Joe Cardona was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after his Cuban parents settled there in the 1960s. At age 4 he arrived on the sunny shores of Miami, which by South Florida standards makes him a native.
Reared on episodic television and album-oriented rock radio, Cardona always fancied himself a writer/director so he began working on indie projects fresh out of college — creatively and independently funding his work.
He has directed 16 feature-length documentaries, mostly dealing with issues of cultural identity and history. (Nou Bouke, Haiti's Past, Present and Future; Café con Leche; The Flight of Pedro Pan; Jose Marti: Legacy of Freedom; Havana: Portrait of Yesteryear; Honey Girl; White Elephant; Celia the Queen). Twelve of the documentaries have aired on PBS and throughout Europe and Latin America.
Cardona has also directed, produced and written two feature films (Water, Mud and Factories and Bro). Both received prestigious awards, such as the Flickapalooza Film Festival's "Best Screenplay" (2001) for Bro.
The documentary Celia the Queen (about the life of Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz) premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and attained national and international recognition and acclaim. His work as co-producer of the PBS music series Latin Music USA was featured domestically on the PBS network and internationally via the BBC.
In 1997, Cardona, along with partners Mario de Varona and Michelle Zubizarreta, founded Kids in Exile Films, an independent film company, which operated for 13 years. Seeking new creative and business horizons, Cardona then founded and still operates Royal Palm Films.
In 2011, Cardona garnered three regional Emmy nominations and won the award for the documentary on Haiti, Nou Bouke. The film, which was co-produced with The Miami Herald, was part of a newspaper series selected as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Cardona holds a bachelor's degree in mass communications from Florida International University.
Czech author Milan Kundera once wrote, “Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude toward those who are at its mercy: animals.”
For years I watched co-workers and employees —mostly women — hurriedly packing their belongings just before closing time at work, and I wondered why that was? Were they all that miserable at work? Did they all share a phobia for Miami rush-hour traffic?
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.
The day before Valentine’s Day marks the 50th anniversary of Miami’s connection to a cultural phenomenon that revolutionized the world. Half a century ago, John, Paul, George and Ringo landed in Miami for a performance on the Ed Sullivan show (which was filmed at the Deauville Hotel on Miami Beach). The Fab Four, as they quickly became known, spent eight days in Miami, smitten by the sun, the bikini-clad, beautiful girls and the palpable sense of unpredictability that permeated in the Magic City.
Aside from the immediate sense of disgust that came over me upon learning of ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman’s recent hijinks in North Korea, the incident offered an opportunity to reflect on the influence of politics in our lives and where we draw that subjective line between what is thought-provoking political fodder and what can now be coined “Rodmanesque” tomfoolery.
There’s word that Miami is losing two more distinct pillars of culture. In a city where its authentic culture is desperately trying to find a niche in an increasingly commercial, ever-changing landscape, the news that the Van Dyke Café on Lincoln Road and PAX (Performing Arts Exchange) in Little Havana are closing their doors highlights the struggle that has been going on here for nearly half a century between nurturing homegrown culture and the demands of commerce. Both places have fallen prey to the escalating value of land, which translates into higher rents.
Few things are more humbling than teaching a child. As you conjure up simple explanations for their complex inquiries — all while driving through McDonald’s — you quickly figure out that no matter how ingenious your responses may be, it is impossible to transfer every kernel of information that lies in your brain. If your child gathers a quarter of your hard-earned knowledge, consider yourself fortunate.
SISTER HELEN PREJEAN
It’s been 20 years since Sister Helen Prejean wrote her landmark book, Dead Man Walking, and yet time and celebrity have not worn down the Catholic nun’s resolve — she continues her crusade against capital punishment and does it the old fashioned way, travelling around the country sharing her experiences one lecture hall, church and civic group at a time.
As MTV ushered in the new frontier of music videos and 24-hour music television, the first video it played seemed like a warning shot across the bow of the music industry — it was Video Killed the Radio Star a synth-pop hit by a British New Wave band called The Buggles. The new format (for music) was threatening the established and ingrained radio industry.
Just over four years ago, Colombian pop star, Juanes (Juan Esteban Aristazabal) led an international group of Latin music stars and Cuban performers (sanctioned and approved by the Cuban state) who performed for just under seven hours for a million, sun-baked Cuban fans at the heart of Havana’s infamous Revolutionary Plaza. The mega concert, which was part of Juanes’ Peace Without Borders conscience-building concert series certainly provided plenty of food for thought.