Latin Times Magazine had the pleasure of catching up with Marilyn Santiago recently, Marilyn is one of our 2019 Latina Movers N Shakers! Latin Times Magazine: What part of Florida do you live in – are you from Florida? If not – what brought you to Florida?
Marilyn Santiago: I live in Fort Myers, FL since February 2016, however, my first stop in the Sunshine State, was back in 2003 when I moved to Miami to avoid contact with my ex-husband after many years of domestic violence in Chicago. Florida became my safe haven. I have lived in paradise for the past 16 years.
LTM: Tell us about where you were born and raised and where your family is from
Marilyn Santiago: I am originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, La Perla del Sur! My family was originally from a small-town west of Ponce, called Peñuelas (a beautiful town full of mountains, creeks and caves. They had businesses there, but decided to move to Ponce in the late 1940’s.
LTM: Tell me about what you do for a living
Marilyn Santiago: We own a manufacturing facility in the city of Fort Myers. It is called Creative Architectural Resin Products, Inc. (CARP). We proudly design and manufacture architectural elements made out of strong, lightweight, convenient polyresin. We replicate wood and stone and we make amazing faux wood beams, panels, shutters, brackets and other custom products.
LTM: Tell me about what organizations you are a part of
Marilyn Santiago: I get involved with non-profit organizations that help the underdogs. The bullied the survivors of domestic violence, children in vulnerable situations and women empowerment. I am currently or recently involved with The New York Puerto Rican Day Parade, National Association of Women in Construction, Indigo Sky Collective, KKIDS, Dress for Success and hopefully soon will be helping with Blessings in a Backpack, and My Autism Connection.
LTM: Tell us about the biggest highlights of your career
Marilyn Santiago: Throughout my professional life, I have been blessed by being recognized for my job, via awards, ratings and recognitions. For example, I was named “Program Director of the Year”, by now Univision Radio. I was part of the Elite “Women in Music”, by Billboard Magazine and the Hispanic Leadership Award for mentoring youth talent and my contributions to the U.S. media and entertainment industry, among others. But nowadays, I can proudly say that being paid for providing a product or service that I created, developed or strategized, is indeed the first highlight in my career. I was able to live out of something that I brought to light!
LTM: As a Latina leader in community, business or other…what has been your biggest challenge and how have you been able to overcome it
Marilyn Santiago: My biggest challenges have been Intimidation and credibility. People either felt intimidated with my presence, tone or power or others didn’t believe what I expressed for not fitting their “normal“ profile. So before making a point, I had to prove myself to be heard. It got annoying with time.
LTM: How important is being a Latina to you
Marilyn Santiago: I embrace being a Latina. I see special qualities in us that I really like in people. However, it becomes very challenging as we find us proving ourselves for being women and also for being a Latina. We learn the lessons that life throws at us. We are passionate and loyal and in business, we are currently the largest demographic owners of small businesses yay!!!
LTM: IF you can go back to let’s say 18-21, what are some of the pivotal decisions that you have made that you would do differently
Marilyn Santiago: I think that I would not have changed my pivotal decisions, because I like where I am at in life and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize it. The scars I gathered all this year’s came with lessons that transformed me in the person I am right now and I don’t want to think of myself been any other way.
However, I would focus. Listen more. Not take anything for granted…
One thing I would have done, I would have definitely spent more time with my mother. I didn’t know those were going to be her last years and knowing now how much I miss her I would have made sure we created more memories…
LTM: What do you think some of the best career choices are for young Latinas. Marilyn Santiago: Careers in the medical field, media or the new industries that will be born in the next years. The important thing that they need to understand is that no matter what is it they want to do, either in school, online, youtube, self-teaching etc, Prepare yourself. Educate yourself.
LTM: Tell us about what kind of projects you currently have going on
Marilyn Santiago: I am growing my business, enhancing our production capabilities, acquiring more equipment and increasing our product lines. We are in a crossroad of our careers, of our business… experiencing growing pains, learning and enjoying the ride!
LTM: What can we expect to see from you in the future
Marilyn Santiago: For what I have seen in me all this time, you will see me always challenging myself, being inquisitive and curious and making sure I leave everybody that passes through my life feeling better with themselves.
LTM: What is your comida favorita
Marilyn Santiago: I have many favs, from Puerto Rican Mofongo, mampostiao’ and chuletas can can, to carapulcra from Peru. I love French cuisine and try to avoid Italian, for obvious reasons. In general, I find myself interested in new flavors, from all over.
LTM: What is your favorite type of musica and what is your favorite song? Marilyn Santiago: I enjoy most kinds of music, world music, house mashups, salsa, baladas viejitas, but I love rock and roll!!! It’s funny because most of my adult life I was managing tropical radio stations. I learned salsa with Ruben Blades and Tite Cutet Alonso inside a music studio. They taught me so much about tropical rhythms and to make matters worse, I never learned how to dance…
LTM: What famous person do you most identify with and why.
Marilyn Santiago: There are many: from Maya Angelou, The Dalai Lama, Oprah to Malala. I try to absorb the good out of not only famous people but everybody.
LTM: What did I miss? Tell me something you want us to know!
Marilyn Santiago: Spent most of my life involved in different areas of the Entertainment industry. I held many executive positions in the US Hispanic radio and OOH advertising industries. I was agent for many artists and celebrities and connected them with national brands.