Where do you live?
How long have you lived in the area?
I was born in Miami, but when I was nine months old, my parents moved to Puerto Rico. I lived there most of my life until 2010 when I was appointed by President Obama to run a radio and television station. That brought my family and me back to Miami.
What was the station?
Radio and TV Marti – broadcast to Cuba and Latin America
What did you learn from that experience?
Serving others is one of the most gratifying experiences.
What was the most challenging thing about running Radio Marti?
We had to change an operation that was run as individual silos and make it a multimedia organization. The radio and TV units were their own operations and Internet was there, but they weren’t paying attention to it. We broke down the walls and made it into one unit that catered to the needs of our audience. What’s challenging because we couldn’t promote or advertise, since we were funded by the federal government.
Please share about what you do for a livelihood or what keeps you busy during the week?
I am practicing law again in Coral Gables, staying connected with my friends and enjoying this new stage of my life. Making sure Gisela, my wife, and the girls Carla, Natalia, Andrea and Daniela are taken care of. Aside from that, I am running around taking Daniela to soccer practice, games and workouts. I’m spending time with my family and traveling a lot to Puerto Rico to help with the restoration. Carla is also very active in the adult program at the Kendall Friendship Circle and riding LadyBug at Good Hope Equestrian Center. The center is an unbelievable place for kids and adults to have fun with animals and nature down by the Redlands. It keeps us busy.
What’s Puerto Rico like now?
It’s getting better but has a long way to go. I think the island has changed forever – but some has changed for the better. Obviously, except for the deaths – there’s no way to put a positive note on that. Hopefully the infrastructure will be rebuilt to be more resilient to a hurricane of Maria’s magnitude.
Are you seeing the changes being made?
In some respects. There are too many people making decisions. You have the federal government, the state government, and you have the agencies – but in some places it’s working. The federal government is putting a lot of money into the island. It’s a matter of managing it correctly and making sure that things get done.
Are you interested in getting back into Media?
I am always looking for ways to grow. Before I got appointed, I was in a comfortable place in one of the largest law firms on the island. I could have easily stayed there with no consequence. When there is an opportunity to grow personally and professionally I certainly consider and analyze it.
I’d be interested if we were doing something to help people so they could make informed decisions about their future. I particularly don’t like what’s happening right now in media. You can read the headline and know what they are going to say. I think there needs to be more perspective to the way news is being reported as well as empower the audience to become more active on the issues that they care about. In that sense technology is being underutilized.
How did President Obama find you?
I met then Senator Obama, on May 20th 2008 at an event sponsored by the Cuban American National Foundation, of which I am a member of the Board. We had a conversation about Cuba and Latin America and about Radio and TV Marti. I thought it was a casual conversation. To my surprise, I received a call from the White House in February.
What was your initial conversation with President Obama?
First – he never asked if I was a Democrat or Republican – he did not care about that. He said, I want the Radio and TV Marti mission to be executed. I said, Senator – if that’s what you want, I am more than willing to do it. I said, I would not get involved in Miami politics, because that’s not what it’s about. Radio and TV Marti is about providing free flow of information to the people in Cuba. He said – We’re on the same page.
Have you been to Cuba? Is it a place we should visit?
Yes, I have. If you are going to go, be adventurous and see the real Cuba. If you go where all the tourists go, you’re wasting your time. I think we have a responsibility when we travel to different countries to understand how the population lives and not only visit the tourist attractions. In Cuba there are people who don’t have meaningful work and their most basic human rights are completely disregarded . It’s not a class less society to the contrary. When many people visit, they don’t see this level of Cuba.
How often do you come to the market?
I come every Sunday. I wish Miami was more like the market. The market is very entrepreneurial and at the same time I see that you help each other. When someone needs something you refer them to another place.
Do you have a market ritual? If so, please describe.
I go to the gym early, then my first thing is to come see you – usually before you are open. I get my Turmeric concentrate. And then I walk around buy some fruit, sit down and watch people. The market is a great place to take you away from the urban Miami life. I like the whole environment.
What’s your favorite thing to buy at LNB Grovestand and why?
I recently tried the Roselle smoothie – and it was awesome. My daughters like the Sunrise smoothie.
What’s your favorite thing to buy at other stands at the market?
I get fruit, the guacamole and recently tried the Gheelish chocolate spread and it was great.
(A+W) We tried the Gheelish as well. We made smores by spreading it on graham crackers and toasting the marshmallows in the broiler. Yum!
I wish the market had:
A place for a good breakfast – an omelet and oatmeal. I would be there even earlier.
Favorite market story:
My youngest daughter comes with me sometimes. I pointed out to her recently when standing in front of Adena – If you are ever going to start a business like this, you need to find someone who looks and acts like Adena – She doesn’t play the part – she IS the part. My daughter looked at her and said – you’re right. You can tell she’s doing something she’s passionate about.
Most-frequented local restaurants and what dish to order:
We like Miss Saigon Bistro – The rice noodle bowls are great. Also, Joanna’s Market – I strongly recommend the latte, sandwiches and bagels. And, Chocolate Fashion on Sunset – it’s a coffee place. They have a tremendous breakfast. The omelet with vegetables is out of the park!
For special occasions, I go to:
My wife likes Spanish food. Sometimes we go to Rincon Espanol. Also, Two Chefs is excellent quality and underrated.
What’s the area’s best-kept secret?
The Sylvester Center in Miami is tremendous. It’s the cancer center at UM. They were very humane and caring when I was diagnosed with cancer. I am very grateful that I am well now.
A worthy splurge:
The more time I can spend with my family and daughters the better. Just to sit down and have dinner together is priceless.
Ride my bike, its a great liberating feeling. During the World Cup – Watching soccer. I would love to see a Latin American team win in Europe.
Do you participate in any community or philanthropic events that you would like to share?
I am member and still very active in the Cuban American National Foundation. It was created under the leadership of the late Jorge Mas Canosa with the goal to promote democracy and protect the human rights of the Cuban people. That’s been an ongoing struggle and one of the reasons I took the Marti job. I am passionate about human rights and enabling people to make their own choices.
Is there a question that you would like to ask the LNBs?
How can we get more of the market – Why should it be only on Sunday? It’s such a nice thing to have, it would be great all week.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Just, I congratulate you for the work you do. You have a fan here.