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Talking with Freddy García

Freddy Ginebra

Freddy Ginebra has a special aura, I do not know very well how the angels are but if I let my imagination run away it is probably they resemble him very much.

That look clean and penetrating lets you see the journey of his life. Wisdom, positivism, experience and peace are some of the many sensations he conveys. Advertiser par excellence, television producer and writer among others are the facets he has played up to date. He is a Dominican of the world, so proud of his land that Leonardo Padura said “would be the best ambassador that the country could have abroad”.

The respect he felt for his father made him to graduate in law to please him, he lived for five long years “as a slave to the law” practicing it for a few months, but it was too much for him and quit. His dream was to be a journalist and chose Columbia University to study, but it could not be possible due to his English level. Finally he studied some English and television and after a while he returned to DR to work in one of the best advertising agencies, where he had already been at his student days.

It is defined as Machado said, “I’m treading my own paths”, he doesn’t like to make many plans, providing a more fun touch to his life. “When you had a good guidance, life goes easiest”. Certainly it is said by a person who has gone through completely different labor facets: a bank, savings and loan association, television, advertising and theater and who turns any setback into a success.

For 20 years his life went by producing successful television shows: “Meeting with youth” in 1963, “People”, “Say it as you can”, “Tic Tac Toc” etc..., even having his performance on some of them. An exciting path full of passion and perseverance that was told in an intimate gathering of friends, stops the clock and makes you live all his experiences.

Now to everyone’s surprise, he has reinvented himself and has returned to the stage at the age of 72, Was this facet pending to be achieved? Of course, I did theater when I was young, the seed was inside me and today is sprouting as a tree! I am very happy, I get very nervous, I feel like the ground is going to be open in the first ten minutes, then the public inspires me with confidence and it is really fun.

At what point do you decide to perform on stage? Over the years you have to come up with life because it can be depressed otherwise, surrounded by anguish, melancholy calling death which responds very judiciously. After I turn 70, I felt it was time to return to action. In recent months I have been in Colombia, Havana, and a tour for Spain and Portugal where I also will open two festivals. In August we will go to Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile. This makes me “very happy”.
I had to remove certain things, what I do now is to meet new friends, I enjoy life and I recommend to all people who are over 70 to experiment with a new project that motivates them, excites them, and is getting on their nerves.

What are your performances about? I tell stories of real life, I chose several topics ranging loneliness, relationship with parents, a kind of philosophy of life, how to face death, the discovery of the child inside us ... To my surprise all the public stands up and applauds at the end and I feel happy for that, not because I believe I’m an actor but because I feel that somehow what I say comes to people, although it is really nothing new.

You have published several books with all the interviews you had made to some personalities of the world, Which one was the most difficult? Each has its peculiarities, but certainly Gabriel García Márquez interview was a good one indeed. We were in Havana at the same moment and I thought we were great friends, he did not give interviews to anyone because he was on vacation but he accepted to spare me some time provided that I were creative avoiding questions people usually asked him. I prepared thoroughly the interview, there was no Internet at that time and I had to go to Casa de las Américas to look for information. The appointment was at the hotel while having breakfast but someone told me at 7 am that it has been canceled. At noon I saw him in the living room, I went to give him a hug as a friend and that guy ate me alive, telling me sort of things and I did not understand anything and thus I let him know that he had canceled the interview. Finally I discovered that someone played a bad joke on me. I tried to make him understand the misunderstanding and I let him know that I had to come back for his answers because otherwise it would be a lack of respect for my country, I made my acting role, I got on a chair and performed my role in such a way that he scared. That guy told me so much that I felt sorry for him at the end. While I was interviewing Portocarrero I was informed that the Cuban government had organized everything and he would see me at 19:00 h. I was happy because I thought he had understood and forgotten everything but it was quite the opposite ... the guy was waiting for me and told me, “I do not know who you are but I have been forced to give you the interview, you have ten minutes,” he was so close to me that I wanted to bite his nose because I felt his breathing on my face. When I took out my recorder he told me, “You are not a journalist, good journalists do not take the recorder”. He was so close to me that I pushed him away just a little to breathe, it was the most uncomfortable interview of my life. When I left I turned off my tape recorder and I was happy because my purpose was accomplished.

Have you two come cross again? Once I was at Juan Luis Guerra’s home and answered the phone and asked who’s speaking? I am Gabo, Gabo and asked him, What Gabo? I am Gabriel García Márquez and I asked him, From where? And I told him Juan is not here, and hung up the phone. It was my way of getting even to him, it was impolite but I had not forgiven him (laughs). He never knew but I was very happy, very forgiven (he authorizes us to tell) and Juan Luis is the only person who knows because he was in front of me. He said you are crazy...

