The seaside park scenes showing wrought-iron fences were shot in the Parque de Palomas (Pigeon Park) in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, while the black and white film the character of Dizzy shoots is actually footage of Havana, Cuba.
Arturo Sandoval and Dizzy Gillespie did in fact perform together as depicted in the film and it was Gillespie who helped Sandoval and his family defect and the adjustment to being in the United States soon after.
Paquito D'Rivera (played in the film by Jose Zuniga), was one of the first members of Irekire (D'Rivera and Sandoval's band in Cuba) to defect. After his defection, he was signed to a record deal with Columbia Records.
Arturo Sandoval defected after Paquito D'Rivera, his former band-mate, had done so years prior and had signed a record contract with Columbia Records. Sandoval then was signed by GRP Records in 1990, who were at the time owned by Academy Award Winning Composer Dave Grusin and his Producing partner Larry Rosen to a contract at the suggestion of Dizzy Gillespie, Sandoval's inspiration as a musician and who also had an album produced by the label six years earlier.