A federal program for family reunification brought Kedgar Volta to Miami, Florida. He then moved to Jacksonville to be close to his father. After the five-year mark, he became a U.S. citizen.
Thankful to have had the push out of Miami, Volta credits the move with forcing him to listen to only English radio and television, which helped him to improve his English.
Northeast Florida has embraced Volta — he’s widely considered one of Jacksonville’s most promising visual artists, a contention his employer — local ad agency Brunet-García – likely agrees with.
Garcia is a native of Havana who focused her undergraduate and graduate studies on biology. She taught at the University of Havana for six years prior to relocating to America.
Volta and Garcia were a couple while in Cuba, and they made a commitment to be together again. A year-and-a-half after Volta arrived, Garcia came and started her life anew in Jacksonville.
Folio Weekly: What are the disappointing things about living in Northeast Florida?
Adianez Garcia: The cultural aspects of the city. Coming from [the center of] Havana … there was always something to do: spontaneous street theater, concert or a gallery opening. Just walking or sitting on the streets and seeing people doing things … seems very uncommon here.
Kedgar Volta: The lack of cultural variety — it was certainly a shock. We used to live in the capital. It was our New York. It was the cultural capital of Cuba, and now we’re living in a place that isn’t even close to being a cultural center. That was a bit of shock.
What are some pieces of advice you could give Northeast Florida with some perspective from having lived in other places?
Volta: Being right or wrong is a matter of perspective. Back in the day in Cuba, being exposed to a certain amount of things, we thought we were right in Cuba. One advice I would give is that Jacksonville should be, if it wants to be a city of the future and not the past, it needs to be a more open-minded city. Not because Cuba was necessarily any different, but I feel that it should be that way.
Garcia: In terms of sexuality, race, political decisions, Jacksonville moves at a slower pace because of the way some people think here. They got stuck in time, and they don’t move forward, and they don’t go with new political decision and new ways to where the world is going, overall. There is sexual discrimination, racial discrimination, and more that we see every day.
When people from back home ask you about living here, what do you say to them?
Volta: First of all, nobody will ever ask me how it is to live in Jacksonville; they will ask how it is to live in the United States … It’s almost a cliché, but what people say, that it’s the land of opportunity, and it really is … or at least, it has been to me.
Garcia: It’s not as easy as it is living in Cuba. You get into this wheel that never stops. In Cuba, you live your life. You don’t have money, you don’t have lots of food, but you live very happy. Here, we also have happiness, but we’re always thinking about how to make money, how to pay bills, and how to survive … and how to make a future.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Volta: I think that we are fortunate to be in the city at this time. There are many things that are happening, and if you have the intention, all the things you do, even if they’re small, you can feel like you’re making a difference, that it has impact — that the things you do mean something.
Garcia: I feel great here. There’s a sense of community; we’ve found great people in Jacksonville. Since we got here, it’s grown as a city. We’ve seen more culture. We’ve seen more people trying to make Jacksonville a different city. In the past few years, we’ve seen things change in a good way.