Santana Dempsey


Current state: California

Occupation and/or Title: Actor


I am mixed race and adopted.  My birth father was Afro Latino. We were
told he was from Puerto Rico and Spanish was his first language. My
birth mother was Caucasian.  I was born in Dallas, Texas but raised in
Hannibal, Missouri.  I was adopted at the age of six out of foster care
with my biological sister to two white lawyers .  Growing up in Hannibal
was difficult because besides my sister no one looked like us. There
were no Latinos anywhere. I barely saw anyone even on T.V. that looked
like me. I don’t even know if I knew what that meant…to be Latina.
It was pretty much a black and white world where I grew up and anyone in
the middle had to choose to identify as either white or black. It was
pretty confusing. Though, I always challenged the system never accepting
that I had to choose either or. I studied abroad in Buenos Aires,
Argentina my senior year in High School to learn Spanish and find more
of my roots. Honestly, I needed to escape the midwest and see the world.
It wasn’t until I moved to NYC on my own did I really discover who I
am.  It was the first time I’d lived in a place where I felt I
belonged.  It especially helped living in a city with so many Puerto
Ricans and Dominicans that I could identify with and learn from.

I’m the kind of woman who loves a challenge.  I am independent to a
fault sometimes rarely asking for help, believing I can conquer it all
on my own. I also love to write, dance and do anything athletic. I am an
adoption advocate and have worked with several different non profit
organizations to bring awareness to adoption. Especially transracial
adoption. I recently had a short story published in “The Beiging of
America” about my foster care experience.

Although, I didn’t grow up listening to cumbia, salsa nor bomba y
plena rather musicals and the Beatles, I’ve realized there are some
things I didn’t need to be taught.  The moment I heard those african
drums and latin beats when I was younger, my body already knew exactly
how to move to the music. Almost like it was inside of me all along.

What have been your struggles as a Latina?

My biggest struggle as a Latina has been never feeling I am Latina
enough.  I don’t speak Spanish fluently.  I didn’t grown up in an
authentic hispanic home where my parents prepared traditional Puerto
Rican meals nor told me the history of our people. Our family.  Our
culture. I’ve had to learn all of this on my own. Plus, being
afro-latina comes with a stigma too that I always fight against. I find
It has been through the learning where I have found my strength and
identity but my story looks different than most Latinas I know. I always
find myself trying to blend the best I can but never quite feeling fully
accepted just as I am.

What does Latina Made mean to you?

To me, Latina Made means being proud – proud of Latinas as a collective, proud of yourself as a Latin woman. It means celebrating the success of ALL Latinas and the women who made them. It means instilling that sense of pride in the next generation of Latinas and the generations to come.

What made you who you are today?

My differences.  My otherness have made me who I am.  They have taught
me to fight for myself even if no one else is fighting for me.  They
have shown me the importance of standing up for others in need.  To be
an ally.  An advocate.  To have compassion for everyone because we all
have a story.  To know my worth.  To find my own truth and never
compromise.  My differences are my greatest asset and how I came to be
who I am.

What advice would you give to young Latinas in our community?

Never allow anyone to tell you who you are suppose to be.  Never.  That
is not their decision.  Not even your family.  It is yours alone.  You
are enough exactly as you are.  I promise you.  When people are mean to
you, it is simply because they don’t understand your greatness.  That
is not your problem.  You keep doing you.  You keep moving forward.  You
keep loving you and never for an instance think you aren’t worthy of
love and your dreams.


  1. Oh wow . . . This is superb. What a real treT to read. I loved it so much . . . Truly! Thank you for sending it! Hugs to you Santana, much love, liz


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