My guest Lisa Santiago McNeill is a third generation Latin American, Puerto Rican, and Bahamian who thought for many years that she was Dominican and Bahamian! As the offspring of immigrants, Lisa describes her younger years as being part of a multicultural family in which she had to adapt to her black / Bahamian side of the family not speaking any Spanish while her Puerto Rican side – or at least her grandmother – spoke no English !
As the Coaches Coach , Lisa wears many hats as a Pastor, Author, Speaker, Visionary and podcaster!
Equipping women for the NEXT DIMENSION of their journey is one of her many passions!
Listen to her fascinating story as she weaves through the different cultures.
I was actually growing up in New York city, which is such a hodgepodge, a high, of so many different ethnicities that …..It’s almost normal to be an immigrant in New York city.
Paula: [00:00:00] Welcome to Chatting Wth The Experts, a podcast for immigrant women from Nigeria, Ghana, and the Caribbean who have relocated to the UK and the US . In this podcast. We talk about the struggles, but we highlight the triumphs, experience while sharing resources and experiences that fellow immigrant sisters can benefit from . But sometimes I turn things around or shake things up and do something different. And so today I’m doing something different. My guest today is a Caribbean Afro, – am I describing you right as an Afro Caribbean sister?
Lisa: [00:00:45] Afro Latina .
Paula: [00:00:46] Afro Latina. I knew she would say it. Afro Latina sister, Lisa Santiago
Santiago McNeill, who lives and works in North Carolina in Charlotte, North Carolina. She didn’t always live there and today we are going to be talking about some things that make her unique. Typically I have a bio, but this time I’m going to change things around, like I said, and I’m going to let her, that is Lisa, give us her bio.
So over to you Lisa.
Lisa: [00:01:25] Thank you so much and thank you so much for having me, Paula, I’m looking forward to sharing with your audience. I am Lisa Santiago McNeil. I am the Coaches Coach. My background is Latin American, Puerto Rican, and Bahamian . From the United States, I was born here, but my father is from Puerto Rico, which is a colony of the United States and my grandfather is from The Bahamas in the islands, the wonderful islands of Bahamas. And I am a publisher and a storyteller and I help others to tell their stories so that they can impact the world with what they’ve learned and help them to learn it better.
Paula: [00:02:11] All right. So you’re not a immigrant per se, but you are the offspring of immigrants.
Lisa: [00:02:17] Absolutely. So I’m a descendant
Paula: [00:02:20] Descendants of immigrants.
Second, third generation. Ah, I always get confused.
Lisa: [00:02:26] I would be third generation because my grandfather, my mother is second. Her mother is first and I’m the third.
Paula: [00:02:35] Got it. Got it. We’re going to be talking about your perspective as being a third generation immigrant, because I know like my children tell me all the time that “ mom, we went to school and we were American and we came home and you guys were not American.”
That’s my husband and myself. And so it was always like a, almost a yo-yo. And so I know that you probably can relate to some of that. So can you tell us about that?
Lisa: [00:02:59] Absolutely. I can relate to that. In my younger years coming growing up in a very American, particularly in the black side of my family, all English speaking very American, but on the Puerto Rican side of my family, the grandmother that was in the household, she didn’t speak any English at all.
And she didn’t cook any American food. And my American side of the family didn’t teach any Spanish. They didn’t embrace it. I don’t even know how the whole family got together to be quite honest, but it did make it challenging. It made it very interesting. I might also note that. What kind of level things out was that I was actually growing up in New York city, which is such a hodgepodge, a high, of so many different ethnicities that.
It’s almost normal to be an immigrant in New York city.
Paula: [00:03:55] That’s true. That’s true. Yeah. It’s just interesting. So the black side of the family spoke no Spanish and the Puerto Rican side of the family spoken no well your grandma spoke, spoke no English
Lisa: [00:04:07] Spoke no English.
Paula: [00:04:09] So how did you.. So you were bouncing around two cultures embedded in the United States.
Lisa: [00:04:15] Yes, absolutely and learning and picking up as you go. Children learn from immersion and so you learn your languages and you learn how to get what you need. You learn your basics, but it really was a matter of just you, you became wherever you were at the moment.
