Filed under: My POV
This week, Raúl Esparza comes home to perform in the production of Babalu: Lucie Arnaz Celebrates the Music of her Father, Desi Arnaz in the Knight Concert Hall. This will be Raúl’s first time performing for his hometown audience as a Tony-nominated actor. As Cuban-Americans, we take great pride that Raúl was chosen to serve tribute to a Cuban celebrity by honoring the music and legacy of Desi Arnaz.
Raúl and I began our friendship well before we were born. Our families were so close that the lines between “friends” were quickly blurred into “family.” We were both born to Cuban parents in Wilmington, Delaware, months apart and grew up as cousins. We shared family events, childhood summers, celebrated birthdays and marriages.
There is one summer, out of many, that stands out. We were about 12, and we were spending several weeks with Raúl’s aunt and uncle, who are my parents’ best friends, at their apartment on Miami Beach. It was a summer filled with lots of love and great fun. We spent our days in the water, visited the zoo, went to see movies like ET, and made up games. One game became our summer obsession… it was a game of “Who Dunnit” with four characters each of us had to act out in order to solve a crime. We would make up the story as we went along and each storyline and performance was more outrageous and dramatic than the one before. Our imaginative, elaborate stories rivaled those seen on “Law and Order.” Raúl would approach each part with such enthusiasm and passion that he would stop us in our tracks.
It did not surprise me that Raul would become an actor. He was talented from the start and was committed to learning and worked hard to perfect his talent. It’s been with great pride that we have been able to see him perform in many different cities in a variety of performances where he consistently draws his audience into the lives of each character he portrays.
Whenever possible, we always visit Raúl backstage after a performance. As we were leaving the theater with him after a recent performance in New York, he mentioned that he was feeling a little run down. My mother quickly went to him and buttoned up his coat, wrapped the scarf around his neck and told him: “Cuidate hijo”. He is a four-time Tony-nominated stage actor, a performer on TV and in the movies, a phenomenal singer, and he will always be part of our “family.”
Tessie Alvarez Bravo
Senior Program Director
Hands On Miami
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