TAMPA — With more than 100 acting credits, including The Untouchables, Ocean’s Eleven, When a Man Loves a Woman and The Lost City, you’ve likely seen an Andy Garcia movie.
And if your ancestors resided in Ybor City in the early 1900s, they might have eaten fruit from Garcia’s former family farm in Cuba.
“We have history here,” Garcia said while in Tampa on Tuesday. “We shipped produce to Tampa.”
That produce was sold at a family grocery store on Ybor’s Seventh Avenue.
Garcia was in Tampa this week scouting locations and meeting with possible investors for Angel Eyes, a movie he will produce and star in.
The film is about a private detective trying to solve and absolve himself of the murder of his beautiful and rich client.
“We want to make it here in Tampa,” said David Shapiro, president of the partnering production company Semkhor that is “focused on bringing the digital content industry to Sarasota and the surrounding region. We are meeting with investors and hopefully it goes well.”
It was also a homecoming of sorts for Garcia.
He left Cuba with his parents after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. They moved to Miami but would visit Tampa, where his great-uncle Andrés Garcia settled in the early 1900s and became a pillar of Ybor City.
“I remember the trips here to see family, going through the orange groves before arriving from Miami,” Garcia said. “That was always very impressionable.”
According to news archives, Andrés Garcia arrived in Ybor in around 1918 during the Latin District’s era as cigar capital of the world.
Andy Garcia’s immediate family owned a farm in Bejucal, a small town outside Havana. The farm, which his attorney father would later run, specialized in avocados but also grew other produce, he said, like potatoes and cucumbers that were exported to Florida.
In 1934, Andrés Garcia was one the founders of Tampa Wholesale Produce Market, which is still located on the corner of Hillsborough Avenue and 28th Street, and, along with siblings Antonio and Luis, established a grocery store at 1410 E Seventh Ave. Both were used to sell the family’s Cuban produce.
Called Los Tres Hermanos, which means “the three brothers,” news archives report the grocery store was among the first in Ybor and a truck delivering the produce throughout West Tampa was a “familiar sight.”
Andrés Garcia was also among the Cuban Club’s early leaders. By 1929, newspapers report, the social club for Cuban immigrants named him the head of its athletic commission. His primary duty was matchmaker for the boxing cards held at the club’s Ybor headquarters. He would later lead the club as president.
The trade embargo on Cuba ended the shipment of produce from the family farm.
Still, along with his with son Andrés Garcia Jr., who would become the actor’s godfather, Andrés Garcia expanded the family enterprise in Tampa.
They partnered with W.B. Crews to found Crews & Garcia wholesaler, which was at one time the main produce supplier for Winn-Dixie.
“I would love to see him come here for this movie,” said Luis Garcia, who is Andy Garcia’s cousin and president of Crews & Garcia. “That would be exciting for the family.”
Andy Garcia is also close to the Fuente cigar family, which has its business headquarters in Ybor. “Carlos Jr. is like a brother,” he said.
It was Fuente, Garcia said, who introduced him to the president of the Dominican Republic, where the Fuente tobacco farm is located. That connection allowed Garcia to shoot scenes for The Lost City in the nation’s presidential palace.
Garcia has long wanted to make a movie in the Tampa area.
“The way the moon shines off the sea at night and the palm trees is an iconic image of Florida,” he said.
So, when approached by Shapiro about making a film here, Garcia said he recalled the Angel Eyes script written by his friend Richard Wenk, whose credits include The Expendables II and The Equalizer. The story was initially based in Palm Springs, but it has since been rewritten for Tampa.
Ybor could be featured in the movie, but Garcia won’t make promises.
“That is driven by design and the film’s needs,” he said. “Our intention is to stay between the Sarasota and Tampa coasts. That is where the narration lies.”
Regardless, Garcia said, if the movie is shot in Tampa, possibly in May, expect to see him in Ybor retracing his family’s roots.
“Ybor City," Garcia said, "is in my blood.”