Esmeralda Santiago

Essayist, award-winning screenwriter, and author of the bestselling novel Conquistadora

  • About Esmeralda Santiago

    Born in Puerto Rico, Esmeralda Santiago came to the United States at thirteen, the eldest in a family that would eventually include eleven children. Santiago attended New York City’s Performing Arts High School, where she majored in drama and dance. After eight years of part-time study at community colleges, she transferred to Harvard University with a full scholarship. Santiago graduated magna cum laude in 1976. In 1977, she and her husband, Frank Cantor, founded CANTOMEDIA, a film and media production company that has won numerous awards for excellence in documentary filmmaking.

    An engaging and sought-after speaker, Santiago captures the attention of a variety of audiences. She has spoken at a number of notable corporations such as Citibank, at the Smithsonian Institution, and the University of Puerto Rico’s centennial celebration. She has also spoken at a number of highly regarded universities, including Harvard, Cornell, and American University.

    Santiago’s writing career evolved from her work as a producer/writer of documentary and educational films. Her essays and opinion pieces have run in publications such as The New York TimesThe Boston GlobeHouse & Garden, and Sports Illustrated. Santiago’s first book, the memoir When I Was Puerto Rican, was hailed by critics. Her other books include América’s DreamThe Turkish Lover, and Almost a Woman, a memoir that Santiago adapted into a film for PBS Masterpiece Theatre which was subsequently awarded a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.

    Beyond her literary endeavors, Santiago is an active volunteer. Her involvement in the community includes speaking on behalf of public libraries, designing and developing community-based programs for adolescents, and co-founding a shelter for battered women and their children.

  • Speaking Topics

    Creating a Life

    Approachable and sympathetic, Santiago engages audiences as she weaves stories from her eclectic life. She tells about how she learned English, her years of part-time study in community colleges, her transfer to and graduation from Harvard University, years as a small business owner, and her rise as an author of powerful, life-affirming memoirs and novels. Santiago's Q&A sessions often bring testimony from listeners. Laughter and tears commingle in her inspirational presentations.

    Stroke by Stroke

    Santiago was in the middle of writing her latest, and most challenging work, Conquistadora, when she had a stroke that left her unable to comprehend what she read or wrote. In this moving presentation, Santiago describes how, on her own, she re-learned to read and write in English and in Spanish so that she could finish her book.

    Categories: Diverse Voices
  • Video

  • Praise for Esmeralda Santiago

    Praise for Conquistadora

    Santiago’s storytelling is thrilling. . . . Conquistadora is a triumph.

    The Washington Post

    An author in full command. . . . In Santiago’s hands, Ana is a woman to remember and Puerto Rico a country to cherish.

    The Miami Herald
  • Books by Esmeralda Santiago

  • Media About Esmeralda Santiago

Request Fees
and Availability

  • 212 572-2013
  • Esmeralda Santiago travels from New York, NY

Similar Speakers

Jacqueline Woodson

National Book Award and four-time Newbery Honor Winner, bestselling author of Brown Girl Dreaming

Isabel Wilkerson

Pulitzer Prize Winner and author of the critically acclaimed bestseller, The Warmth of Other Suns