Ojito, Mirta A. 1964(?)–

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Ojito, Mirta A. 1964(?)–

PERSONAL: Born c. 1964, in Havana, Cuba; married Arturo Villar; children: three sons. Education: Florida Atlantic University, degree; Columbia University, master's degree.

ADDRESSES: Home—Miami, FL. OfficeNew York Times Co., 229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Reporter for newspapers, including Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, and New York Times, 1996–2002. Freelance writer. Has taught journalism at New York University, Columbia University, and University of Miami. Poynter Institute, visiting professor; speaker at National Writers Workshops.

AWARDS, HONORS: Distinguished Writing Award for best foreign reporting, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 1999, for series of first-person stories on changes in Cuba; Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, 2001, for series of articles about race in America; Florida Atlantic University Distinguished Alumna of Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, 2005; inducted into Miami-Dade College Hall of Fame, 2005, for outstanding contributions in print journalism.

WRITINGS:

Rafael del Pino: Biographical Notes, Research Institute for Cuban Studies (Coral Gables, FL), 1988.

Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus, Penguin (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor of articles to newspapers and magazines, including New York Times, Miami Herald, and Hispanic.

SIDELIGHTS: Mirta A. Ojito tells the tale of her family's flight from Cuba to the United States in Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus. Ojito was sixteen years old in 1980 when her family joined more than 100,000 other Cubans in crossing to Florida in numerous small boats. The move became known as the Mariel boatlift, as the emigrants left from the port of Mariel, Cuba. Although the media sometimes characterized the boatlift participants as largely ex-convicts and mental patients, in fact most of them were everyday citizens like Ojito's family: people who simply opposed the communist government led by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. (Castro mandated that prisoners, and others he considered undesirable, be part of the boatlift. Ojito decided to write her book to provide this overlooked aspect of the story. "Every story has at least two sides to it," she told Chip Scanlan in an interview for the Poynter Institute Web site. She also told Scanlan that she "became curious about the forces and the people that had somehow conspired to make the boatlift happen." As a result of her research into this matter, her memoir describes the political oppression her family and others experienced in Cuba; the protests and negotiations that led to the Cuban refugees being allowed to enter the United States; and the difficulties and dangers of the voyage.

Several reviewers pronounced Ojito's effort successful, both in offering a new perspective on the boatlift and placing the event in its historical context. Ojito "goes a long way in righting the Mariel story and bestowing some belated dignity on this ragged stepchild of exile history," related Ann Louise Bardach in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "Ojito has wisely merged her family's story … with the larger political story" On a similar note, Wendy Gimbel observed in the New York Times that "Ojito's account of her family's dash for freedom acts as a kind of magnet for a bunch of smaller stories that are held together in a kind of force field," while a Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "a skillful melding of individual personalities with the grand currents of history." People contributor Natalie Danford thought the author "integrates the multiple angles expertly and renders the past vividly," and Library Journal commentator Tania Barnes noted that Ojito "manages to weave the disparate threads of the story into a cohesive whole." The result, Barnes added, is "rich, but nuanced."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Ojito, Mirta A., Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus Penguin (New York, NY), 2005.

PERIODICALS

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Finding Mañana, p. 107.

Library Journal, May 1, 2005, Tania Barnes, review of Finding Mañana, p. 97.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 24, 2005, Ann Louise Bardach, "Marielitos and the Changing of Miami," p. 12.

New York Times, April 24, 2005, Wendy Gimbel, "Fleeing a Land Where God and the Beatles Are Banned," p. E37.

People, May 1, 2005, Natalie Danford, review of Finding Mañana, p. 43.

Publishers Weekly, February 21, 2005, review of Finding Mañana, p. 166.

ONLINE

Mirta A. Ojito Home Page, http://www.mirtaojito.com (July 11, 2005).

Poynter Institute Web site, http://www.poynteronline.org/ (May 4, 2005), Chip Scanlan, "When the Reporter Is Part of the Story: Mirta Ojito's Memoir of Cuban Exodus."