San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

‘105 Miles from Home,’ tells a story about a journey from Cuba to Miami

The inspiration behind Alexis Hernandez’s self-written and self-directed play comes from her own cultural roots
Design courtesy of Shakira Habib
Teaser poster for “105 Miles from Home.”

Everyone has family origins, in which their history did not automatically begin in the United States. For San Diego State student Alexis Hernandez, the origins of her family are expressed through a creative form of art.

In “105 Miles from Home,” a play written and directed by Hernandez, Hernandez describes her family’s upbringing, originating from Cuba to the United States through the Pedro Pan program. 

The Pedro Pan program was created as an agreement between the United States and Catholic charities in Miami after Fidel Castro rose to power. 

The aftermath of this program led to over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children being sent to Miami. Some children, though, stayed in orphanages facilitated by the Catholic church and were later sent to foster care. 

Those involved in the program were relatives of Hernandez. 

“A part of that program were my grandparents, my great aunts and uncles,” Hernandez said. “They all just met at the airport one day, left and never turned back.” 

Growing up, Hernandez didn’t grasp the importance of what these stories meant until she was older and realized the significance of them.

Hernandez, now discovering her family’s upbringing, noticed the lack of news coverage and individual’s knowledge of this time in history was inspired to tell their story through her play.

“One day I woke up and it clicked that no one is going to tell their story,” Hernandez said. “No one is going to tell the story about the 14,000 children. I felt like it was my duty to make my family proud and tell their story and then it grew into something more.”  

She expressed how these unaccompanied children must have felt to wake up one morning and never be in your country again.  

“Imagine you wake up one morning and you are told you are never going to be in your country again, you are not going to be with your parents or your family, you are gonna have to learn English,” Hernandez  said. “When all you know is Spanish. You get shoved on a plane. You land and the first thing you see are people protesting to stop the Cuban takeover.” 

Hernandez  began “105 Miles from Home” as a COVID-19 project and wrote the script when she graduated high school. However, this play soon became an important part of Hernandez’s life.

“I never stopped writing, revising it (and) trying to learn more. The amount of research I did to make sure this story was historically accurate (so) that it would touch not only the people from the past, but the people now.”  

This was also the first time Kevin Sakrekoff, the production manager and assistant director read the script of the play. Sakrkoff met Hernandez in an acting class in the fall of 2022. 

“I heard of someone named Alexis in my class who towards the end of class was telling everyone that she was writing a historical script,” Sakrekoff said. “I was a history major at the time and told her to email me the play because I am actually fascinated in history and I would love to read it.”

He gave feedback to Hernandez on what to fix and how to make the script better. However, when Sakrekoff read the script he was fascinated at how well written it was for being the first draft. 

“I had no negative feedback to give which was quite impressive because I am quite the harsh critic at times,” Sakrekoff said.

Hernandez then submitted “105 Miles from Home” to the California Young Playwrights project, a contest for playwrights under 19. Hernandez became a finalist and got the chance to further develop her play. The response she got from the contest became an inspiration to keep going and do something with her play.

Skull and Dagger, the dramatic society at SDSU, held a festival known as the Uncaged Theatre Festival. Through this festival new works were showcased through a staged reading and became the first platform for “105 Miles from Home.” 

The positive feedback Hernandez received from the stage reading was a confirmation that this was no longer a COVID-19 project, but her life’s project. 

“I need (‘105 Miles from Home’) to grow and be something more. I’m not seeking fame. I want this to be an educational thing. Their story is so important, and it doesn’t get told,” Hernandez  said. 

Hernandez, 20, also did not expect to be accepted to the San Diego Fringe Festival, in which artists from all over the world come together to create art. 

Although achieving success at a young age, Hernandez, a second-generation student, found herself struggling to connect with her Cuban culture. Her play, however, brought her closer to her culture and the roots given to her by previous generations.  

“Like a lot of second-generation kids, we lose parts of our culture and with that, we lose the language as well,” Hernandez said. “Being a Cuban kid, you ask me, ‘what the culture is. ’I can’t really tell you because you can’t just do a google search on the culture and find accurate representation.”   

Despite these challenges, she learned how to appreciate her culture in a deeper manner and found faith through the midst of it. Hernandez, not only a writer, director, published poet and student, emphasized that her faith has been a major contribution to her life as well as this play. 

“It takes a lot of praying and realizing that God wouldn’t give me these opportunities if he didn’t know I could handle it, and I am handling it,” Hernandez said. “I was so worried there was no way I was going to be able to do this (as) I started a new major, a new job producing two shows. I am doing it by the grace of God. Everything is coming together.”

Making her family proud is her ultimate goal with “105 Miles from Home.” Hernandez has become the “American Dream” for her bloodline and ancestors. 

“It’s not just about my family that is alive — it’s about my great grandparents that I never got to meet who were strong enough to send their kids here,” Hernandez said. “This play has become an homage to my family.”  

When it came down to the casting process, Hernandez was careful about who she gave the roles to because she is telling more than a story through this play. Hernandez aims to have her play educate many surrounding the voices that are often overlooked.

“I met with some of the cast members and told them that they are a part of something bigger than just a show. SDSU does shows. Theater companies do shows but you are a part of a show that is supposed to educate and impact a lot of people who haven’t had their voices heard for a really long time,” Hernandez said.  

The “American Dream” is one of the reasons many immigrants come to the U.S. For a better life and future for their generations to come. Hernandez is thrilled to continue paying honor to her family. 

“My family came here with a dream and if they would see my family now, thriving in America, doing all these good things,” Hernandez  said. “I know they are in heaven looking down saying that they made the right choice.”   

Hernandez feels like sometimes she is not Cuban enough. She incorporated her experience to “105 Miles from Home,” in which a character has a self-conflict with their identity for not “speaking the language of my people.”  

“There is a scene between the granddaughter and the grandma where the granddaughter says, ‘Sometimes I feel like I am not Cuban enough.’ The grandma looks at the granddaughter and says, ‘You are my American dream,” Hernandez said. 

As the show dates are approaching,  Hernandez and her team are preparing to show, “105 Miles from Home,” to bring awareness and educate others on the Pedro Pan program and her family’s journey from Cuba to Miami.  

“We are getting so excited to get the chance to bring this show to life rather than a staged reading, it is going to be an amazing opportunity,” Sakrekoff said.

The show in SDSU will be at the Experimental Theatre on May 6. Admission is free, however, donations are encouraged. 

Additional viewings in the San Diego Fringe Festival will also be available and can purchase tickets here

About the Contributor
Jennifer Aguilar
Jennifer Aguilar, '23-24 Mundo Azteca Editor
Jennifer Aguilar is a junior at San Diego State and a first-generation transfer student. She formerly attended San Diego Mesa College where she was the News Editor and the Editor-in-Chief of The Mesa Press. Her goal is to become a bilingual broadcast journalist for a news or entertainment outlet. She also enjoys filming and editing videos for her youtube channel with over 40k views (as of now).
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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
‘105 Miles from Home,’ tells a story about a journey from Cuba to Miami