So whoever I needed to be was who I was.
Paula: [00:04:38] So talking a little bit about that. I think it was you who told me that you thought you were from Dominica, the Dominican Republic.
Lisa: [00:04:46] Yes. Another one of those issues that has to do with not speaking the same language. So with Spanish, we think Spanish is all the same.
We are Brown, Spanish, we’re darker complected. Puerto Ricans now that I know, but I didn’t know then at the time . All of my friends were Dominican and they looked like me and were Brown complected and I just thought I was Dominican too, until I found out that I wasn’t. And that was interesting because there’s a division between.
Puerto Rican and Dominican. There’s an actually an unspoken and sometimes spoken very big rivalry between the two, if you will. And so I think I spent probably the early part of my teens, like in war with the Puerto Ricans until I found out later. Dumb!! You are Puerto Rican.
Paula: [00:05:48] How did that make you feel? I’m just trying to imagine that. Okay.
Lisa: [00:05:53] Okay. Conflicted. It made me feel conflicted. It also made me feel Irrational. It made me realize how irrational it was to have a distrust or a distaste for an entire race of people, simply based upon where they happen to emerge from because when you find out you’ve been putting, you’ve been putting down an entire race of people for where they come from and then guess what? You’re from there!
Isn’t that ironic?
Lisa: [00:06:24] And absolutely as believing that, so one of the big disparagement between Puerto Rican and Dominican was that the Dominican’s had a country, right? So that’s what made us better. We had a country, the Puerto Ricans didn’t have a country anymore.
They were a part of the United States. So that. In our minds, we use that to be better than them got but again. I’m Puerto Rican.
Paula: [00:06:53] But it’s so funny because I think back a lot of immigrants go through so much to come to the United States. They wish that the their countries were in some way associated with the United States.
So it’d be easier to get a visa. And then there you are having Puerto Rico saying. We’re not a country anymore. We’re part of the United States.
Lisa: [00:07:14] Exactly.
Paula: [00:07:15] And some of the other Caribbean islands are like, just give us that because they want to be in
Lisa: [00:07:20] But it’s ridiculous. And, but then it also became part of part of a history lesson that I’m still actually learning because Puerto Rico, although it is a colony of the United States if you are on the Puerto Rican Island, you don’t have many of the rights that the Americans have.
You can’t vote in the elections. Things are very different. You can, however, come to the mother continent, to the mother country, to United States proper and have all of the benefits and none of the beauty of Puerto Rico.
So you could come, you can come to the U S but then you have to leave that beautiful Island. Yes.
Paula: [00:08:02] Yes. I have a a friend on Instagram who lives in Puerto Rico and she shares some beautiful pictures of the beach nearly every morning or the sunset. And I’m like, ah, I just want to be back in the Caribbean.
But then when I go home to the Caribbean, I miss the United States. Yes. I miss some of the amenities. Stores are open here 24/7. So I know, oh if I forgot this thing, I can go to the store and pick this up. The little things I missed that make Grenada, but at the same time, I wish they had imported or had some of the American – more of the American influence, so I guess it is a question of the grass is always greener on the other side.
Lisa: [00:08:45] I think that’s really what it is. I think that we find something to envy or desire from something else in everything, even in the most beautiful things.
Paula: [00:08:55] Yes. So true. So true. Third generation American what made your grandparents come?
What made your Bahamian grandfather come here? Any particular thing? Was he looking for better opportunities?
Lisa: [00:09:10] No, my no, not at all my Bahamian grandfather. And he’s still alive. He’s 87. He he actually. Is what you would consider a wanderer. He’s lived on five continents.
Paula: [00:09:27] Wow.
Lisa: [00:09:27] Including in the middle of an ocean, like just lives in the ocean.
Yeah. He’s a traveler. And he just. It was just another place to conquer to come and conquer. He’s left children on all of those contents.
Okay. And I found I actually found my grandfather, I don’t suppose he was lost, but he wasn’t on the States when I was growing up. He was not in the States. He was in another country. And so I met with him for the, I want to say for the first time, last year. We met face time we met through FaceTime.
