Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

Despite all the problems, I created some great moments

foto: Jantine Albers

Alex is a musician, which isn’t unusual for a Cuban. “Cuba is a musical country, music is everywhere, even on the streets. Art was important to my mother and that’s how she brought us up: my brother dances and my sister’s a musician too”, explains Alex. He’s the only one of his family to live abroad. “In the past, it wasn’t easy for Cubans to emigrate. You could only leave the country if you were a doctor going on a mission, if you married a foreigner or if you were a musician.”

When he was younger, Alex spent three-and-a-half years as a musician in the Cuban army. “Despite all the problems and the fact that I was only in the army to do my national service, I managed to create some great moments. I found myself and learned things that have really helped me as an adult”, says Alex. After his national service, he took a job teaching at a music academy. This didn’t last long: after a month, Alex was offered a job working as a musician in a hotel on the other side of the island. Alex: “It came as a surprise and I wasn’t financially prepared to make this move. But I’d always dreamed about being a successful musician and playing in a band, so I took the job.”

“When I arrived in the Netherlands, I picked up my music studies again. I was accepted at Codarts, which used to be the Rotterdam Conservatoire. I studied jazz there for six years. In terms of music, it was better and more fun than now. There were more festivals, I did more gigs. A lot of festivals folded due to the cutbacks in 2008. I was having a difficult time in the music industry three years ago, so I had to find alternative work. This year, I accepted a production position at STUT Theatre, but I’m still an active musician. Music will always be my passion.”

Alex hasn’t been living in Utrecht for long. He spent a long time in The Hague and had a shorter stay in Rotterdam. It was his girlfriend who brought him to Utrecht. They met in RASA. “I’d been to Utrecht many years before, performing in projects and bands at RASA and other podia in the city. Meeting my girlfriend there was a great (and unexpected) surprise. It’s such a pity that RASA has gone now; it was a great stepping stone for budding musicians. But Utrecht is a good place for musicians anyway, it’s right in the middle of the country”, says Alex. “Rotterdam is livelier. You have jam sessions in bars, which you don’t get here.” But Alex sees opportunities too: “You have to see it in context: there’s room to start new initiatives in Utrecht. I’m already working on a few ideas.”

Cuba still has a special place in Alex’s heart, but he’s glad he moved to the Netherlands. “You’re a bit indoctrinated in Cuba, people aren’t free. I can see it now I live in another country. What I do miss is the open nature of the people there, being able to have a chat on the street.”

Name: Alex Rodriguez
Year of birth: 1977
Place of birth: Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Motto: ‘It’s important to remain positive, whatever the problems’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

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