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.
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.
A state appeals court ruling in September striking down a referendum that would have allowed Miami Beach voters to ratify a billion dollar agreement that the Miami Beach Commission reached with New York developer Tishman for the development of the Miami Beach Convention Center set a pause button on the project. Given that Miami Beach’s financial future is at stake, the commission’s 5-2 vote in favor of Tishman’s bid in July was understandably contested and discussions about the choice are often times heated and acrimonious.
Famed boxing promoter Don King once said, “I don’t promote boxing, I promote people. Boxing is a catalyst to bring people together.” Far be it for anyone to cite Don King as a philosopher, but his notion that boxing unites people is reflected in Miami’s history and relationship with the sport.
High school sports are an institution in South Florida, providing an overwhelmingly positive imprint on the thousands of us who played.
After decades of mostly being perceived as kitschy entertainers or quirky neighbors with obsessive customs and traits, American society has come to grips with the realization that Latino culture has embedded itself into the American cultural, political, economic and social landscape. Over 50 million strong and growing — our nation’s largest minority — Latinos’ imprint in this country seems more indelible each day. PBS’ new, six-hour series, Latino Americans, examines 500-plus years of Hispanic contributions to American history.
CRITICAL MASS CYCLING
A few weeks ago I witnessed Miami’s version of Critical Mass — a cycling event where a couple thousand bike riders appropriate city streets on the last Friday evening of every month, for what one Mass cyclist described as “a political protest disguised as one hell of a party.”
GUILLERMO ALVAREZ GUEDES
I was at my favorite perch in Little Havana, smoking a cigar, when word came of Guillermo Alvarez Guedes’ death and the mood dampened. An all-too-familiar queasy feeling came over me — one that is not uncommon to many of us who still live on the Cuban-American hyphen.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the constraints of our political choices. The sameness of our political incumbents and their challengers’ socio-economic composition is alarming. Many times the razor-thin differences lie in the law school they went to or the year in which they graduated from certain South Florida private schools. The homogeny of our candidates translates to political stagnation and, even worse, a sense of civic disconnect and disenfranchisement.
SAN CARLOS INSTITUTE
As a student at Florida International University in the late 1980’s, in search of my identity, I attended a seminar that examined important Cuban historical sites in the state of Florida. That afternoon, I had planned to raise my hand and address the audience about important nuggets of Cuban history I had unearthed in Tampa’s Ybor City. I should have known that like many “best laid plans of mice and men” these pre-orchestrated schemes don’t pan out.