Armando Lucas Correa came of age in Cuba during the late seventies, a particularly dangerous time to be gay in the Communist country.
Correa explains, "I grew up in Cuba in a time when homophobia was government-sponsored. There were laws in the books against homosexuality. In the 60s, concentration camps were created to send gays, religious people, and political dissidents. When you were in college, you could be kicked out if anyone questioned your sexuality."
Armando with his twins, Lucas and Anna
Though he never formally came out to his family, Correa didn't hide the fact he was gay. In fact, he met his partner, Gonzalo (together now for thirty-one years) right after college. They left Cuba together that same year (1991) and landed in Miami. Gonzalo worked as a photographer while Correa pursued his passion for the written word. Correa says, "When I arrived in the U.S., I went through the daily struggle all immigrants go through to cobble together a new life, a career—in my case, journalism."
In addition, the couple looked into adoption, but in those days, gay couples couldn't legally adopt kids in Florida. So the dream of starting a family was put on hold. Correa recalls, "I always wanted to be father, from the time I was a boy myself. Maybe it was because my parents divorced when I was two-and-a-half years old. I grew up in a matriarchy: my grandmother, my mom, my sister."
Armando and Gonzalo with their kids
When the couple moved to New York City in 1997, the dream of having their own family came back to life. Correa had accepted a position as a senior writer for the newly minted People en Español. Shortly after arriving, he read an article about surrogacy in People Weekly, which led him and Gonzalo on an "odyssey," as Correa describes it, creating a family via IVF with the help of a surrogate mother and an egg donor.
This odyssey would become the basis for Correa's first book: Finding Emma. (Today, the couple has three children: Emma is now 11. Her twin siblings, Anna and Lucas, are seven years old.)
Regarding how the book came about, Correa says, "I remember back in 2008, René Alegría, then editor at Rayo/Harper Collins, asked me for a meeting in my office. I thought he would talk to me about putting out a book about Hispanic celebrities—and I couldn't have been more wrong. He came to ask me to write a book for a U.S. Hispanic audience about how I had created my family. Initially, I was taken aback because though I'm openly gay, I never spoke about my private life with People en Español readers."
Correa says reaction from readers has been extremely positive. He's quick to point out, however, that the focus shouldn't be on the gay dad aspect. "For me, it's important that people see us as a family, which in this case has two dads," Correa says. "That they see we have the same conflicts and issues of any other family. The day we all understand we are human beings and we are all very different, and we accept and respect those differences, the world will be a better place."
Correa is now Editor-in-Chief for People en Español, which is the top-selling Hispanic magazine in the U.S. Correa's most recent book, a novel entitled The German Girl, came out in the fall of 2016 to great reviews from critics and readers alike. It's based on the true but little known story of 900+ Jews who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 to Havana. When the ship (the Saint Louis) arrived in Cuba, it was turned away, even though all passengers had the proper paperwork to disembark in Havana. The U.S. and Canada would deny the ship entry as well, forcing its return to Europe and leading to the encampment and deaths of most people on board.
The novel picks up in modern times. "The German Girl is about Anna, a girl who lives in New York and in 2014 receives an envelope from Hannah, her German great-aunt, who lives in Havana," Correa says. "Inside the envelope: pictures of Hannah aboard the Saint Louis, celebrating her 12th birthday. Anna's mother tells her Hannah is related to her from her father's side. Anna and her mother take a plane to Cuba and start to discover their family history."
When it comes to his writing, Correa says the work speaks for itself. "It's no better or worse because of my sexual orientation," he explains. "I'm defined by my family, my values as a human being, my work as a writer and editor, my role as a father, partner, friend, son, brother."
He adds, "But my biggest accomplishment is having created my family. My children are my pride."