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Elena Maria Garcia Is Sick of People Asking if She Speaks Mexican

For this week's Mahal, I spoke to the Cuban American comedian Elena Maria Garcia about her new one-man show, Do You Speak Mexican?, about her experiences as a first generation American in South Florida.
November 23, 2013, 1:00pm

Elena Maria Garcia in 1970s South Florida. Image courtesy of Elena

For this week's Mahal, I interviewed the Cuban American comedian Elena Maria Garcia about her new one man show, Do You Speak Mexican? In the show, Elena discusses her experiences as a first generation American in South Florida. She imitates her Cuban mother, makes jokes about Cuban traditions, and shits on the idiots who ask her if she speaks Mexican. Elena's performance pulls from personal experience, and during our conversation, she spoke frankly about her show and how she feels about both Cuba and America.


VICE: How did your Cuban family end up in America?
My mother had to flee Cuba because she was very vocal about the Castro regime. She spent some time in Aruba and then came to Miami. My father came from a prominent family and was studying medicine—the military was after the wealthy and educated, so he was not able to flee Cuba as easily as my mother. He spent 14 months trying to leave Cuba. When he finally was able to immigrate, he started his American journey with the dime they gave him when he got off his flight in Miami. Back then, there was no social support for immigrants.

Have you ever been to Cuba?
I have never been there, and as long as that son of a bitch and his family are still in power, I have no interest in going.

What is the story behind the title of your latest play, Do You Speak Mexican?
When I arrived to my new middle school, Saint Bernadette, I was asked if I spoke Mexican because of my weirdo name. I tried to explain that there is no such thing as speaking Mexican, but that fell on deaf redneck ears.

How did you get involved in Miami's comedy scene?
I was always cast as the character actor. I became involved with an improv troupe, the Comedy Squad, after graduate school. Soon afterwards, I started the first all female troupe in the South East, Big Purse and Matching Shoes—we were a powerhouse. After that, I founded Separate Checks, which was around for six years. Then I founded the first short-form improv troupe in Spanish in the US—that was crazy.

Do you ever make fun of right wing Cubans?
I am very vocal about extreme right wing anything. I love my people, but those that believe the stupid, ignorant, prejudice mindset of any political figure just because they are Cuban make me want to vomit.

Do you think the new generation of Cuban Americans are watering down the right wing mentality?
Absolutely! It's being watered down, but the hypocritical gene is very hard to change. For example, they're the first to get up in arms when they're discriminated against, but they are the first to discriminate within their own culture. Don't you dare mistake an Argentinean for a Mexican, or a Colombian for a Cuban. Of course, there is liberal thinking in our culture, but it's far and few between. My uncle was the only Democrat in the family, and they would call him a communist. Now all my family members are Democrats.

Check out Do You Speak Mexican? on November 30 at 8 PM at the Fillmore Miami Beach