Luisa María Jiménez is, unquestionably, one of the most popular Cuban actresses since she emerged in the artistic scenario more than three decades ago. She majored at the National School of Arts (ENA by its acronym in Spanish) and later on from the Higher Institute of the Arts (ISA by its acronym in Spanish). She has interpreted significant characters for theatre, television and cinema. At the age of eight she figured out she wanted to become an actress but her passion for body expression first led her towards dancing. Then, she went into acting and fell for it. This year, Gibara’s International Low-Budget Film Festival pays homage to her. According to the director of the event, Lester Hamlet, “Luisa is one of the last actresses that appeared in the world of Humberto Solas and she did it with enough strength to stay and to be remembered forever”.
How do you take this homage at the Festival?
I think I’m privileged. I didn’t expect it; to be honest, I no longer expect anything. I just go along with everyday events because that way I suffer less. It was a huge surprise, mainly because it has come in a particular moment in my life. I’m thrilled to know that I’m taken into account, respected and admired as an actress, that’s always more than enough reason to be happy. The Festival will display about 20 pictures of me, in large scale and in black and white and full color, taken recently by Spanish artist Pedro Coll. One of these photographs was chosen to be the poster of this edition of the Festival; it is a picture taken from my back and I look like a mermaid or a woman fish.
Several press media have commented on your recent cerebral-vascular accident and your soon recovery. How do you feel right now?
Honestly, I have incredibly recovered from two strokes, I got better in less than two months and I have no long term effects. I had a congenital aneurism, probably since I was born, that’s something people don’t know they have it until it gradually develops and for some specific reason one day they burst. That day my blood pressure was high, and that triggered it. Apparently, it went really high and I didn’t know I was having a stroke. I was at an activity in Old Havana and I felt a sharp pain, like a gunshot in the head which pulled me backwards as if being launched from a first floor. I fell on my left shoulder and I had a fracture on the humerus, but I found out about that like a month after. I was at home already and in the midst of my state of hypnosis and unconsciousness I always said my arm was hurting but no one listened to me, until I went to the hospital and they took me an X-ray. I’m doing some physical therapy and my arm is gradually getting better. It has improved a lot because it was really bad, I could barely move it and I was scared because I felt as if it were frozen. I’m honored and happy for all the love and concern I have received from my people, many went to check on me to the hospital and many prayed for my recovery and I’m really touched and thankful for that. That love has definitely contributed with my soon recovery.
Tojosa, your character in the soap opera Sol de Batey, has become a popular icon. How does it make you feel to be called by that name?
Tojosa is almost 30 years now, as you say it is a popular icon that has survived to our time, it has transcended, it has stayed in my family and even my daughter has inherited, people even call her little Tojosa. How many people in the world have been able to have this experience? Just few people have had this experience. Some actors carry throughout their lives with the faces of the characters they have interpreted, others just don’t. What has happened to me with this character makes me really happy. It is the people who decides, tags you, and supports you or not. It raises you up or takes you down, we work for them. I’m always applauded everywhere I go and for that I have to thank this character too.
However, there have been other meaningful characters for you that haven’t had such imprint…
I have a special place in my heart for Mariela, the character I played in the soap opera El Naranjo del Patio. That’s an unforgettable character for me as well as Lala Contreras in Tierra Brava.
You have said in previous occasions that working with Humberto Solas was a dream come true for you. Can you comment on your experiences with this filmmaker?
It was an extraordinary experience; he used to make me quiver. He was a unique director. His personality encompassed many interesting, contradictory and contrasting elements that always leave a mark on actresses. My career was divided in two: before and after Humberto. Everyone has dreams and aspirations and working with Humberto was one of my biggest dreams come true. I used to say to myself I want to work with him and I wish I could shoot a film with him. A few years ago, long before Barrio Cuba, I ran into him at the supermarket in 3rd and 70 and he impacted me with his presence. His magnetism and his voice made me paralyze but still I decided to talk to him. I told him I would really like to work with him and he answered someday we would. I never saw him again until one day I received I phone call at home and it was him telling me we were going to work together. That was like a bomb for me.
How do you recall Barrio Cuba?
I knew Mario Limonta and Jorge Perugorría had suggested that I interpret that character. Solas analyzed the proposal and asked me to do it. I devoted myself to that character. Humberto was really demanding and one needs to have many expression resources to undertake this challenge, which implies following his increasingly strong dynamics, requests and demands. Some actors backed up on him but he encouraged me and motivated me to improve myself. This film was a definite acting exercise for me.
What are your expectations for Gibara’s Festival, a city you knew with Humberto?
I went to Gibara on three different occasions with Humberto. I have never returned. I didn’t imagine how that would be like without him until they invited me to the Festival after he passed away. I’m glad to see the Festival is still alive. Lester is young, full of energy; he is really sweet and he has the capacity to run the Festival. He has a different positive light. No one can match Humberto, but that’s not the point. The point is to do beautiful and interesting works like they are doing. With Lester the Festival has gained color and I feel happy about that, mostly with this homage, now that I have returned to life. I have big expectations and I‘m anxious to get there and enjoy the Festival with Lester at the head.
You have been one of our more dared actresses, one that hasn’t been afraid of showing up naked on the screen; therefore, you are remembered by many as the image of sensual and unprejudiced Cuban females. What do you have to say about your experiences on erotic images in the mass media?
As to showing up myself naked on the screen, that was never an objective, I just open up to work and I devote myself to whatever is best for increasing artistic usefulness and quality of a piece. I have always believed that getting naked is a freeing act, a way to show the world we are born naked and we are the owners of our bodies. There is no need to be afraid of that or be prejudiced about that in the media or anywhere else. The human body is beautiful and expressive and it’s ours so it should be shown without reservations whenever necessary. I can tell you I have never had and will never have that taboo. At the age of 51 that’s still my position and I think actors should be strong and brave. It is the audience who tags you as sensual or not. I don’t look at myself in front of a mirror to value myself. I have learned to look at myself through the people’s eyes, not fearing the body or its image.
What’s your experience with the audience of your artistic nudes?
I know myself better thanks through popular culture and thanks to the audience. People use to find more in you than yourself given that there is better perception from the outside, if it were any different we would be God. People see you, appraise you, name you, differentiate you, tag you and qualify you. There were difficult moments because I have been told any kind of comments on the streets, a large number of erotic phrases. It wasn’t a goal for me, but it happened and it makes me happy. I always welcome whatever comes from the public.
Are there any new projects?
I recently finished a movie with Magda González Grau called ¿Por qué lloran mis amigas? (Why do my friends cry?) It is the story of four friends that meet after 20 years and reflect on their lives. I think it will come out this semester, it is currently being edited. It was produced with RTV Comercial as well as the film Conducta and many others that will eventually come out. In addition, I have a proposal from Tomas Piard for his next film.
Are you satisfied with your career?
I’m happy with my artistic life, which has left an imprint on me and people are identified with my work. Even though I haven’t made many films and I’d like to do more, I’m happy but not satisfied because I feel there is still a lot to do and too much to give, there are many desires and spiritual needs that I haven’t materialized yet. Sometimes I look at Cuban films and I questioned myself why I’m not there. In my opinion, we have many talented actors and very good professionals. I hope to and I aim at continuing working, giving my best in every work.