Jessi Calzado-Esponda

State: District of Columbia

City of Residence: Washington

Country of origin: Cuba

Arrival in the US: 1999

Jessi Calzado-Esponda has lived an extraordinary life. At the tender age of 7, and at no fault of her own, she became a political refugee after being placed in a raft that was headed to America. In the blink of an eye, Jessi lost all contact with her immediate family (mom, dad, brother) and her beloved Cuba; and yet despite many difficulties she rose! As a child, she lived in several shelter homes, including the Spring of Tampa Bay where she was awarded a scholarship in music. That encouraged her to pursue a musical degree at the H.W. Blake Magnet School of Performing Arts. As a teenager,Jessi was a leading force amongst her peers. She was a member of 7 different choirs, and captain of her school dance team. She played sports, and was vice president for Students Against Destructive Decisions, where she advocated against drunk driving and led suicide prevention efforts. By age 20, Jessi began working in Washington, DC for Congresswoman Kathy Castor as an intern.  Jessi flourished within the US-Cuba political arena with her main concentration being the establishment of relations between the two countries. After a few months, she obtained a position as a full time staffer for another member of the US Congress. In 2012, Jessi suffered a traumatic brain injury after being hit by a driver whom was on the wrong side of the road. As a result, Jessi left Congress for rehabilitation; and yet, like every chapter of this women’s extraordinary life, her return has been nothing short of triumphant. In 2016, she established Cuba Inspires, a company that arranges VIP events and cultural exchanges in Cuba, with efforts to further support the transitioning Cuban society. Within a few weeks of opening her doors, Jessi has helped clients such as the Kardashian family to navigate Cuba, and arranged historic collaboration between the daughter of President Castro (Mariela Castro-Espin) and several United States Civil Rights LGBT Activist. Jessi’s incredible journey to success, along with her deep understanding of Cuba has sparked the interest of many media platforms, including: CNN, BBC, Huffington Post, and Telemundo.