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Why Actress Roselyn Sánchez Is Filled With Puerto Rican Pride

Last month, Roselyn Sánchez, the Puerto Rican actress known for her roles in “Grand Hotel” and “Without a Trace,” felt an overwhelming sense of pride in Puerto Rico. On July 22, she watched as thousands of protestors took to San Juan’s streets to demonstrate against the government’s corruption and poor management. “The entire country — regardless of your social class, your political belief, your age — decided to go to the streets and demand respect and transparency,” Sánchez said. “It was such a testament to our spirit, [and] how clever and creative we are. We united and it was a beautiful thing to watch.”

Making the leap

Sánchez was born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States when she was almost 22 years old. Though she’s lived in the contiguous United States for more than half her life, she still feels an undying love for Puerto Rico and its culture. “I honor my heritage every single day through the upbringing of my kids,” she said. “I love telling them that Puerto Rico is home. ‘You are a biracial child; you are going to be fully bilingual.’ That’s very important to me that they speak perfect Spanish so when they go to the island they’re comfortable talking to their family.”

Sánchez made her first appearance on American television in “As the World Turns.” With a career in television spanning nearly 25 years, Sánchez is proud to have brought her Hispanic heritage to many different roles. “I’ve been a teacher, I’ve been a lawyer, I’ve been a cop,” she said, “I’ve done it all.”

Out of many, one

In her current role as Gigi Mendoza on the ABC series “Grand Hotel,” Sánchez feels her character is challenging stereotypes for Puerto Rican women. “That role is like a dream come true,” she said. “She’s the one in charge, she’s fearless, she’s super intelligent. She’s just an amazing character — challenging, difficult, complicated — and I’ve had a blast playing her.”

Photo: Courtesy of Keidy Moreno

Sánchez particularly enjoys seeing the telenovela format proliferating on American television. “The telenovela framework is becoming really important in mainstream success in the U.S.,” she said, listing “Jane the Virgin” and her own “Grand Hotel” as examples of successful American telenovelas.

Despite her success, Sánchez still feels she is sometimes pigeonholed because of her heritage. “This town is very closed-minded,” she said of her hometown Los Angeles, “so people get a perception of who you are, and that has happened to me. But I don’t let it stop me.”

Pushing forward

Sánchez champions diversity in entertainment on the other side of the camera as well. This year she wrote and directed her own short film “SATOS,” filmed in Puerto Rico. “I… [had] been entertaining the thought of directing but I was honestly scared because I’ve never done it before,” she said. But her desire to tell Puerto Rican stories, with an entirely Puerto Rican cast, cemented her passion for the job. “I loved it and I believe I have a jewel of a film, so I’m very excited.”

After the success of the Puerto Rican protests last month, and with Hispanic Heritage month approaching, Sánchez is excited to see how Puerto Rican pride continues to flourish. But her pride isn’t confined to one month out of the year. Sánchez celebrates her Hispanic heritage year-round. “I do it by living my life in a very respectful way,” she said, “to serve as an inspiration to all those young Latinas and Puerto Rican girls that see me as a testament that you can do it. You can leave the country and succeed and work hard and have a clear goal as a Hispanic. I’m making it happen.”

Ross Elliott, [email protected]

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