‘El Super’ explains Cuban exiles’ bittersweet adventureIt was born in the gritty urban realism of exile, circa 1970s. El Super, a low-budget production by Cuban exiles, was the little film that could. It would break stereotypes by embracing them. It would make you laugh and cry simultaneously — tears of loss mixed with the pride of the survivor.It was for me, when I saw El Super with my cousin Mirtica 35 years ago at the now-gone Cinematheque theater in Coral Gables, a chance to celebrate Cubans in America, the first time our struggles were captured with loving wit for an international audience. And I had lived it, not in New York where the film was based but in Miami, where el super, the movie’s lead character, wanted to be.
Not yet a U.S. citizen, soon heading out of my Miami exile comfort zone to college in Maryland, El Super prepared me for what was to come. One of my first realizations: Unlike in Miami, Chinese restaurants in the Washington area didn’t serve fried plantains with their fried rice. And Cuba to many of my fellow students at the University of Maryland was an exotic place where a killer like Ché was a martyr and Fidel was the David to Ronald Reagan’s Goliath.
More than one of my classmates asked me: “Are you going back home to Cuba for Christmas or spring break?”
“Your family must have been very rich so you had to leave Cuba,” others wrongly surmised.
“Have you seen El Super?” I would respond, then break into a lengthy explanation about my mother the school teacher, my father the taxi driver, not exactly millionaires.
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