Mauricio and I met many years ago in San José at an event he headed up for his charity. We hit it off and our hearts connected right away. Over the years we have worked together on helping the children get what they need. One year, Mauricio took my wife, Lisa, and me to a village in Puntarenas, where the outpouring of love from that community was something I had never felt before. I will always support his causes and look forward to doing a lot of work with him in Costa Rica and the world. He is a very special man. Much love to you, Mauricio, for showing us all how to love.
— Ronnie King
Oscar- and Grammy-nominated producer, composer,
arranger, musician and activist
The cost of that success was the pura vida that his loving mother and his homeland had instilled in him.
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Local Puntarenas boy goes off, becomes famous and sees the world, but somehow loses his way. Ultimately, he returns home to finish what his mother started many years ago. This is a story about Mauricio Amuy, his Hollywood adventures and successes, and pitfalls … and eventually, how pura vida saved him.
Mauricio Amuy was the typical Tico boy, growing up in the 70s in a poor but close-knit family in the beach town of Puntarenas on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Early on, Mauricio’s life was imprinted with the vibrant spirit of pura vida and the sense of connection and togetherness that comes with it. These traditional Costa Rica values were in long supply in the Amuy household, led by the shining example of Mauricio’s mother, Daisy Tenorio. Both of his parents would shape Mauricio’s childhood, but it was Daisy who would shape his salvation.
Mauricio’s rise to prominence is both amazing and well documented, but his fame is not the point here. What he’s doing with it is the point. At a young age, it was clear he was blessed with exotic good looks. His dark — almost Asian — features, combined with his Latin heritage, made him a striking figure to be sure. Understandably, this garnered interest from local modeling talent scouts. But Mauricio was aiming higher and sought representation by Wilhelmina in New York and Glenda Models in Mexico. These reputable agencies quickly filled his time modeling high fashion for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, Prada and Helen Yarmak among others.
This success as a model led to Mauricio’s interest in acting, so off he went to New York when he got a part in the Spider-Man movie as the lead actor’s body double. This was not the kind of acting job he had hoped for, but it was a start and helped pay the bills. The accidental death waiver he had to sign was disconcerting to him, but at least it cured his fear of heights.
With his first acting job under his belt and no real screen time to show for it, Amuy wanted more … he wanted to be a real actor. So he got busy and studied for four years on Broadway to expand his experience, skills and opportunities. He landed roles in Spider-Man 2 and Sex and the City, and worked with the likes of Jason Alexander and Vivica A. Fox. He even landed a leading role in Mel Gibson’s 2006 project Apocalypto. Things were going great for this home town Tico boy who was out in the world making a name for himself.
But something was missing. Mauricio felt good about his success, but he also had a looming feeling that he had missed his calling. The seeds of this notion were planted when his mother flew up from Costa Rica to visit him in New York many years ago. Anxious to show off a bit, and to treat his dear mother to a gourmet dinner in the world’s greatest city, Mauricio was taken aback by her reaction. Though she was very proud of her boy and accomplishments, she balked at the overt excess of the “American” lifestyle he had adopted. It was not a contentious subject, but just a conversation over the course of the evening with his mother that made Mauricio realize he had been slowly disconnecting from his Costa Rica roots.
“I taught you pura vida, and now you have lost your way,” she suggested. He did not know it yet, but this moment would trigger the next phase of Mauricio’s life.
Over the years, though Mauricio’s lifestyle was indeed fulfilling and exciting, the hankering feeling that something was missing kept gnawing at him. And memories of that New York dinner conversation with his mother continued to echo in his head.
“I have lost my way,” he would admit only to himself. “But how? Why?” He thought about his mother, his father and everyone in his family growing up — how close they were, how happy and giving they were, without two nickels to rub together. He recalled his mother constantly giving her time to help orphans and others in the community and always making sure she took young Mauricio with her.
