Savvy, spiritual and engaging, Jauretsi Saizarbitoria has an apartment full of crystals and a life full of stories. If you’re lucky, some of her good karma will rub off on you. Raised in Miami, Jauretsi moved to New York in the mid-90s. After a decade of working in the magazine and music world (editor by day, DJ by night), Jauretsi left the New York hustle to pursue a personal mission. She flew back to Cuba to direct her first film, East of Havana: an insight into Cuba’s youth culture and the influence of rap music in their collective identity. Produced by Charlize Theron and distributed by Sony, the documentary was the catalyst for Jauretsi’s voice in the Cuba versus U.S. debate, which has continued through her blog, radio show, and creative projects in an effort to bridge the cultural divide. In addition to her passion for Cuba, Jauretsi is a self-proclaimed digital ninja. With technology’s innovation and Obama’s gradual release of the Cuban embargo, Jauretsi is invested in the future of possibility: “It’s a good time to be alive.”
“I work as a digital strategist and curator—an abstract term that means people hire me for my brain, sense of aesthetic, and ability to construct websites. The word curator is bastardized at this point—it’s all over LinkedIn. That said, I think the future is all about curation, because there’s so much choice online now. It’s going to become increasingly common for people to specialize in sifting through the internet and putting things in buckets. It’s less about content creation now, and more about introducing and organizing a subculture authentically. Content creation will always be important, but I see curation as very valuable right now. Digital work helps to pay my rent, but also allows me to step up my game. I keep passion projects going on a parallel road, like my Cuba work. When you have to keep up a side gig, it can feel like you’re getting away from your dream. But I’ve designed my life to feel like I’m not wasting time—I’m constantly learning and honing my skills.
I went to college in the 90s. It was an era of: what do you want to do for the rest of your life? You had to pick one major, and it was almost perverted if you wanted to do more than one thing. But in the last 10 years, having multiple skill sets has become an asset, not a liability. You’re encouraged—even expected—to master a variety of things. Which is why I feel more like a Millennial and less like a product of Generation X. I feel like I oozed into this era and I’m not a freak anymore. I don’t think of the Millennial generation as an age group, I think it’s more of a state of mind. Companies are trying to target that specific age bracket, but a lot of 40 and 50 year olds are attracted to the Millennial mindset. If you’re 40 years old, you can still switch careers. If you’ve been flipping burgers for the past 20 years but want to be a photographer, you can jump online and learn how to shoot a 5D.
There’s no longer an excuse for not following your dream—the responsibility is now on the individual.
We all have access to tools and information, and it’s stupid proof. Growing up, those options weren’t available to me.
My involvement with Cuba has been a long road, and there’s still so much work to do. Being an exile and going back was extremely challenging for me. Even the idea of going to Cuba causes a huge argument, and you’re considered a traitor to your people in Miami. I finally went back in my 20s, and it took many trips to get past the guilt issues. The first part of the struggle was getting past the Cuban cultural dogma, and the second part was dealing with George W. Bush’s crack down on the embargo. We filmed East of Havana in 2000, and the paperwork I had to deal with was crazy. All this Cold War language from the 60s—if I tried to record an album with Cubans, I was violating the Trading with the Enemy Act. It was a big schooling that didn’t end when the movie did. People who have never even been to Cuba have strong feelings about Cuba. They project a lot of their dreams or a lot of their fear onto it. I found myself in really heated debates during various interviews when we were promoting the film—I was hit from all sides of the argument.
It’s not until you’re pushed like that do you realize what you’re made of.
In that way, reconnecting with the motherland was my biggest struggle, but it was also my biggest healing. I want to help with the rebuilding of Cuba until the day I die.
When it comes to pursuing passion—there’s this incredible book called Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It was written in the late 30s but a lot of the themes are still relevant. It was published in the industrial era when the first millionaires started popping up, and is basically a collection of lessons derived from the moguls of that time: Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, etc. There’s a chapter called Mastermind Principle which talks about the need to meet frequently with people who share the same philosophy and goals, and by doing so, you help each other up the ladder. I think that’s necessary today—to find your people.
My own mastermind alliance is my crew of rad girls.
We meet once a week, and when you compare this year to last year, so much has been achieved. We all go to each others’ events, always push and support each other. I also have friends on a global scale who do the same for me. A perfect example is when I came back from shooting the documentary. I had been off the grid for two years, then had spent a year editing in Los Angeles. I thought that when I came back to New York everyone would have forgotten about me, I’d been out of the game for so long. But it was almost the reverse—I received so much support. Everyone from friends to media outlets wanted to promote the film. I realized how rad New York is in that way—how the frequency of this city supports people who are following their dream. That when you’re on that fast track, New York will conspire to help you. You theoretically hope that’s true, but it’s exactly what happened to me.
There’s another great chapter in the book on setting intentions. Napoleon calls it autosuggestion, others call it affirmations. Hill wasn’t a mystical person at all, he was super practical—but with Cuban blood I will always have that mystical approach! Setting intentions, being goal driven, writing lists, having a specific time of year when you hit the re-do button and assess where you’re at (for me it’s birthdays)—that’s all super important to me. I’m also a big believer in silly repetitive tricks, like having ‘amilliondollars’ as your password, if that’s what you want. I believe in the laws of attraction versus the laws of promotion. You should be less obsessive about tracking down the big companies, and instead, keep your head down and work on your own domain. If you’re in your corner doing your thing, people will eventually knock on your door.
I don’t believe in stepping on other people to get to the top. I’ve never cannibalized anyone to get in the room, and I’m the last person who would want to attract bad karma. If someone doesn’t like me, I kill them with kindness. If you’re constantly nice to someone, there will come a point where they can’t hate you anymore. It sounds idealistic, but being mean is just not a natural reflex for me. I’m all about working with the light instead of the dark. I’ve always had a great armor around me.
I believe if you’re doing something worthy, you will pass through the eye of the needle.
I think that we all have a dharma: a sacred contract for why we’re here and what we’re meant to do. Mine is a Cuban mission, 100 percent. Whatever lessons I’ve learned, or any old-school skills I had to learn before the internet—none of it is wasted. It’s built a tenacity, a hunger and a strong muscle. I’m going to apply all of that kung-fu style to what I build on my own one day.”
Photographed by Amy Woodside
As told to Amy Woodside, August 2015