My mother had found him because again, he’s, he goes, he literally goes all the time. Now he’s grounded. As he’s older, a bit older, he actually believes that being grounded right now is contributing to some of his Libido health energy, because he says I got to live in a box.
They’re making me live in a box or somebody has to take care of him now, he’s getting older. But he actually, I believe that even though he wasn’t directly involved in my upbringing, I believe that I got a lot of my free thinking from him and a lot of my creativity from him and my grandmother, both, but he’s just not to be contained. And I think some of that comes from the Bahamian background as well. The love of outdoors, the love of beauty and nature. Know, yes. Those bits of times that we spent sharing together over the past year, he emphasized so much the importance of being outside, like your feet in the dirt, like being outside.
And I think that’s something that maybe my American Family doesn’t embrace the same way.
Paula: [00:11:21] Yes. Yes. The thing is I guess that’s probably some of the things I think about when I say, and I go to Grenada and I kind of miss being here because like in Grenada, my mom does not like air conditioning, so they have the house, it’s cross ventilation that you would call it, but there’s global warming, so it’s hot.
Just live with it. You grew up with this, about it. So it wasn’t a big deal and I’m yeah. Yeah, for some conditioning,
Lisa: [00:11:53] You have become an American.
Paula: [00:11:59] And so those are some of the things I miss it, but, being outside is a big part, because there’s the breeze, a sea breeze constantly there, a lot of people have access to the land and the land is so fertile. You get your fruits, you go down into the.
We call it in Grenada, the cocoa, and there’s mango there, oranges, banana. You can just pick them off the trees and, just eat them. Those are the some of the things you come here and you got to pay for it. Then you’re looking at some of the things you’re buying and you’re like, I could get much better yeah.
Produce where I came from.
Lisa: [00:12:31] Absolutely. So there’s the give and take in it. There’s definitely a pros and cons associated with whichever Island and the States it has made a big difference to me. I have always and still need water around me. And so Charlotte being inland. I feel like I’m landlocked and that’s why I’ve always needed to have a pool or a Lake or some water feature close by, because it’s almost like it’s a part of the current that runs through me, even living in New York, Manhattan is an Island, and I lived on the water growing up.
I lived on the water. It was not water. You wanted to swim in.
Paula: [00:13:19] Oh, that’s neat. So let’s talk about the Puerto Rican side now. So they are not, they didn’t immigrate here, but they left somebody left the Island of Puerto Rico to come to New York, I guess
Lisa: [00:13:32] yes. To New York. Okay. Yes, that actually was my father. So my father and his family, I think his mother is first generation.
I think that makes him second and me third. Now. I did not personally grow up with my father. I did have some interactions with his family and what I remember both what I remember most about the Puerto Rican. Influences. And my mother also, although she’s not from the Puerto Rican side, obviously she had an affinity for the Latin American culture and the Puerto Rican side.
Obviously I wouldn’t have my father. But so she’s always embraced the, a bit of the language. She’s always embraced the food, the colors, like if you saw her home even right now, you would think that her home is on an Island. She lives in Florida, but inside her home she’s so it’s so colorful and it’s so vibrant and the food, all natural foods.
That’s really a big thing also from both sides of the family that I think that now I’m beginning to want to turn back to that eating food in its most natural state. There was not a whole lot of processed foods. You didn’t have processed and prepared foods. You have rice and beans. You have black demo.
You had, you had mango, you had all fruits and vegetables, like you were saying. It’s natural. It’s not processed. It’s not over steroids. It’s not, and all of those things were a part of really what I remember from that side of the family was the foods and the music, the food.
Paula: [00:15:14] Then music is Whoa.
Yes. It’s amazing.
Lisa: [00:15:19] My husband today, my husband is a ballroom dancer and he was talking to me about dancing ballroom, and I said, my body don’t even do that. That is so square in a box. I don’t know how to do that because our music, our dance was an extension. It is an extension of your thought of your energy, of every part of you.
And it’s not contained by one, two, three, one, two, three.
