For Zoe Saldana, there’s no going forward without honoring the past.

“By doing so,” she explains, “You are acknowledging where your parents and their parents came from. In a way, you are memorizing the steps it took in order for you to get to the point in which you stand today.”

Finding a foothold

Born to a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican father, Saldana says the culture has “given me so much happiness throughout my life.

“From my music, to the food, to hearing my mom speak Spanish, memories of my dad—it is everything that I am, and I am proud of who I am,” she says. Saldana’s father was killed in auto accident when she was 9.

“Whether or not you have a direct connection to your native land, this link has an imprint. It will be part of the footprints you leave behind on this earth.”

Along with her husband, Italian artist Marco Perego, the 37-year-old actress intends to share that legacy with her eight-month old twins, Cy and Bowie. She mentions preparing family recipes for her children that still give her comfort.

“Well, only if they like it,” Saldana is quick to add. “There are still some dishes from the Dominican Republic that I don’t like and my mom still makes them for me.” And if there is one tradition that’s been passed down, she says, it’s a word of advice from her great-grandmother: “A lady never gossips.”

 Finding a place on film

While she embraces her roots, Saldana has expectations for Hollywood. “I cannot wait for the day that Latinos, along with so many other cultures, are portrayed on film due to their skills and not by their race or stereotypes.” Off-screen, she encourages Latinos to learn more about their backgrounds.

“Whether or not you have a direct connection to your native land, this link has an imprint,” she says. “It will be part of the footprints you leave behind on this earth.”