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Eduardo Sarmiento: ‘Nationalities define and limit us’

Posted by Denise M. Reagan on Oct 30, 2017 02:24 PM

When Eduardo Sarmiento joined Brunet-García as creative director/VP in February 2017, he brought a world of experience with him, including his Cuban roots.

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates those who have contributed their talent and insights to our nation and society. We asked him about the country that influenced his past and the country that inspires his future.
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Illustration by Eduardo Sarmiento

How did you decide to leave Cuba and come to the United States?

After graduating from the Superior Institute of Design in Havana and having to face a working life, my perception of Cuba completely changed. Cultural directives were more interested in politics than culture. The government and its intentions were more important than the people, and I became very frustrated and disappointed. No one should dictate how we live, what we do, what we say, or how we should say it.

I was invited to Ecuador to give a talk at a cultural event, and when I went back to the island, I knew I wanted to live in a different environment. A few months later, I came to the U.S. by myself via México. I had family here who deeply helped me at the beginning. I was convinced that a man should do what he wishes even if he has a knot piercing his throat.

What does being a Cuban-American mean to you?

Nationalities define and limit us. We are plural beings, especially nowadays. Nationalities are but an accident.

We should see each other as human beings, but I know it will take a while to get there.

I really appreciate the flavor and inventiveness that Cuba taught me and the possibilities and resources the U.S. offers to me and my family. Being able to experience different cultures and languages makes me very grateful and interested in life.

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This 1983 photograph of Eduardo with his grandparents, Eulogio and Rebeca, in the town of Rodas in the Cuban province of Cienfuegos, reminds him of the importance of family values and education.

How have your Cuban roots contributed to your creative aesthetic?

My Cuban roots have impacted and shaped me as a creative entity. Cultural manifestations in Cuba are very rich (poster design, poetry, theater, music, dance).

The language of Cuban poster-making—its synthesis, its cleverness, its attractiveness, its economy of resources—is always present in my visual vocabulary. It pushes me to dig deeper, to try to find the exact amount of resources (creative and economic) for a project to be effective.

The presence of light and the sensuality of the Caribbean are also key elements that stimulate my vision. They are not necessarily visually present in the work, but they are somewhere in my mind.

How have your insights helped when developing campaigns to appeal to Latino audiences?

This is very interesting to me. Cuba is a peculiar place in Latin America; we share lots of similarities and simultaneously could be very different because of the political and economic model and their influence over the people. Culturally speaking, we share similar passions and flavors; we are spontaneous and inventive.

I have been lucky enough to travel to several countries in Latin America and develop regional campaigns for global brands. Many of my friends and coworkers are/have been Latinos, so I have experienced the real Latin America and our people. This knowledge is very important when making creative/strategic decisions.

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Eduardo reviews his artwork with his son Luciano.

How do you celebrate and honor your Cuban heritage in your personal life? In your work life?

We speak only Spanish with our sons at home and our family in general, so they cultivate the language. We often eat Cuban and Mexican food and listen to many types of Latin music. At work, it’s all about being inventive, appreciating every opportunity, and sharing some of my experiences from Cuba with the team, so they don’t take the privileges and amenities of living in the U.S. for granted.

What are your thoughts on how advertisers approach marketing to Latino audiences?

Even today, I see campaigns that pretend to talk to Latinos living in the U.S. with no cultural relevance or authenticity. The world is very plural, diverse, and fluid. Younger generations, especially, mix cultures and identities easily. It’s very easy to fall under stereotypes, and it’s tricky to find the right tone when talking to U.S. Hispanic millennials. We are passionate, we are spontaneous, we embrace different elements from diverse cultures, and we are not limited to our nationalities.

What is the most memorable multilingual campaign you have worked on?

I remember with satisfaction a regional campaign we created for MoneyGram for Back to School. The TV commercials and photos were shot between Dominican Republic and Guatemala in order to achieve the desired racial diversity and to capture specific locations the client demanded. We collaborated with different production teams and the final product was very attractive and effective.