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Filmmaker Joe Cardona ('The Day It Snowed in Miami') recalls the unspoken life of his gay Tio Bebo


For as far back as I can remember my great-uncle, Mario, stood out. He was the patriarch of my family — a distinguished gentleman who had put himself through the University of Havana and willed his way to success, pulling his entire family up by the proverbial bootstraps. He was ethical and compassionate, even-keeled and sophisticated. My Tio Bebo, as we lovingly called him, meant the universe to my mother, whom he helped raise. He was, basically, a third grandfather to me.

And yet no matter much my family relied on him financially, emotionally and intellectually, there always an unspoken chasm — an inexplicable distance. As I grew older, I discovered that my uncle was gay, though no one in my family had ever acknowledged it above a regretful whisper at a loved one’s funeral.

Almost 20 years ago, as I gathered his personal belongings after his passing, I came upon letters to friends with whom he shared his feelings and exposed his soul. His writing was earnest and wistful, reflective of the hidden life he was forced to lead. My heart sank as I grasped the fact that this man, whom I loved and respected dearly, could not be himself around the family he helped prosper.

Over the past 18 months I have collaborated with the Miami Herald and WPBT2 on a film called The Day it Snowed in Miami, which premieres next week. As I researched and crafted the narrative of our film, my uncle’s solitary experience weighed on my mind.

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