Though his success had provided him with an amazing life that few get to realize, the cost of that success was the pura vida that his loving mother and his homeland had instilled in him. He had lived in some of the world’s greatest places, such as London, New York, Mexico, Argentina and Peru. But only one had pura vida; his home of homes, Costa Rica.
Mauricio continued to work, but in 2005, the acting roles were drying up, and his mother’s untimely passing triggered introspection that led to depression. Something had to change.
He would remember his mother’s joyful words, “How do you know you’re in love? You don’t … you just are! It’s the exact same with pura vida!” And out of that darkness came inspiration. It was time to make a move.
Mauricio decided to revert back to the values that made him who he is today. Kindness, giving, empathy … these philanthropic values were instilled by his mother and his homeland at a young age. And now, Mauricio needed to give back.
He started in New York, when he got involved with the Toys R Us Children’s Fund for a few years. That proved to be very gratifying and helped him rise above his depression. He mustered up the bravery to apply for — and got accepted in — one of the world’s most renowned and successful modeling agencies, Wilhelmina Models.
This promised to keep Mauricio busy and well fed, and with that security, he wasted no time in moving to Mexico where he could continue to work, but more importantly, realize his life’s passion. It was then that Mauricio started his own foundation, Arms of Love.
Of his foundation, Mauricio proudly states, “We are people of God, but do not believe in religion. We are all connected to the universe and we are here to love and help each other. Our passion is to bring love and care to needy children anywhere they are in great need.”
This is the exact philanthropic spirit that was instilled in him by his mother at a young age. “We expanded our reach and our services,” states Mauricio, “with mental, psychological counseling for women and young mothers.”
The Arms of Love Foundation was a smashing success at this point, opening permanent offices in Mexico and Costa Rica. In 14 years, it has managed to reach and positively affect the lives of 38,000 needy children here in Central America.
“I admit, I had the big head of a supermodel,” Mauricio recalls. “I enjoyed success, but had clearly lost my way. I let the pura vida escape me while I was enjoying my fame, but everything changed and things became clear that night at dinner with my mother in New York. She reminded me I am not an actor, or a model; that is simply what I do. Acting and modeling is part of my life, but the foundation IS my life, and it’s important to have balance.”
Mauricio continues, “What I am right now is the best version of me I can be. And that’s my ‘job’ in life — to bring light everywhere I go. Promote being peaceful, forgiveness, love. I found that if you want to receive, you must first give.”
This life strategy paid off in spades, as Mauricio has never been happier in his skin than he is right now. After his father recently passed away, he realized he’d come full circle from where he started years ago and was finally at one with himself. He would mourn his father’s passing, but there would be no introspection, and no depression this time. He had finally become the man his parents raised him to be, and it was far more gratifying than the money and fame that came with his day job.
These days, Mauricio continues to focus on his foundation, but he’s also back in the swing of things at work, just recently completing a new photoshoot and deeply involved with the movie production Droga, filmed here in Costa Rica. The Amuy engine is firing on all cylinders now, and the sky is the limit. He just got exclusively signed by Imossi Management/Imossi Celebrity Management, based in London. Imossi is widely regarded as the most famous agency in Europe for actors, models and celebrities. So now he is ready to conquer Europe and the world!
His reconnection with Costa Rica, his homeland and his roots were his salvation, to the benefit of tens of thousands of needy children. This fact buoys Mauricio’s resolve to connect with the world around him while staying firmly rooted in his Costa Rica heritage. And that resolve led to him being selected by the Humanitarian Political Party PASE founder and congressman Oscar Lopez, to run for Congress in Costa Rica’s next Presidential Elections in February of 2022.
“I’ve lived in many great places and seen amazing things. But they all made me realize that Costa Rica stands above them all. The culture, the people… they are connected with the land and each other like few places I’ve ever been. People today rarely look deeper than the surface in their daily interactions, but I believe face-to-face interaction provides a window to the soul, making every relationship special and meaningful. And the soul of Costa Rica is in our people, it’s in our forests, it’s in our mountains, our oceans, our culture and our hearts. We are pura vida!”