The Cuban-American director behind The Amparo Experience

If you’ve tasted The Real Havana Club rum, you might have heard of The Amparo Experience: an epic story of love, revolution and stolen rum, inspired by the life of Amparo Arechabala and the family behind The Real Havana Club. Maybe you’re one of the thousands of people who saw the award-winning theatre event during its sold-out 8-month live run.

Victoria Collado is one half of the creative powerhouse who, along with her partner Vanessa Garcia, brought The Amparo Experience to life.

Their company, the Abre Camino Collective, has since reimagined the piece as an interactive filmic experience told through social media. You can experience it for yourself here.

Like so many Cuban Americans, Vicky’s parents were exiles

Her father arrived through el Mariel when he was 30 years old and her mother on an “Alien Relative Petition” when she was 18. Straddling two cultures, Victoria feels a responsibility to be a bridge between them: “It’s up to me and others like me to tell and preserve Cuban stories because the world could learn so much from the Cuban experience.”

A career-defining moment came in the form of a conversation with an acquaintance who wanted to do a 20-minute play in a bar about The Real Havana Club rum. From that initial meeting, the seed for Amparo Experience was planted, growing into the award-winning immersive theatre event that has taken Miami by storm.

Cuban culture is the engine that drives Vicky. She explains, “Cuban people have this mode of putting our best foot forward even at the worst of times. We’re a tough bunch, we’ve been through hell and back and we manage to make ourselves laugh in the process.”

That Cuban grit helped make The Amparo Experience a reality. “I think I got about four hours’ sleep in the three days leading up to the first pilot of Amparo” says Vicky.

“Directors dream of opportunities like Amparo. I felt like my entire life had prepared me for this one moment – to tell a story shared by so many Cubans. I feel truly blessed.”

When asked who she’d cast as Victoria Collado in the movie about her life, she pauses: “Until someone discovers the Cuban Mindy Kaling, I’ll have to go with Natalie Morales, which would be an honor ‘cause I’m a huge fan.”

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