There are so many things that I set out to do when I left Puerto Rico to come to the US at almost 22 years old. I have been so fortunate to accomplish them or be on my way to doing so. Not everything has been easy. On the contrary, the journey has come with many bumps, but I appreciate all of the opportunities given to me. I say thank you on a daily basis for the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's called life, wisdom, and God's way to teach us how to be real people and be present.
When I left the island, my father made it very clear to me not to ever ask for a penny. He wasn't too proud that I didn't finish my college degree to pursue the unknown: to be an actress. A few years later, almost 16 years ago, I did Rush Hour 2. The premiere of the movie in Hollywood was an enormous event full of megastars and hundreds and hundreds of fans. My mom, dad, and three brothers all came for the occasion.
Seeing my father's face beaming with pride is a memory I will always treasure. At least, I believed that my dreams had actually come true, that I could make a living doing what I loved. The fact that I got to play a strong, educated, and smart Latina character made it even more special.
Years later, a huge opportunity came my way to host the Miss USA pageant. It was an event I was very much looking forward to being a part of, and I appreciated the opportunity very much. But after the current president's remarks about Mexicans in this country, I stood up for my beliefs and supported my fellow Latinos by pulling out of my hosting job. After hearing those horrific words, I had to take an immediate stance. It was the right thing to do.
I'm the mom of a wonderful biracial little girl and a baby boy on the way. To be able to be a hands-on Latina mom while still pursuing my goals and working hard toward them makes me thrive both as a Latina woman and as an example to my daughter. Teaching her to embrace both of her cultures and to fall in love with being biracial and bilingual is a priority for me. When she walks into her adulthood feeling pride, respect, and admiration for who she is and where she comes from, that will be my proudest moment.