Paula: [00:15:47] That’s true. You flow with the beat and the beat is
Lisa: [00:15:51] .Absolutely. And so that’s really what I gained the most of from that side of the family. But I believe from both from both sides, the Bahamian, Puerto Rican, it has mostly been creativity and resiliency.
And I honestly believe that a lot of the elements of abundance were in beauty, they were in nature. There were in, all of these wonderful elements, but then lack is sometimes in finance and education. And these other elements that we give up as a result of the, what, where we’re from, sometimes the reason why families are moving on migrating is to be able to earn more money, to have access, to better education, those different things.
And I think that if we’re conscientious, we will remember that it took some grit to overtake whatever was keeping them from achieving those things there. They overcame them by coming here.
And they came many times with lots and lots of limitations. We’ve got language limitations we’ve got on this …language is a major thing. And I want to say that when my when my father’s family came, even from Puerto Rico, the world wasn’t bilingual yet. We’ve only done bilingual for about 40 years.
Yes. So it was different than you’re coming from somewhere else. You have a language barrier and you still have to take care of your family. You still have to create opportunities for your family and your children and it requires some resiliency.
Paula: [00:17:29] Yes, that is the truth. And I think that’s probably what makes immigrants stand out because they come here with a purpose that look, I left my country and I came here for better opportunities and I’m going to make, yes, that’s the word that summarizes it.
There’s a purpose for being here. And I know sometimes the first or second generation, sometimes don’t. See that because the immigrants has done so much of that hard work or the legwork to make sure everyone is integrated so that, by the time you have two, two generations down, you’re sometimes like saying, okay, so I lost all of this, maybe in lost in quotes, but my children are here and they’ve assimulated, but there’s sometimes there’s a not because there’s still that reference to back home, that is made. And that makes a difference. That makes a big difference. Yeah,
Lisa: [00:18:28] it does. It really does. And I think that’s why it’s important to, to maintain your heritage. That’s why I think it’s so important to teach children about the background. I also think that coming from now, coming from my American side of the family, right from the American side.
That the big difference is that our background was stolen from us. So we didn’t even have that legacy that, my get my legacy handed down to me from my grandfather. I can have my legacy handed down to me from my father’s side of the family, understanding more about those backgrounds, but the American side, we didn’t have a legacy because we don’t have our original language.
We don’t have so many things. We don’t even know where we came from in that. Oh, we came from Africa where we don’t know where, so a lot of that kind of, I think. Is the other piece that almost adds that I want to say, I don’t know if it’s elitist, but it’s almost like you’re elite because you don’t want to admit that you’re missing something.
So you don’t want to admit that you wish you had this piece to be proud of. So instead of admitting it, you raise up against it while you’re in America. Now you need to be this, you need you to die. It’s all a part of who you are, who you came from as a part of who you are. And some of that is some of that has unfortunately been robbed.
From us, we don’t have the big picture. We don’t know what that language was. We don’t know. And it’s not only American, honestly, even the Puerto Rican side, they they were conquered as well. So there were so many, there were so many conquerors , areas that were conquered that have been pillaged and raped and, and affected by the, by all of the different forms of slavery and all of these different things.
So it’s difficult to it’s to me, it’s difficult to allow yourself to even think for a moment that you’re not going to win. I believe in everything that I do, that I’m gonna win because I’m from people that won I’m from people on every side, that won . Somebody tried to overtake them. Somebody tried to eliminate them.
Somebody tried to destroy them, their dreams, their thoughts, their ideas, their creativity, but they stood and they continued to stand. And so I think that extra piece of history is the resiliency that we all get to now embrace as a part of your heritage, no matter where you came from. If you are a melanated people from wherever, you have some grit that nobody can take from you, but you can surrender it.
Now that’s the flaw. Is when we allow ourselves to get tired and forget how great we are.
Paula: [00:21:35] And I think that’s that’s very powerful because as you rightfully say it, when you look back and you realize that all what – inspite, probably that’s the word in spite of all, what happened, colonization being conquered, being Just made to feel second, third class citizen.
But in spite of that, look where we are now. tHat in itself should be, what spurs us on to say yes, tomorrow’s another day to even be that’s
I love it.
