EMMY Nominated- Pastport: Cuba The Search for Nicolita


Sí TV’s Pastport: Cuba follows swimwear designer Nicole Di Rocco as she embarks on a journey to reconnect with her culture in a home left behind. Watch as this Cuban American trendsetter gets the opportunity of a lifetime—to travel with her parents to Cuba, a country they left almost 50 years ago. The Search for Nicolita captures her quest to find a model to represent her Cuba-inspired line, but the real discovery comes from a place she’s never been. Pastport: Cuba unveils the mystery behind a country often misunderstood, and bridges the gap between family that left and those that stayed. The events that unfold are life changing.


For more information about PASTPORT: Cuba The Search for Nicolita, please visit www.sitv.com/pastport.

Cuba DocumentaryMeet the cast

Nicole Di Rocco

Like most kids, Nicole, 30, just wanted to fit in. She grew up in Irvine, an affluent city in Orange County, CA, and was one of only a handful of Latinas. She begged her mom not to speak Spanish when her friends were around, and it wasn’t until college that she started to embrace her roots. After getting a business degree from USC, Nicole launched Nicolita Caliente Swimwear with the allure of 1940s Cuba and the Latina figure as her inspiration. Her signature “no-pinch fit” bottoms offer more coverage on the hips and a heart-shaped backside. She recently debuted her 2011 collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Thais, Nicole’s Mother

Thais O’Bourke Biosca Sainz, 63, was destined to succeed. Born in Havana, Cuba to a well-known architect father who was a professor at the University of Havana, Thais was sent to a boarding school in Texas at 14. She dedicated her life to education, earning two undergraduate degrees and a master’s from Pepperdine. For 38 years, she worked as a teacher, bilingual coordinator, mentor and trainer. She met her husband, Xavier, in college while dancing at a Brazilian festival at UCLA. Now retired, she enjoys reading, dancing, and playing with her granddaughter Zoey Rose.

Xavier, Nicole’s Father

Xavier Sainz Gonzalez, 68, was born in Holguin, Cuba to a family of sugar cane and cattle farmers. He studied at the Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Havana until Castro came into power. He moved to Illinois and eventually got drafted into the Vietnam War. In 1966, he was honorably discharged and moved to Los Angeles, where he met the “love of his life.” He has a master’s degree in business administration and one in corporate real estate, and works as a senior financial broker.

Michelle, Nicole’s Sister

Michelle Sainz Maginnis, 35, was born in Torrance, CA and was always the artsy girl in class. She received a bachelor’s in advertising (with a minor in art) and for 10 years worked as an award-winning graphic designer and art director. She met her husband Kevin, who’s also an artist, on Match.com and the two married in Puerto Rico. She lives in Irvine, where she works from home as a freelance graphic designer, with her 8-month-old daughter Zoey Rose.

24 Responses to EMMY Nominated- Pastport: Cuba The Search for Nicolita

  1. Raquel says:

    I Just watched your documentary and balled thru most of it.
    It was one of the most beautiful, emotional, meaningful, & loving documentaries ever.
    Im so glad that your ignorant sorority sisters comment propelled you forward!
    Ive always wanted to visit Cuba and your documentary gave me a glimpse of why I must make that dream come true.
    Watching your parents relive old memories was amazing and so fulfilling. I was completely happy that you convinced them to return. Their joy became my joy. Im a cryer too so I totally empathized with your mom.
    Your extended Cuban family is so polite & welcoming. Just beautiful all the way around.
    I hope I get to meet you and your immediate family one day to tell you all THANK YOU so much for sharing your historic experience with the world and hug & shake all your hands.
    You’ve inspired me to trust that family history is truly important & a part of my life that I will continue to treasure & do my own further research as well.
    With love, love, love,
    Your new fan & customer,


  2. Angie says:

    I just finished watching your documentary not even ten minutes ago…..It was a very touching story…brought tears to my eyes to see what a wonderful gift u gave ur family and taking them to their homeland and having them relive all their memories and reunite with their families…It was awesome to see how long you have come with your company as well. love your fashion line….I wish you well on all your endeavours…Angie

  3. Yesenia says:

    Hi Nicole,
    i saw your program and i have to tell you it really moved me, i to an a Cuban-American born in LA and now in florida,every emotion and experiance you lived is just how i feel. I thank you for doing that Documentary it really hit home for me. Past all of the political oppression and the feeling of recentment from a lot of Cubans as your family and mine and many others had or feel, it all comes done to La Familia and being home, not finding your home in Cuba but, but taking that Cuba you found and making it your home. U ROCK!!!
    Thank you,
    Yesenia (Jessi)

  4. A. Reyes says:

    Hi Nicole
    I’m From Cuba, I just want to thank you for that documentary about your cuban roots, I came to america about 6 years ago and left my parents and my brother there, I really cried a lot, just pure tears, just the thought of my 5 month old son could do the same in the future just brings out the feeling of what is being far away from my homeland from where i grew up, my friends, is just too emotional for me, thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts, Adonis & Yumaika….a Cuban Family

  5. A. Rodriguez says:

    Thanks for the documentary about Cuba, it was very intense for me and helped me big time to think how important is family over all.

    -A. Rodriguez

  6. T. Ibarra says:

    Hola Nicolita,

    I just finished watching your documentary Passport: Nicolita and I just had to write and express my feelings to you about what a great documentary that was and how I related to that myself. I must admit, I knew absolutely nothing about you until I started watching the film and realized what you do and who you are. The real reason I was anxious to watch your film since the first day I saw the commercial for it was because I’ve always been intriqued by the mystery that is Cuba. We always only hear about it from other Cubans that have made it to the States like your parents and even those are few…….at least out in Los Angeles which is where I’m from. Therefore, to have an opportunity to watch a documentary on the country……..I knew I had to watch it!! I’ve always been in love with the endless history, art and the beautiful music such as The Buena Vista Social Club or Cubanisimo to name a few with singers like Omara Portuando and Puntillita! I think the day that I watched the movie Mambo Kings when I was younger was the day I fell in love with Cuban salsa and jazz, there’s just no comparison…. Being of Mexican decent, I can totally relate to how you and your family felt going back to their home land and discovering what the history of your photos was all about and, like you said over and over in the film, “making the pictures come to life”! All my life I have only known my parent’s childhood and upbringing through pictures and stories much like yourself, so for you to not only have gone there with your sister to make those pictures come true to life, but to have taken your mom and dad with you I think is the greatest gift any child can have and give to our parents!

    Your film overwhelmed me with emotion like no other film has done before and the great thing is that I also got to see “The real Cuba” which is what I originally wanted, so thank you for making the decision to go out there and find yourself and documenting the entire trip!!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for making my heart feel as big as I knew it was, but it’s been a while since someone has made it show itself lately and you have done that for me through your documentary………..THANK YOU!!

  7. Raul Villanueva says:

    Hi Nicole-

    I am a Cuban American also and was blessed to make the same journey as you did to see my roots and my culture my parents have instilled in me since I was a small boy. I too grew up with all the stories and pictures of the house in havana, the farm in Pinar Del Rio-(my great grandfathers tobacco plantation) I got to sit in my great grandfathers rocking chair ( which I met twice in 1984 and 1990 when they visited us in the states) I got to swim in the river my father swam in as a kid, ride horses go fishing, make a whole roast pork down by the river with all my cousins and family. I too felt I was finally home! I felt I was in a familiar place as if I was born there myself. I got so lost in it many extended family and friends that would come from neighboring “fincas” would say where is Raulito el Americano. When they would see me they would say “Ese no es Americano es parece Guajiro puro del monte” I have always felt (even though I grew up in the Southern California Surfing with all my Gringo friends) I was always a Guajiro at heart and when I arrived in Cuba at the age of 36 I understood why I am the way I am. Our genetic pool is strongly tied to that island.