What has been the most successful interview? Mother Teresa of Calcutta interview touched my heart and even left me speechless. It was very interesting she was a tiny woman always having a rosary in her hand. Mother Teresa is my idol, I am totally committed to her, I chased her everywhere. She lived in the Dominican Republic for three days and her agenda was full, I called all priests I knew, I went to a retreat where 5000 people were concentrated and I could not see her. She only gave an interview and it was for TV. The camera was damaged and the technician called me and told me that she was alone in the dressing room and it would take a while to fix the camera. I took advantage of the occasion. I knocked the door of the dressing room and I explained myself, my English is very bad when I’m nervous and when I’m not is bad too (laughs) but I sat with her and I asked her some questions and she answered all. Finally I said, Mother Teresa, I have a decision to make, I am a human being with strong disabilities but just one worries me: I am unable to say no and give, give and give, and I wonder Mother Teresa, how much we should give? She said, “Never give what is left over, everybody gives that, you must give what it hurts.” I could not ask more questions, I got a lump in my throat that when I remember it I feel excited. I grabbed her hand, kissed it and left.

What is Home Theater? It is a springboard for poor and unknown young people can be artists someday. They just need to have talent and be perseverance. I opened the door to countless people who have started in arts, it makes me feel good, I try to do something for my country doing my bit, it is not much but it’s what I can do. I do not want to die thinking I did nothing. There are people who think big and do nothing after all. In this old colonial house I have promoted many painters, musicians, singers, making things easier for them and I can sleep with satisfaction.

How would you describe yourself as a writer? I dare not say I’m a writer, it is an adjective that does not fit me. I am a person who tells what happens. I started writing for my grandchildren, the column was called “Before I lose my memory,” I said someday I will not remember anything and started writing for them. A friend of mine had the courage to assign me a page in a weekly newspaper, I thought it was easy, 1200 words, and I almost die because every Wednesday I had to fill my column. Today my column has become a page in which I have to publish every 15 days “Celebrating Life” (Estilo Magazine, Diario Libre).

What inspired you to write your articles? I inspired by life, things that happen to me. When I started my show, someone told me that I had something better than imagination, experiences about all and suggested to tell them. I’m digging up all those things that happen to me, the positive ones. Something fun happened to me, “people read what I write”, they told me so on the street, stopped me in the car for having an autograph, this never occurred when I worked on TV. I have spent ten years celebrating life and to my surprise it was the best gift for a 70 years old man.

Freddy is not an old man at the age of 70! It doesn’t matter, I feel like if I’m 15, I see the elderly of 70 and I think what a shame! (laughs) I ride a bicycle, dance, tell stories, I go by plane, I dare do all ... I’ll wait death dancing ...

Are you always so positive? When I’m sad I do not open the door of my house, I’ll take it for myself. I rehearse joy all morning and launch it into the street. I believe that all human beings have an obligation to do the same. We have to be happy as the people. The Dominican people are very cheerful, I think everyone has to laugh at yourself, that’s the first lesson. Having this positivism he overcame a serious illness from which he has learned too.

How did you live and overcame your period of disease? Very good!, they made me songs and all that! I laughed at myself, I thought, it is my turn, everyone has one. The doctor phoned me and told me I was positive, but of course, I said I’m one of the most positive person in the country! and he had to insist ten times, positive means cancer oh! But I did not understand that word, I sat on the edge of the bed and thought about it and now what should I do ... I stayed quite, and I did not say a word to anyone for a week, I felt I was finished ... It was an interesting feeling until suddenly I said no.

At that moment what were you afraid of? I do not know if it was fear, it was a very strange feeling like everything was over, my wife, my children ... my life was over. I was 55 years old and I said, “It is too soon and from that moment on I am celebrating all...” It is really curious but present time is the only thing that matters to me, I do not know what will happen in the next five minutes. I always live intensively, which is terrible for those around me, to live with me is not easy but it is fun.

How many years have you been married to his wife? More than 50! That’s a lot ... Now young people get tired quickly. The secret is to learn to love and respect differences because each human being is unique. I always advise my friends to marry a friend who you have fun with because it never disappears. If you marry for passion it won’t last too long, even “the most beautiful looking woman” wrinkles, however friends forgive, take care each other ... but of course it is an old man’s word!

He is a restless soul passionate about art and culture but especially by helping others. A master of happiness, people are often waiting for someone who makes them happy but as Freddy said “happiness does not depend on anyone but yourself” it is all in your hands and the way you manage things affecting you.

Very personal

A dream: Multiplying Home Theater in all provinces of the country.
What keeps you awake?: Violence, corruption, a sick friend, how difficult it is sometimes to breathe...
A movie: Paradise.
A book: “Heart” by Edmondo de Amicis.
A song: “Live”, written by Jose Antonio Rodriguez when I hold him I had cancer.
Any smell: Lavanda.
One moment: All the moments.
What does you most despise in humans?: Wickedness, lie, humiliation.
What does you most admire in humans?: Purity, honesty, fidelity.
A favorite place in the country: El Portillo, Las Terrazas.
A favorite place in the world: Plenty of places left to be discovered by me.
A hobby: Writing, I am not a writer.


TEXT: Almudena Haddad, Tatiana Antelo; IMAGES: Suresh