De Armas, 31, who has Spanish grandparents, obtained a passport when she turned 18 and moved to Madrid with her life savings, which amounted to just about $170.
“I felt like I wanted more. I’ve always been very ambitious and I always knew I wanted something else," she told The Sun. “Of course, I didn’t know that 200 euros was nothing, because in Cuba it was a lot. It was what I had been saving from work as an actress. I told my parents that I’d be back when the money ran out. Of course, that didn’t happen — my money ran out in a week and I didn’t go back. It was the best decision I ever made.”
She explained, “I come from a modest family. We lived without luxuries, with the basics, just enough to eat every day and go to the beach some summers. Thanks to my parents’ honesty, I was always conscious of what we could and couldn’t have. My brother and I would go out into the street to play. We didn’t have phones or internet or even DVD players. Anything.”
De Armas said one reason she left Cuba is that she knew if she stayed, she would have had to take a menial job to pay for her nationally-funded education.
“I had to weigh the value of having a degree in my hands or leaving at that moment in search of my future. I always pay attention to my intuition — so I left," she said. “I left to try my luck. It could have turned out for the good or for the bad. I was gambling everything, but it was a risk I needed to take. I had there, in front of my eyes, former students of the school, graduates who were not working or who didn’t have any money because they had to perform social service."
“I would turn on the television there and see nothing more than old reruns of soap operas or things produced by the [state broadcaster] Cuban Institute of Radio and Television that were of poor quality, due to the low budgets,” she said.
It was a smart move: de Armas became a star in Spain after getting cast in thriller "El Internado." Stateside, she's appeared in "Bladerunner 2049" and "War Dogs." She'll also star as Paloma in the upcoming "Bond 25."