Sin lugar a dudas que Virgilio fue una gran persona y demostró ser extremadamente valiente al morir por sus convicciones religiosas y políticas.

Desde Panama.

Un abrazo,



Muy bien, Orestes. Una vez más se prueba mi razón de que es mejor leer que improvisar.

Un abrazo,


  Gracias, Orestes, por compartir tus respuestas.

Ahora te conozco un poco más.




Hola Orestes,

Muy interesante tu respuesta, y tu explicación de como llegaste a los EEUU, de verdad te brindo mis respetos por tu valentía, de expresar siempre lo que sientes.




Una de las famosas frases de Orestes Ferrara fue: "Los tranvías también pasan por la Universidad de La Habana". Brillante! Me apuesto a que no la sabias.



Excelente respuesta.

Me encanto lo de Obama y su teleprompter.

Keep it up Orestes. Tienes todo mi apoyo.

Un besito,



Hola mí estimado Orestes:

Tu discurso sobre el 20 de Mayo estuvo genial. Bravo! por tu cubania.





Me gusto mucho leer tus contestas a las preguntas de Odalys. Te doy las gracias por tu patriotismo y ese cariño a nuestra querida isla de Cuba. Pero también como yo, quieres y agradeces mucho a este país, EEUU, que nos a dando tanto.




Mi queridísimo Orestes,

Cuando Delia (mi esposa) me estaba leyendo tus respuestas muchas emociones me abrumaron por un momento. Recuerdos repercutieron en mi mente y al final, el orgullo de ser amigos y de poder tener recuerdos en común.

Un fuerte abrazo de hermano, quien te respeta y te quiere,

otro Orestes


Hola querido Orestes,

No soy cubana, y poco puedo opinar, sin faltar el respeto.

Un beso.


Lola (Desde Argentina)


Muchas gracias por enviarme tu respuesta en el evento del 20 de Mayo, esta muy interesante. No sabía que habías estado envuelto en la resistencia anticastrista.



Hola Orestes:

Por favor, dime donde puedo comprar una copia de ese "This is Cuba" film.





Tu discurso me pareció excelente. Y muy conmovedor. Que pena que seas REPUBLICANO.



Estimado Orestes,

Muchas Gracias por compartir éste escrito conmigo.

Desconocía ésta faceta de tu vida, y tu perspectiva respecto a la pesadilla que vive Cuba desde hace 50 años.

Seguramente existen miles o cientos de miles de testimonios de cubanos sobre su experiencia y perspectiva sobre lo que ha sido la revolución cubana: testimonios sobre hechos de dolor, sufrimiento por injusticia - pero al mismo tiempo hombres y mujeres con vida, en tu caso con un gran legado y manifestación en el arte. Con carácter que a pesar de la adversidad han hecho su vida en Estados Unidos siempre proyectando un cariño entrañable a su nación, que todos confiamos muy pronto recobre su libertad.

Te felicito y a su vez admiro a quienes has referido, incluyendo a tu tía Flora que al igual que tú y millones de cubanos nos demuestran que la libertad está en el alma, y ésta es muy personal y eterna.

Un abrazo.

Federico (Desde Mexico)

  To watch Orestes' movies click any of the links below:  
  Support this wonderful organization:  
  To watch Chris Hume great documentary about Cuba: