Go Away With … Andrea Navedo

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
March 3, 2015

Andrea Navedo is bicoastal these days. She works in Los Angeles, where she portrays Xiomara Villanueva on the CW series “Jane the Virgin,” but every two weeks, she flies home to New York to spend time with her husband and children.

“My kids are 10 and 7 now and I would love to travel with them more,” says Navedo, who also stars in the film “Superfast” — a spoof of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. “I took my daughter to Puerto Rico with me when I was filming a movie with Jennifer Lopez. She was 18 months old at the time. But I haven’t taken my kids out of the country yet. I would love for them to broaden their horizons.”

Fans may follow Navedo on Twitter.

Q. Did you travel much when you were a child?

A. When I was 11, I went to Puerto Rico for a month to stay with my grandmother. To see the way people lived there and experience my own culture was wonderful. It helped give me insight into my own cultural identity. I remember that the food and coffee there was amazing. I love Yaucono coffee. That is so good!

Q. You had coffee at 11?

A. (Laughs) Yes. My father’s family in Puerto Rico had a farm where they grew all kinds of beans. They grew coffee beans, too. My grandmother’s brother had all these burlap sacks filled with coffee beans and I had that experience of opening that bag and smelling the fresh beans. My grandmother asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. I said yes. And she said we are going to make the coffee. We went and got the beans from the sack that had already been peeled, laid the beans outside in the sun for five hours — turning them every 30 minutes. Toward the end, she would crack open a bean to see if they were ready. Finally, she told me to get the old-fashioned wooden coffee grinder that my father had packed for me to bring on the trip. I ground the coffee beans myself. And then she made me the most amazing cup of coffee I ever had in my entire life. It was our family coffee and that meant so much to me.

Q. What do you bring with you on your flights?

A. A blanket, ear plugs and a pillow for my lower back.

Q. Where do you want to go to next?

A. Costa Rica. I would love to attend one of the Spanish schools there and just study.

Q. Why is it so important to be bilingual?

A. When I was growing up, everyone thought that I spoke Spanish and it was frustrating for me. It was also part of claiming my identity. Also, work-wise, you have more opportunities if you can offer things that other actors can’t. It’s not easy being bilingual. I tried to introduce my kids to Spanish with Spanish babysitters. It would be really helpful to children if schools would start a second language when they were in kindergarten and carry it through high school. Whether it’s Spanish, Mandarin or French, knowing another language could give them so many opportunities when they’re older, trying to compete with people from other nations where they all speak two or three languages and can easily work overseas.

Q. How long have you been studying Spanish?

A. For about 15 years now. I have a tutor and I can speak it fluently. But I’m always studying and learning. I went to Mexico for three months after college and studied Spanish there. And I went to Cuba and studied at the University of Havana. I loved studying in other countries. When you immerse yourself and can’t get away with lapsing into English, you get out of your comfort zone and are forced to learn. When I was in Mexico and started to dream in Spanish, I knew that was a good sign that I was learning the language. It was cool.

Q. What was it like being in Cuba?

A. It was a surreal, amazing experience. I went in 2001. The only way I was able to do that was through Global Exchange, which tries to promote third world countries. I went on an education Visa so I was there legally without any issues. I flew out of JFK directly to Cuba on Cubana. It was an old fricking plane that looked like it was from the 1960s. I felt like I was in a time warp. It was quite uncomfortable and I was nervous. It looked like there was smoke coming out of the cabin. It turned out to be steam and vapors. I got there, and they thought I was Cuban, so they asked me a lot of questions. There were a lot of guys with rifles and German Shepherds sniffing all the bags.

Q. Were you nervous being there?

A. I was for the first few days. I felt like I might be mugged. It was like being in a war zone. But then no one was bothering me and I realized I was safe. The people were wonderful and warm. I got to know this one woman who did janitorial work at the University of Havana and she invited me to her apartment in a pre-war building. It looked like it had been elegant at one time. I had to use the bathroom and she taught me how to flush the toilet, ‘cause nothing was really working. They would catch rain water from the roof and it would go into a drum in the bathroom. From there, you’d scoop out some water and pour it in the toilet to flush the waste away. Sometimes, these big trucks filled with water would come by and people would throw buckets down to get water into their apartments. I had grown up in the South Bronx on welfare. But when I saw that, I thought, “Wow. I had nothing to complain about. We had heat, running water…” It was an eye-opening experience.

Q. When you travel, do you blend in or stand out as a tourist?

A. A little of both, but I’m often mistaken for being Italian. When my husband and I first met, about 17 years ago, we went to Rome. While he was showering, I was testing out an Italian phrase book, because I wanted to be able to ask for directions correctly in the cab later. I pronounced everything really well, and the cab driver started talking to me so fast in Italian that I couldn’t catch up. He thought I was from Rome! My husband is actually Italian-American and he thought I was Italian when he first met me. (Laughs)

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. New York City, Boston, Los Angeles. Quebec was cool; it was like being in Europe. And Heidelberg (Germany). I loved all the medieval houses and castles.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. Before we had kids, my husband and I went to Portugal. It was really beautiful. We had some of the most delicious seafood there that was prepared with a little salt, olive oil and lemon.

© 2015 JAE-HA KIM
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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