IN A FEW WORDS:
My name is Elsa Mora and my nickname is Elsita, but you can call me either way. I am a multimedia Artist currently living in Los Angeles, California, with my husband Bill and our two children.
I am one of eight children. All of us were born and raised in Holguin, a province in the island of Cuba. My birthday used to be on May 8 (of 1971) until I discovered that it was the wrong date. It turned out that I had actually been born a day after, on May 9. What happened was that my Mom liked May 8 better because it was Mother's Day the year when I was born.
But at age 16, the lady at the office where I was issuing my first ID told me the truth. My Dad, who's good at remembering small details like that, confirmed that the lady was right.
That incident did something interesting to my brain. It made me think that in the end I could be whoever I wanted to be.
I grew up poor, but poverty taught me a series of important lessons that I will always treasure. I learned that the most precious possession that you have is your mind. I also learned that creativity and imagination could solve any problem, weather it's a material problem or an emotional one.
My education took place in the Cuban public school system. I started walking to school by myself on the 4th grade. It was a long walk in an area full of delinquent and alcoholic people that hung out in the morning.
I saw these people deteriorate to the point where they looked like ghosts. Watching them taught me lots of things that I didn't learn at school, like the slow and devastating effect of losing control of your life.
But my life back then was also full of fascinating people. There are so many characters from my neighborhood that I remember with affection. One of the main things that I learned from them was the power of having a sense of humor. Sometimes when nothing seemed to solve my problems, humor did the trick.
I left my home at age 16 in order to start a life on my own (in Cuba you're legally an adult at 16). I relocated in another province of Cuba called Camaguey, where I graduated from Art School in 1990. I left one night by train with a small backpack containing a change of home sewn clothes plus my four-year-older-than-me boyfriend on the side. I could never imagine how hard the following years were going to be. I experienced hunger, loneliness, desperation and all kinds of feelings, but I went through everything one day at a time and came out to the other side feeling strong, more mature and positive.
My first job was as an Art Teacher for two years. I was only 19 and my students were from 12 to 13 years old. It was a great experience but I decided to leave the job in order to put some focus on my art. I kept the connection with most of my students, they became good friends.
After this I worked part-time at an art gallery because of the salary. But what I really wanted was a radical change. That's when I decided to become a full-time Artist. The transition was hard. In order to survive I kept two lives; one doing art at night and another one selling anything that I could make with my hands. Here I have to give credit to my Mom who sent me 10 pesos cubanos a month. Money and food were scarce back then but my imagination was more alive than ever.
The next big move happened in 1995 when I relocated in Havana with the help of a dear friend, her name is Debra (thank you forever hermana). In Havana I married a Psychologist who later became my agent. He did nice things for me but the marriage just didn't work so we got divorced. Nobody's fault, that's OK. Special thanks to him too.
During those years my art developed as never before. Several art collectors, art galleries, museums etc. from around the world came to the island fascinated with what was going on in the art world over there. I worked on my art day and night, had shows, traveled to other countries and worked some more at my return. I was happy and finally able to make a living out of my own creativity.
Then in 2001 my life had another turn; just when I was getting divorced in Havana, when I had decided that I wanted to be by myself for as long as possible, with no partner, I met an american man named William Horberg. His sister had been a good friend of mine for a while but she never mentioned having a brother. The thing is that she had a plan in mind, she thought that Bill and I were going to be great as a couple so she proceeded to make our encounter possible. Bill was also going through a divorce. All I can say is that my friend (sister in law now) couldn't be more right. Bill and I clicked the first time we met. Not too nlong after it I moved with him to Los Angeles, CA where I started a completely new life full of surprises.
Bill and I in our very first picture together. Havana, 2000
Some of the most amazing surprises that we ever received were our two children Natalie and Diego, they're both unique. Natalie is the most creative person I know. Diego is the most original (he was diagnosed with Autism at age 2) and my stepson Miro, who is currently attending college, is one of the most sensitive souls that I ever met.
My husband Bill is a Film Producer from Chicago, with a solid career in Hollywood. He's smart, gentle, modest, very family-oriented, creative, plus he possess the most incredible memory ever, he's like a walking encyclopedia. With him I have learned tons of things, not only about film, literature, politics... but also about the simple things that really matter in life. We get along very well and spend most of the time making jokes and having fun with our kids. We also have wonderful friends with whom we get together as often as we can.
The rest of my story is happening as I write this... Everyday is a new adventure to me, a new opportunity to do something meaningful.
Sometimes life is hard but with all the things that I learned from my past in Cuba, I try to find the positive in the negative. Now we celebrate my birthday on the right day, but I still like to re-invent myself in everything that I do or create with my hands. In the end each one of us has the power to be what we really want to be, that's what our journey is all about. I just want to keep going on this journey for as long as it lasts.
All my best to you and see you later!