He has taken the same passion and drive to the hospitality industry. In the early '90s, Emilio had the vision that Miami’s South Beach would become an international destination and purchased the Cardozo hotel on Ocean Drive. He developed Larios on the Beach (Miami Beach), Bongo’s Cuban Café (at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Fla., at the American Airlines Arena in Miami and at the Seminole Hard Rock & Casino in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). In Vero Beach, Fla., the Estefans own and operate Costa d’Este Beach Resort. "We are creating great opportunities for people to discover this beautiful paradise,” he says.
After arriving in the United States from Cuba as a teenager during the '60s, Emilio faced the challenge of overcoming the cultural and racial differences. Even with his success, Emilio has not lost his sense of humor, humility, charisma and alchemist qualities. He believes that in order to blend two cultures, each one has to be respected and treated as complete and whole. That has been an important ingredient to Emilio’s success.
"I can say, very respectfully, that I understand both the Latino and Anglo cultures. I know how they feel and what moves them and it is working in that gap that has enabled me to create my body of work."
In 2009, Emilio became the first Cuban American to become a minority shareholder in an NFL franchise, the Miami Dolphins.
Among the many awards and honors that Emilio has received are his Honorary Doctorate degrees from Barry University, University of Miami, Florida International University and Berklee College of Music. He also received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2009. In 2005, Emilio received the BMI Songwriter of the Year award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Emilio was appointed by President George W. Bush to the board of trustees of the Kennedy Center in 2007.
In 2010, Emilio added the title of best-selling author to his long list of credits with the release of The Rhythm of Success — How an Immigrant Produced His Own American Dream. It chronicles the story of his success in both his personal and professional life: how he rose from a Cuban refugee to one of the most successful businessmen in America. He shares his unconventional and pioneering career as a guide for readers to establish the tools, ethics, values and strategies necessary to unleash their own business potential. In collaboration with the Miami Herald, he presented The Exile Experience: a Journey to Freedom in 2011. It is a groundbreaking historical chronicle that tells the personal stories of those who fled Cuba and celebrates the accomplishments of the Cuban American community. The book is published in three editions, one for for those who arrived through Operation Pedro Pan, one for the Freedom Flights and one for the Mariel boatlift.
Most recently, Emilio signed a development deal with 20th Century Fox Television to executive produce a Latino-themed drama series.
With all the professional and personal success that Emilio has experienced, giving back to the community remains a top priority. "It is important to give back a part of what you have received," he says. "Gloria and I are blessed with a wonderful and healthy family. We are so fortunate to be living the American Dream and we believe it’s important to give back to this wonderful country that has given us so much.”
Together, Emilio and Gloria established the Gloria Estefan Foundation to support those working toward a cure for spinal cord injuries and later expanded it to include other causes. They are also very quick to help communities rebuild following natural disasters around the world.
During 2010, Estefan gathered dozens of Latino entertainers to record Michael Jackson's "We Are The World" in Spanish. The Spanish version, written by Estefan and approved by Quincy Jones, became "Somos El Mundo." It premiered on the Univision Network on March 1, 2010, and all the funds went to Haiti relief.
Emilio Estefan's uncanny ability to identify, recognize and unite forces from different cultures in a unique and powerful way has been his trademark in the entertainment business.
He shows us that a vision is created from a place of love and respect, and it will grow when you put passion and commitment behind it. The results continue to speak for themselves.