I love what you said. I love it. All right. So we’re going to start wrapping this up. There’s a question I wanna ask you. We spoken about your different sides of the family and your heritage.
You talked about Why resiliency has been so powerful in your life in particular, but everyone who who’s pigmented or melanated, or from other paths of the world where there was colonization and slavery. So would you consider yourself a success, Lisa?
Lisa: [00:22:44] Absolutely. I consider myself a successful 100%.
I’m still achieving the ultimate success. I’m in the process, but I have already succeeded beyond what I thought I was capable of even five years ago. I am able to help other women to stand in the power of their own strength. I’m able to encourage people and nurture them to tap into their own greatness.
And I am compensated to do that. And I think that’s also a wonderful thing I came to the conclusion finally, to understand that the gifts that I have been using have value. And giving others the opportunity to exchange value for value so that they can gain the benefit of the wisdom that I’ve learned and gleaned over the years and help them to get there quicker than they could on their own.
Paula: [00:23:43] To summarize it, your success comes from seeing the success of the people or women that you have helped. I love that Lisa.
Lisa: [00:23:52] Absolutely.
Paula: [00:23:52] Empowerment. . So we know we heard Lisa Santiago McNeil and you’ve heard her story. So Lisa, where can we find you online? Because I know the reason I’m asking this in particular, because I know the name of your company.
I know the name of your publishing company, and it’s the words that you chose for your company are, they’re very meaningful. So share that with us, please.
Lisa: [00:24:22] So my company is empowerment, publishing and multimedia, and I can be found online at I am. Lisa santiago.com. Every social media outlet is Lisa Santiago McNeil.
So that’s Facebook, Instagram club, house, LinkedIn, it’s all Lisa Santiago McNeil. But the reason why I chose empowerment, publishing and multimedia as the name of my company is because these stories of overcoming create empowerment, not just for the person whose story it is, but for those who read it, there are so many things that.
Nobody can believe are possible until they find out that someone else has done it. So stories of overcoming self-help personal development children’s books exclusively, because I really believe that for me, my ministry is empowerment. I believe that it can be achieved through economic independence, because I honestly think that if you can write a check.
To decide what’s best for you. Then you are empowered. You don’t have to decide, is this going to be somebody else’s decision? If it is your decision, if you can pay for it, you can decide it. And that is true power. That is true power women don’t have to be oppressed in situations anymore. If they could earn their own money, they wouldn’t have to be taken advantage of.
They wouldn’t have to be abused if they could say, you know what, I’m out of here. Me and my kids are out of here. And I just write a check to the bus, to the, lease, to the house, to the airline, wherever, and I could just write a check. That’s why I want my women. That’s why I want them to become economically independent.
Financially so that they don’t have to be anyone’s doormat ever again in life.
Paula: [00:26:23] And that’s why I asked you to, emphasize that the name of your company, because that would empowerment. It goes, yes, it’s serious. It goes a long way in letting women know who they are, let them know that they were created by a creator.
Who had a plan and a purpose for their lives. And as the primary for most of the time, we are the primary nurturers of children who are the future generation. What we, what impacts us impacts the future generation. That’s a big responsibility. And so that’s why empowering women to know who they are and have they, purpose is critical.
It’s essential. So that we, as a nation can keep growing and better in ourselves.
Absolutely. Lisa, thank you so much for being a guest on chatting with the experts. Is there any question that I haven’t asked you that you would love me to
Lisa: [00:27:18] ask? I think that we actually ran the gamut of questions. I am just grateful that you brought me on and I want to let people know if they believe that they have a story to tell.
They can definitely reach out. Just go to my website. You can schedule your own complimentary consultation and we can find out if empowerment publishing and multimedia can help you just go to, I am Lisa santiago.com and I’ll be looking. Thank you, Lisa.
Thank you. Thank you so much.
Paula: [00:27:53] And for my amazing listeners. If you have enjoyed what you just heard from Lisa Santiago McNeil, please head over to Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or anywhere else. You may listen to podcasts, and click subscribe.
If you’re interested in being a guest on my show, chatting with the experts, please head over to www.chattingwiththeexperts.com forward slash contact us and let’s chat.