How Eva Longoria Is Making Sure Son Santi Understands His Mexican Heritage

·6 min read

How's this for a sweet kiss-and-tell?

Before Eva Longoria dives into the work that comes from juggling a full slate of acting gigs, producing jobs, philanthropic and other business ventures, before she tucks into her pan dulce and cup of café con leche or begins making the flour tortillas 3-year-old son Santiago loves so much, she seals her mornings with un beso.

"We have a La Virgen," she said of the statue of Mexico's patron saint, La Virgen de Guadalupe, that maintains a place of pride in the Los Angeles-area home she shares with husband of five years José Bastón and their son. And each day they walk through the same important routine.

"Santi wakes up and runs and he prays with us and he kisses La Virgen every morning," Longoria detailed in an exclusive interview with E! News. "If I forget, he'll tell me, 'Oh, you didn't—you didn't kiss her!'"

Eva Longoria's Best Mom Moments

Yes, it's as adorable as it sounds. But that's not the only reason the 46-year-old treasures the pre-breakfast practice.

"There's so much tradition just steeped into our daily rituals and I love it," she raved of bringing up Santi to understand his deep-rooted Mexican heritage. While Longoria grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, the youngest of four daughters raised by Mexican-American parents, her businessman husband was born in Mexico City, some 88 miles from where they tied the knot in a spectacular backyard garden wedding in 2016.

"It's a beautiful thing to continue to pass on and to continue to celebrate," the founder of production company UnbeliEVAble Entertainment shared. "I think that's probably one of the most beautiful things about our Latino Hispanic community is the deep traditions and they're rooted so far back. And it's nice to celebrate that."

Eva Longoria

While Hispanic Heritage Month (also known as Latinx Heritage Month) is coming to a close Oct. 15, Longoria is just one of many Latinx celebrities who are conscious about finding ways to honor their culture and ancestry year-round.

Salma Hayek, for instance, raised now 14-year-old daughter Valentina in husband François-Henri Pinault's native France, but the Mexico-born actress made sure to hold a Day of the Dead celebration—to honor and pay respects to relatives who have passed away—every November. "I learned how to make pan de muerto in Paris," she told Hola! of the holiday's traditional sweet bread. "It has influenced me a lot, always being close to my family. It's what gives you security. It gives you roots."

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega's family tree, meanwhile, has branches from several different Latinx cultures, between Carlos' Spanish and Venezuelan mother and Dominican father and Alexa's Colombian background.

And months after welcoming eldest son Ocean in December, 2016 (they have since added 2-year-old son Kingston and 5-month-old daughter Rio into the fold), the Spy Kids actress told E! News they intended to speak Spanish with their family at home. "But also I grew up with a lot of Colombian food, so I can't wait until I can start feeding him different kinds of Colombian food like arroz con pollo or little arepas," she continued. And at just 5-months-old he already had a few beloved Spanish nursery rhymes, including Los Pollitos and Sana, Sana, Colita de Rana.

"I think there's so much to be inspired by in our community," Longoria noted of the broader Latinx culture. "There's so much artistry that is rich in our communities."

So whether you think of yourself as Latinx, Latina, Hispanic, "more power to you," she said. "We're not monolithic. We're a very diverse group. And so I think we should celebrate that diversity within diversity, instead of just trying to label it one thing or the other."

And for Longoria, that observance and glorification of culture takes place every day, all day.

Eva Longoria, José Bastón, Santiago Bastón, Instagram
Eva Longoria / Instagram

"I mean, everything we do is basically tradition," she responded when asked about incorporating their heritage into Santi's upbringing. "From waking up to going to bed." In fact, it continues right after their a.m. prayers, when she'll whip up some homemade breakfast tortillas.

"He loves them every morning," she said. "So that's a really good tradition that's been, I mean, as ancient as the Aztecs. Although my tortillas are flour, the Aztecs were definitely corn."

Their joint cooking sessions are sweet, but perhaps the most important aspect she'll instill in her son is what it means to exist in the larger global community. "You know, he traveled to four different continents before he was 6 months old, because of my work, because of my philanthropy," Longoria explained of her ties to organizations like PADRES Contra El Cancer, the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and her own Eva Longoria Foundation.

"And so, my life will continue to be that. That's going to be my life's work is my philanthropy and my activism. And so he will be able to witness that growing up and choose for himself if he chooses to continue down this path, or if he chooses to contribute in other ways."

Eva Longoria

Either way, Santi will have a head start thanks to his parents' decision to raise him as bilingual, Longoria having taken it upon herself to learn Spanish more than a decade ago so she'd better be able to communicate. (In an effort to fully understand and immerse herself in the issues related to immigration, she also earned a master's degree in Chicano studies from California State University, Northridge in 2013, writing her thesis on the lack of Latinas in STEM fields.)

"I've always been involved in my culture—through food, music, religion, traditions, and family—but I wasn't connected to the language," she explained to Parents, "which is such a big part of it."

So Santi was exposed to both Spanish and English from the jump. "When is one language ever better than two?" she reasoned. "It just makes sense."

Noting that the United States is "one of the few countries that promotes monolingualism," she continued, "if you live in Europe, you must speak two or three or four languages because the countries are just on top of each other. You know? And it's such a beautiful thing to be able to communicate and to really soak in different cultures and go somewhere and be able to navigate that place."

Their efforts mean that Santi will "be great at communicating, wherever he goes," she shared, whether that's a trip to Spain or Costa Rica, or when staying at their home in Mexico. "We live in a global community," she noted, "and the quicker we realize that, the better off this entire planet would be."