    I made the journey with my Grandmother who throughout the years has always gone back to visit my great grandparents, her brothers , cousins, nieces, and friends. Unfortunately my parents have never returned after almost 40 years and I would like to take my next trip to Cuba with them and have them experience all the same things your parents experienced. I wanted to know if there is some way I can get a copy of the documentary to show them, so they may be moved to go back to there homeland and experience this with me and maybe even my brother and sister.

    If you have any information on how I can purchase a copy of your documentary it would be greatly appreciated. Also congratulations on your swimwear line it is beautiful ! The images shot for your line with the cuban models in Havana is breathtaking.

    Best wishes,

    Raul Villanueva
    (USC ROCKS!)

  8. Lourdes says:

    Hola Nicole,
    I saw you documentary last night. It was emotional. I myself being Cuban-America, understand what it feels like to visit your roots.. their conception of FAMILY is truly pure. I wish you all the luck in the world. I feel proud to see a fellow Cuban-American doing what you’re doing. Take Care. =)

  9. Jennifer Cawley says:

    Thanks so much for making this amazing documentary.
    I was glued to the screen for so many reasons.
    The history, the family, the beauty of the location, and the double story.
    I was moved by all the reuniting of the family, and I was fascinated to see the behind the sceens of Nicolita’s photoshoot.
    A touching and wonderful film!

  10. Anna B. says:

    Just watched your documentary, Past port: cuba. Huge fan!!!
    Love your swimwear line!

  11. Tony Arechiga says:

    hi Nicole I am Mexican-American I just watched your documentary it was awesome my next door neighbors are Cuban and they are wonderful I will share this experience with them. thank you

  12. I just watched the documentary and it reminded me the importance of honoring where we come from and who we are. That is where your inspiration, your creativity and sense of self sparks from. I am a Puerto Rican multimedia artist working on a new project and to watch this journey which embodied a stunning wisdom of human spirit has motivated and reinforced the concept of what I do and enjoy.
    Thanks Nicole for sharing not only your creative process but the great appreciation you have for your Papá & Mamá’s relevant and passionate upbringing in Cuba.
    Pepe Villegas

  13. I just watched the documentary and it reminded me the importance of honoring where we come from and who we are. That is where your inspiration, your creativity and sense of self sparks from. I am a Puerto Rican multimedia artist working on a new project and to watch this journey which embodied a stunning wisdom of human spirit has motivated and reinforced the concept of what I do and enjoy.
    Thanks Nicole for sharing not only your creative process but the great appreciation you have for your Papá & Mamá’s relevant and passionate upbringing in Cuba.
    Pepe Villegas

  14. Alexis Roig says:

    Hello Nicole,

    My good friend told me to watch your documentary in Cuba. I just recently went to Cuba for the first time on Labor Day weekend this year with my dad who was born there. I went to the country side and saw his house he grew up in. We saw relatives also. Everything is your documentary is everything I experienced and wanted to feel when I was there. We also spent a few days in Habana as well. I even meet the band you had at the end and bought their cd! I cried as well with you and saw the emotions your parents and you had! I had those same feelings and to know you are from such an amazing heritage is great that you get to share with you swim line! I’m in business and thing it’s great to see you go after this great business opportunity! I love the bathing suits and will support you!



  15. Nuria (Lopez) Ankney says:

    Hi Nicole,
    I just watched the documentary that my husband taped for me and I cried thru most all of it. I came from Cuba when I was 8 I’m now 50 and have always wanted to go back and visit my roots just like you did, and after watching your documentary I’m for sure going. My Familia is very important and so is my culture and I would love to walk the streets that I walked when I was a child so I too can go back to my childhood, with that I thank you so much for sharing your life with me.
    Nuria (Lopez) Ankney

    P.S. I would love to see some purses in your collection.

  16. Amanda Sainz says:

    Your documentary is wonderful. It gave me an insight to my husband’s culture and childhood stories. My husband and his family are also from Cuba. My husband has told me many times that the Sainz name is not a common one in Cuba. While watching your documentary, my husband and I were overwhelmed to see places where he grew up. My father-in-law also grew up on a farm in the area your father grew up. I was hoping to find out if our families are related. My father-in-law is 86 now. He left Cuba over 50 years ago, leaving behind everyone but a brother and sister. As with your father, this is a very sensitive topic in our house. We showed my father-in-law Cuba through Google Earth. He wept at the sight of his homeland that he can never visit again.
    Thank you,
    Amanda Sainz

  17. Jessica Mendez says:

    Dear Nicole,

    I came across a photo for the Nicolita campaign when I was googling for 1940s Havana style inspiration for my grad school end of year banquet, theme: Havana Nights. I was ecstatic about the theme as I had just visited Cuba for the first time 9 months prior with my now fiancé. Like one of the previous comments stated, it was as if I was returning home though it was my first visit. I grew up hearing the stories of life in Cuba from my father and my grandparents. Yet, I never imagined it would feel like a homecoming. We visited family and friends who took one look at my tan skin and said I fit right in. I marveled at the happy spirit of all the Cuban people I encountered despite their difficulties and I swelled with pride for my culture.

    My father’s grandmother was a successful business owner and made sure he went to the finest schools and made sure to help other family help themselves. He lived a happy childhood as he tells me. When Castro took over, he was sent at age 11 to the states on a Pedro Pan flight and didn’t see his parents for 7 years while he lived with a foster family in Washington state. Shortly after, his grandmother’s flower business and properties were seized. He was well cared for by the family that took him in and gained an additional family that he loves and still keeps in touch today with but I know it was hard for him. I can tell his heart breaks every time he thinks of the family he left behind and never saw again. His parents eventually came to the states and I was lucky enough to have them growing up. He has not returned in 50+ years. I hope to take him back in the very near future but with the interest Section closed in D.C., who knows when that will be. I want my father to return to his country and I would like to be there with him. I would like to share with him what you were able to share with your parents. Glad you made the trip.


  18. Clara Perez "BLATINA" says:

    I was flipping thru the channels Saturday morning and happen to come across your Passport show on Nuvo. Two things happened, one- I was late for my step class. Two, I couldn’t stop talking about it. I am Cuban American as well. The program brought back so many wonderful memories of my parents visiting family on the island.
    I wish you the best for your company. I believe in supporting my community, but my only regret is my fat tummy can’t fit into one of your tiny bikinis.

  19. Nicolita says:

    Thank you so much Clara for watching the documentary and spreading the word! It was a life changing experience for me and my family. Besitos, Nicolita

  20. Nicolita says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s beautiful! I really hope your father gets to watch the documentary and return to his Cuba one day. It is a tough thing for our parents to visit Cuba after leaving their lives behind their over 50 years ago. I completely respect each persons decision to visit or to NOT visit Cuba. That is why I wanted to film our trip back to Cuba and create the documentary. This way everyone could take that journey back with us without having to compromise their beliefs. I am so happy to hear that you got to visit and explore Cuba with your fiance. It truly does feel like a Homecoming! Besitos, Nicolita

  21. Nicolita says:

    Thank you so much Alexis!!!!! Sounds like you had an amazing trip back to Cuba!!!! I really appreciate all of your kind words and support. Hearing your response makes all of the hard work soooo worth it!!! Besitos, Nicolita

  22. Nicolita says:

    Hola Nuria!!!
    Thank you so much for watching the documentary. I’m so happy that you are now inspired to return to Cuba. That puts a HUGE smile on my face. Revisiting your childhood memories in Cuba will be INCREDIBLE. My parents and I have since returned to Cuba now 3 times together and each visit is even more incredible visiting new family and new cities. I wish you the best! Besitos, Nicolita

  23. Nicolita says:

    Hola Amanda!!
    Wow! I bet we are related in some way. Especially with your last name as SAINZ! My sister and I would always joke that whenever we would meet someone that was Cuban, that we were probably cousins or related in some way. lol I hope one day you can visit your husband’s childhood stories in Cuba and bring them to life again. All the best! Besitos, Nicolita

  24. Cylinda says:

    I watched your documentary and it made me cry.. I’m not Cuban, but the family story and your parents touched my heart.. What a blessing you and your family have been able to share…

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